February 24th 2018

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Kenyans are incorrigibly gullible, and our leaders know it

No! I am not asking you to steal your neighbor's chicken or snatch someone's land. I am asking you to go and filch the big bucks. Millions, and if you can, billions of hard cash....from the public.

By Joe KhamisiWednesday, 07 Dec 2016 13:05 EAT

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Moses Wetangula walk inside State House on May 31. (Photo: PSCU).

Do you want to go for an elective office in Kenya? Then do one thing: steal! No! I am not asking you to steal your neighbor's chicken or snatch someone's land. I am asking you to go and filch the big bucks. Millions, and if you can, billions of hard cash....from the public. If you do that, a few things will automatically happen and none of them will land you in jail.

One, you will become limitlessly famous and every tom, dick and harry will invite you to a fund-raiser; and two, you will have all the money you need to corrupt the corrupt - enough to buy a nomination certificate, sufficient to bribe voters; and adequate to bargain for a cabinet position when the right time comes.

Theory? Not at all!Next year, Kenyans go to the polls in one of the most consequential elections. For the second time the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta will battle the resilient Raila Odinga for the presidency. Thousands of seats for governors, members of parliament, senators and members of county assemblies are at stake.

To join the fray, hordes of former jail-birds and criminal suspects have crawled out of the woodwork to declare interest in myriad positions of power. Drug dealers, tender fraudsters, women abusers, and yes, even land grabbers, want your vote. Some of them are already in public positions and want either to retain their jobs or rise to more powerful ones so that they can continue 'eating.

Among them are 273 sitting members of parliament who are said to have bilked Shs4b of public funds in one year alone, according to a government audit report released this week. Also on the list are governors who collect millions from taxpayers in taxes and rates but refuse to declare the income to higher authorities.
All of them promise to make life better for us.

Saying we are a strange specie in Kenya is an understatement. We exalt thieves for their money. We feel blessed to associate with them. We invite them to our villages and churches, and give them a platform to flaunt their wealth and make us look poor and stupid. They come in choppers. We kick the dust for miles on end. When it is over, with our stomachs churning in hunger, we trek back to our mundane misery.

On weekends, priests and pastors pose for pictures with these characters while holding brief-cases full of money and no one questions the source of the bundles. We welcome them with praise songs as if God approves. When these thieves are busted, we crowd to support them and jump and jolt in courts to catch their attention.

And when they are let out we give them our ear and our votes because they are rich. Rich people, we cheat ourselves, don't steal. Like modern-day Robin Hoods, they just take and give to the poor, we say. The moment we vote we are cooked. These serial good-for-nothings jump into their guzzlers and go out to steal some more leaving the majority of us limping away desultorily.

We repeat this charade year after year and wonder why we are still poor 50 years after independence, and why these people are driving late-model Mercedes Benz, BMWs and Jaguars, on our pot-holed roads. It galls me to see people, caught in some of the biggest money scandals in history, being mobbed by ululating women and hugged by admiring local officials.

This happens because we think we know these characters, yet the only information we have of them is of the millions pinched from us, the taxpayers. These people are without remorse, shame or care. Yes, if you want to be a governor, a member of parliament, or a senator in Kenya, don't be shy: go out there and steal. The rewards are boundless. And moreover, Kenyans are incorrigibly gullible.

And that is my say.

The writer is a veteran journalist, author and former Member of Parliament for Bahari. All his books are available in bookshops in Nairobi and on Amazon.com

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