Opinion

How bootlickers sabotage the common good

How bootlickers sabotage the common good
  • This implies that they have to continue with status quo of repression, and initiate whatever projects they imagine will thrust greatness upon them.
  • It is no longer about the wishes of the masses.

  • Subsequent governments will equally have to make a choice on when to lecture citizens, and when to confer with them.

  • When to believe their princely cheerleaders, and when to side with the masses. The correct choice will be legacy enough.

Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince is arguably the most read literature by students of political science. Its readership has equally ensnared philosophers of all times, each putting forth their own interpretation of the text.

My interest in the book arises from the confounding allegiance paid to its letter by political advisers of various governments, and, in turn, heads of such governments who religiously swallow such advice – hook, line and sinker. And they are not limited in supply.

MALEVOLENT COUNSEL

It may not be easy to tell whether the said advisers act out of selfish interest or sheer ignorance. Yet the harm of such malevolent counsel is usually unleashed upon unsuspecting masses when leaders approve projects and plans that are selfishly and poorly thought out.

I belong to the school of thought of those who believe that The Prince is a satirical narrative meant to expose the folly of wayward rulers. Put differently, the text is a recipe of how not to govern. In fact, Machiavelli states this subtly in his foreword to Lorenzo De Piero De Medici – the then ruler of Florentine and the intended recipient of the text – when he states that he’s bringing to the prince what the latter is likely to enjoy most. Interestingly, Machiavelli brings to the Prince ‘knowledge’ that he should reflect upon, ‘knowledge’ that is full of accounts of how a prince ought to be.

It turns out, for keen observers, that the knowledge brought is actually a description of how the Prince, and many of his ilk, have been (mis)ruling through coercion and repression so as to consolidate and maintain their power.

The same script is alive today. In search of favour, the so-called political advisers and state handlers read The Prince literally and purport to guide the powers that be on how to maintain governments. Accordingly, the government is personalised from the day the Head of State ascends to power. A new order is quickly established, with the first assignment being to delink themselves from plans and aspirations of previous regimes.

USE VIOLENCE

The leadership is advised to ‘maintain the state’ and ‘achieve great things’ in Machiavellian terms. This implies that they have to continue with status quo of repression, and initiate whatever projects they imagine will thrust greatness upon them. It is no longer about the wishes of the masses. To achieve this, a state of governmentality is established; citizens are conditioned through rational persuasion to accept that the government is acting in their interest and therefore support it. Those who see through the lie are viewed as Fortuna (enemies of political order, according to Machiavelli), who must be controlled through violence. Thus, the state elect to be feared as opposed to being loved.

It is not lost on us that the government wants to achieve almost everything in one go. And the projects are massive, going into trillions of shillings. From their first term, the Jubilee government lined up roads, electricity, a standard gauge railway, dams, the laptop project, free secondary education, free maternal healthcare, irrigation schemes, stadia, modern ports and police housing, among others. Today, they are zeroing on the Big Four – affordable housing, food security, universal health and manufacturing.

Sadly, the little funds available go into recurrent expenditure, national debt recovery and corruption. Given that this shortcoming is likely to impact on the delivery of all these, I see a grave situation ahead. First, the subsequent government is likely to abandon most, if not all these projects, in the name of ‘achieving greatness’ and legacy.

SELFISH LEGACY

On this, we have to be prepared for a flurry of white elephants. Such a situation is not unprecedented. Two, citizens will continue to suffer, given that the funds that will be available will most likely be spent on selfish ambitions, with the rest being used to repay the ever piling public debt.

Going forward, the individual who takes over the country in 2022 will have a choice of either cultivating a selfish legacy at the expense of the masses, or being brave and selfless enough to prioritize and follow through the viable projects lined up by the present government.

This will be a mark of true leadership, a true legacy. One may claim that they are elected on a particular manifesto, never mind its impracticality. Who stops them from doing the right thing once in office? At times, the electorate falls for heavenly promises. They need to be protected from themselves in the spirit of true leadership.

The race for legacy may be counterproductive for us, given that President Kenyatta has already set the bar unrealistically high: the unsustainable SGR, free secondary education, Huduma centres, rural electrification and the controversial new curriculum.

LECTURE SESSION

Should his successor be as overambitious, the nation will stagnate. And basic needs shall remain unmet: Streamlining government services, guaranteeing electoral justice, curbing corruption and reducing the cost of doing business. Whereas these look trivial courtesy of their abstract nature, they would spell a true legacy for anyone who cares.

Actually, Mr Kenyatta is serious about leaving a legacy. Anyone doubting the seriousness of this legacy madness should refer to the national conference on the new curriculum. The conference was turned into a two-and-a-half hour lecture session, with the owners of the project justifying their mission.

Subsequent governments will equally have to make a choice on when to lecture citizens, and when to confer with them; when to believe their princely cheerleaders, and when to side with the masses. The correct choice will be legacy enough.

Mr Osabwa is a lecturer, Alupe University College.