The late President Mwai Kibaki will have two contrasting chapters in Kenya’s history. His tenure will feature in the worst pages of ethnic violence and corruption scandals as well as in the best pages of economic progress and constitutional reform.
You can never dictate to history how you would want to be remembered. Going all out in the name of building a legacy can end up being a fallacy. History can omit you from the list of the remembered. History has its own mind on who will be remembered and how. Leaders who have died would be shocked if they learnt what they are remembered for.
History chooses its emphasis. Some people’s history has chosen to immortalise had really rugged patches but are named today as the GOATS. Listening to the texture of reviews Kibaki is receiving, its seems history has picked for him a place in the hall of the unforgettable.
Dr. Kibuka Githaiga described Kibaki as arguably the “The father of modern Kenya.” Kibaki dared to dream that Kenya can break out of the shell of smallness and begin to show its head among the nations of the world. He got the working nation running and within no time, positive results were showing. He demonstrated that Kenya can turn from an April fool’s joke to an actual dreamy existence.
While one’s given name is a cultural and legal identifier, values are one’s earned name. The richer the values displayed, the higher the chances of history placing you in the heroes corner. A lot will always be said about Kibaki’s values and style.
Many politicians in Kenya are hesitant to cut a family image. It is as if casting the image of an endearing the family takes away from the image of independence. The family humanizes one too much while a politician would want to appear an enigma. But this is an error in perception. Kenyans on the contrary are moved when they see the family side of their leaders. Just like they want to see their leaders worshipping God, they want to see their leaders playing with their children. This expectation explains the prompt critique that follows a leader who uses abusive language, “Does he know that children are listening?”
At some point, Kibaki held a press conference to affirm his choice of a monogamous life, this in a culture that readily gave him a polygamous option. Given the intellectual and philosopher he was, he had an option to expound on a different marriage school of thought. But he stood with the one-wife option. Memories from his children clearly paint a man who ranked his family very high. Family consciousness sifts the words that a public leader uses. Speeches regarded as best of all time are universal and accessible by all without any screening of words which communicates that dimming the family limits a leader’s chances of being a universal source of inspiration.
There are leaders who are worse than shortsighted. They are very self-sighted. They see things only through the eyes of “What is in it for me?” In leadership, authenticity and people-centredness are inseparable. To be people-centred means listening to people’s stories and allowing yourself to be moved by them. In being moved action is stirred. I remember KIbaki publicly shedding tears as he listened to the stories of young people who were beneficiaries of life-changing scholarships from Equity Bank’s Wings to Fly. He was for all efforts that made lives better. He did not count other players who were changing people’s lives as competition but as partners. He claimed no monopoly to goodness.
Kibaki was a brilliant economist. Interestingly, his political life did not cloud out his profession as an economist. When he became president, he intentionally wore his economist cap. This is not so for many contemporary politicians. Sadly many call up their professions to be highways to self-gain. Their political brand suffocates their professions dead. They even mentor bright young minds into ways of thuggery by training them on destructive innovations. Kibaki belonged to the school where politics needed professionalism. He had a double-edged sword approach and cut as a politician and an economist.
Patriotism is an endangered value. It is a term hardly used in present-day political language. Contemporary politicians know they have a terribly low patriotism reading. What is even worse is that they do not want to increase it! Increasing patriotism would mean sacrificing opportunities for others and doing good in the name of the country expecting nothing in return. The days of suffering for the country are gone. Behold the days of siphoning are thither! Since the discomfort of pre-independence days till the heat of the post-election violence, Kibaki demonstrated a commendable measure of love for the country.
Kenyans expect their leaders to have a visible spirituality. Even those who are actively irreligious must display a form of commitment to God. Without this optical religiosity, politicians are quickly labeled enemies of God, a tag of doom for any vote hunter. Kibaki did not import a raw spirituality into his political platforms. The scarcity of spiritual language in his political rhetoric could easily make him pass as a humanist.
But he had a deep spirituality. His discipline to maintain a simple priest-congregant equation speaks directly to the bloated spirituality of some politicians who insist they are priests too and therefore must speak in every church service they attend. Kibaki’s master class teaches them all that it is possible to be a satisfied congregant.