Win­ning pub­lic bat­tles re­quires more wit than mus­cle

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Comment - Writer is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions prac­ti­tioner; E-mail: pnadupoi@gmail.com

The res­ig­na­tion of for­mer Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for De­vo­lu­tion and Plan­ning Anne Waig­uru may have come as a shocker to many. This is par­tic­u­larly be­cause of the stance she had taken de­spite pub­lic out­cry de­mand­ing her res­ig­na­tion fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions and rev­e­la­tions of mas­sive cor­rup­tion in her docket.

She was ar­guably one of the most vis­i­ble cab­i­net sec­re­taries in Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta's govern­ment, han­dling an elab­o­rate docket and there­fore cre­at­ing the im­pres­sion she was pow­er­ful. De­spite the “noise” as var­i­ous ac­tors called for her res­ig­na­tion and/or step­ping aside, her place in govern­ment seemed well for­ti­fied. If any­thing, a re­port pre­sented to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ke­ri­ako To­biko by the Di­rec­torate of Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions (DCI) gives this cre­dence.

DCI rec­om­mended that the for­mer CS ap­pears in court as a pros­e­cu­tion wit­ness. The Op­po­si­tion Cord and civil so­ci­ety groups had main­tained she should take political re­spon­si­bil­ity, but govern­ment said the for­mer CS was a whistle­blower.

The Waig­uru de­bate gained mo­men­tum when of­fi­cials in her Min­istry were charged in court. Le­gal pro­ceed­ings have al­ready been in­sti­tuted against for­mer Plan­ning Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Peter Man­giti and Na­tional Youth Ser­vice (NYS) Di­rec­tor- Gen­eral Nelson Githinji, and 21 oth­ers.

It is for this rea­son that Waig­uru's de­ci­sion to step down was a bolt out of the blue. One may ask, why the change of tune? The good lady gave her rea­sons. But spec­u­la­tion is also rife that the real rea­son she quit is linked to pres­sure from so­cial me­dia. Per­haps the for­mer cab­i­net sec­re­tary could no longer stand the ridicule she and her fam­ily were be­ing sub­jected to ‒ there were quite a few memes do­ing rounds on so­cial me­dia.

Full-blown tsunami

The case of the for­mer CS is an in­ter­est­ing one: pres­sure be­gan pil­ing with the Op­po­si­tion lead­ers de­mand­ing she stepped down to pave way for in­ves­ti­ga­tions; then there were the mo­tions spon­sored by Nandi Hills Leg­is­la­ture Fred Keter, and be­fore long it was an un­con­tain­able tsunami. So­cial me­dia was awash with all man­ner of ac­cu­sa­tions and in­nu­en­dos. Al­though she main­tained in­no­cence (she still does), she has not been per­sua­sive enough - at least not in the court of pub­lic opin­ion.

The treat­ment of jour­nal­ists by yet an­other pow­er­ful state of­fi­cer is still fresh in our minds. In­te­rior CS Joseph Nkaissery or­dered ar­rest of a Na­tion Editor af­ter he wrote a story that al­leged loss of Sh3.85 bil­lion. The story was based on a re­port by the Au­di­tor- Gen­eral which ques­tioned how pos­si­ble it was to spend such a colos­sal amount of money in one day. In­stead of in­ter­ro­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions and make gen­uine at­tempts to ad­dress the prob­lem, Nkaissery was keener on vil­i­fy­ing the jour­nal­ist, and two oth­ers, for do­ing what they ought to do.

What is ev­i­dent from all this is that our lead­ers in Kenya, and they can be from ei­ther elec­tive or ap­pointive of­fices, are yet to ac­knowl­edge the new power dy­nam­ics.

Those in lead­er­ship po­si­tions can draw a few lessons from th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences. First, it is pel­lu­cid from the two ex­am­ples that it is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to rely on au­thor­ity to fight re­sis­tance. Con­fi­dence is a func­tion of per­sua­sion and can­not be achieved through co­er­cion. And this is not just about what is real; per­cep­tion does play a role in shap­ing pub­lic discourse and opin­ion. Whereas Nkaissery quickly re­treated, Waig­uru fi­nally had to give in.

Whether it is a case of ex­panded demo­cratic space as a re­sult of the new con­sti­tu­tional dis­pen­sa­tion or sim­ply an is­sue of tim­ing (an idea whose time has come is un­stop­pable), Kenyans are no longer scared of speak­ing truth to power; when the king is naked, they will tell him so. There is no doubt Kenyans are be­com­ing more lib­eral and they def­i­nitely un­der­stand all sov­er­eign power be­longs to them. Ci­ti­zen jour­nal­ism is not mak­ing things eas­ier. It is im­por­tant to note the walls have been brought down and gate keep­ing is no longer work­ing.

Se­condly, a leader must sat­isfy all the re­quire­ments of law, and get a clean bill of health from the court of pub­lic opin­ion. With a more con­scious cit­i­zenry, those ex­er­cis­ing del­e­gated power must up their game to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of the peo­ple as es­poused in the Con­sti­tu­tion. The land­scape is quickly chang­ing and it is be­com­ing ev­i­dent who re­ally is in charge.

Fur­ther, it is im­por­tant to know that ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity in a pub­lic of­fice is syn­ony­mous to lay­ing your­self bare; you lit­er­ally cease to own your­self. This is well-grounded in the supreme law. The Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires state of­fi­cers to “pro­mote pub­lic con­fi­dence in the in­tegrity of the of­fice”. This means that they should be open to pub­lic scru­tiny. State of­fi­cers are also bound by na­tional val­ues and prin­ci­ples of gov­er­nance in­clud­ing “good gov­er­nance, in­tegrity, trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity”.

Above all, it is im­por­tant to en­trench an eth­i­cal cul­ture. If a leader's char­ac­ter is be­yond re­proach, it frees him or her to do his/her work with­out hin­drance. In­tegrity is the bedrock of suc­cess in po­si­tions of lead­er­ship.

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