Final salute to Shikuku, a true man of the people

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JOSEPH NYARINGO

The late Martin Shikuku will not only remain legendary but a living symbol for equity and equality in our nation. I haven’t seen any leader who advocated for the common people of Kenya with such great zeal as the former Butere MP.

We grew up hearing him and saw him fight for our common good fearlessly even when the system was extremely brutal to dissenters.

He carried himself with humility; often mingling freely with all cadres in the society. I personally met him for the first time in 1994 in a setting where most VIPs would never shake your hand; leave alone talking to you but Shikuku, embraced me and my friends; shook our hands; shared a short conversation before walking away to see the big guys.

We were all left puzzled especially being in a society where the mighty carry themselves like small gods and rarely socialise with common people. This trait by Shikuku is very uncommon. Shikuku’s character was similar to that of the late JM Kariuki and Bishop Alexander Muge, of the Anglican Church. Both loved ordinary people and were fearless while defending justice and truth.

Ask yourself where Kenya will be if we had majority of MPs with similar qualities to Shikuku, Muge and JM Kariuki? On the other hand, suppose Matiba and Shikuku would have taken the government in 1992, would Kenya be the way it is today under the Kibaki Raila government?

I have the audacity to believe that even though Matiba’s health was wanting, Shikuku would have helped him to pursue an aggressive agenda to reform key government organs and give the country a new constitution immediately after the first multiparty election. The country could have been in a better footing today had Matiba and Shikuku taken government.

It’s worth to note that the bad seeds Kenyatta planted in our nation after independence got fertilized by Moi and kept blossoming. When Kibaki took over, he promised to prune it but all was empty rhetoric.

Instead, tribalism and corruption skyrocketed to immeasurable proportions. Kibaki’s economic agenda hasn’t narrowed the gap between the rich and poor. Our nation continues to be treated with the get-rich-quick schemes.

The high revenue collection under Kibaki hasn’t helped much to fight poverty, unemployment or improve service delivery. Despite being an avid economist, Kibaki’s economic agenda isn’t for the common people but for the “big guys.” It’s only a negligible percentage of Kenyans who feel good about his economic policies.

No wonder, the late Martin Shikuku once wondered aloud why corruption and looting was rampant during Moi’s leadership but there was a trickle of crumbs for the poor, but under Kibaki, nothing falls from the high table for the biblical Lazarus.

The ideals Shikuku stood for are exactly what strained the relationship between Kenyatta and two freedom fighters- Jaramogi Odinga and Bildad Kagia. Kenyatta underwent a complete metamorphosis immediately after independence and pursued a path towards enriching his community and family through jobs and land grabbing. This was against the spirit of the freedom struggle.

That is why Kenya will later experience a series of political assassinations under Kenyatta’s presidency whose genesis is unresolved until now.

It’s saddening that after President Kibaki took power in 2002; he pursued no tangible plans to negate the evils of the past but instead perfected it. Our nation is more polarised, disunited and tribalism is on high ebb. The negative signs we see today are not different from what made us hate and kill each other in 2007. It all started when Kibaki destroyed the tranquillity and cohesiveness that existed under Moi despite the fact that the former President’s leadership was dictatorial. Many Kenyans look back with nostalgia, unity our nation enjoyed during Moi’s reign.

What can we do as a nation? The best is to learn from our true heroes like the late Martin Shikuku, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Bildad Kagia, Bishop Muge and JM Kariuki, in order to pursue the path which lifts the whole nation.

For honourable Shikuku, you were born; lived according to your purpose and as the nation embarks to give you a heroes’ salute for your final journey, you will always remain in our hearts as one of our country’s greats.

(Nyaringo lives in New Jersey, USA)

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