By Moses Kuria
The meeting last week between Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Hon Uhuru Kenyatta and the crème-de-la-crème of Luo Nyanza professionals and business people is truly unprecedented. Doubtlessly, cynics and nay-sayers will attempt to pour cold water on this historic meeting of minds.
For the first time in the history of Luo Nyanza, the meeting marked a departure from the culture of whining and looking for someone else to blame for the challenges that afflict the region. Finally through the Luo Nyanza Professionals and Business Caucus, there is a team of people from the region who appear determined to end the culture of “Tungeomba Serikali isaidie”. If the team manages to spread the gospel of self-reliance, personal initiative and the right choice of priorities for the region, it is a question of time before both domestic and international investors flock the region in search of the vast, largely untapped investment opportunities.
It is an open secret that the Luo Nyanza region is awash with immense economic opportunities. As a matter of fact, with the right policies and attitudes, the region can only be comparable to Southern Sudan, an economic Greenfield where everything can be developed from the scratch. The trouble, as the professionals and business caucus correctly pointed out is that the since independence, the political leadership of the region has held the people hostage to a self defeating ideology of blaming everybody except themselves for the region’s woes. Of course the political leaders are anything but idiots.
They are well aware that the only way to politically dominate the people is to create phantom enemies, from the colonialists to Jomo Kenyatta, from Daniel Arap Moi to Mwai Kibaki, from Kalonzo Musyoka to Yoweri Museveni. Regrettably, when Kenya is moving towards Vision 2030, the political leadership of Luo Nyanza is still encouraging the people of the region to drive the car with the rear mirror only. Fortunately it is gratifying that the professionals and businesspeople have taken the gauntlet of telling our people that they can use the side mirrors and the front mirror as well.
Perhaps the worst disservice that the Luo Nyanza political leaders have committed to the good people of the region is emasculation of the true heroes and role models from the region. It is a pity when the talk that dominates the political elite from the region is centred on acquisition of power for an individual and exporting the Kibera development model into Luo Nyanza. Beneath this din of “Hosanna to the Ker” lie many true role models who could inspire the youth from the region.
Raphael Tuju single-handedly transformed the healthcare landscape of Rarieda through his mobile clinics project. A certain Dan Ojijo has literary transformed the way Kenya finances real estate over the last ten years through the Villa Care model. Dr Evans Kidero has revolutionized the management of the sugar industry through re-engineering of Mumias sugar, stealing the thunder from Western Kenya politicians whose only assured formula of getting to parliament is to whine about the government handling of the sugar sector.
These and many other like them are the true heroes of Luo Nyanza. When one considers that these beacons of hope are reduced to the back burner and are playing second fiddle to the political class, it is safe to conclude that the emergence of the Luo Nyanza professionals and business class is the one “North African Revolution” that this country was waiting for.
Now with this new Tunisia-Egypt in our own land, Luo Nyanza can focus on modernizing the fish industry and ensuring that the bulk of the benefits from the proceeds benefit the local people. The region is blessed with abundant water resources that will now find it’s way to irrigation and converting Luo Nyanza into the new bread basket for the nation. Revival of the strategic industries such as KICOMI should be a red-hot priority.
Egypt’s lifeline is in the Nile which has it’s source in Lake Victoria, the fresh water reservoir that should transform lives not only in Luo Nyanza but indeed the entire East African Community. The region boasts a large pool of educated professionals. It is claimed that Gem constituency has the highest per capita PhD degree holders in Africa.
The new Tunisia-Egypt revolution will ensure that their intellectual capabilities are directed towards economic liberation of the region. Focus should also be given to the dire need to revitalize the leading academic institutions of the region such as Maranda High, Maseno School and Ngiya Girls School.
Predictably some people will view the rise of the Luo Nyanza professionals and businesspeople as a move to checkmate the presidential ambitions of the Prime Minister, Hon Raila Odinga. This is the manifest nonsense that has seen the region lag behind in development.
It is possible to talk about development in Luo Nyanza without politics coming in the way. It is also important to realize that the new economic model for the region may not necessarily follow the route of the Luo Thrift and Trading Company of the 40’s.
However the Prime Minister may want to heed the words of a friend of mine from Luo Nyanza. When the Prime Minister hinted earlier this month that he may support another candidate for the Presidency, my friend wished that the Prime Minister would keep his word to that.
He summarized what would happen if the PM was to give up his presidential ambition “The Nairobi Stock Exchange 20-Share index will rise by more than 50%, cows will produce more milk, children will be happier when they play games, chicken will produce more and better quality eggs, infant mortality rates will drop significantly and most importantly, Luo Nyanza which has been waiting all the years, will finally exhale”
Perhaps its time that the political leadership in Luo Nyanza hearkens to the voice of professionals and business people from the region. All they are saying is “Let my people go!”
The author is the spokesman of the Party of National Unity (PNU). The views expressed herein are his own.