By Moses Kuria
The passing away of John Njoroge Michuki and James Njenga Karume in the same week is one of the saddest moments in our nation in the last decade.
The two senior citizens led an exemplary life in politics, business and cultural spheres. Their demise is undoubtedly a major loss to their respective families, their constituents and the nation at large. May God rest their souls in peace and his grace protect their families and the nation.
As we mourn the passing away of the two great leaders, it is intriguing to listen to some of the narratives coming from Central Kenya.
The region is in a state of a shock awakening. The talk out there is that the region has been left rudderless and confused. In some respects, there is merit in these concerns.
Whereas the rest of the country has modernised its leadership in the last 10 years, perception in Central Kenya is that effective leadership is still concentrated in a small group of people, mostly old, who are close to President Kibaki.
In Nyanza, in place of Oloo Aringos, Ayokis etc, new leadership is centred around the likes of Midiwos, Kajwangs, Orengos etc.
In Western, the generation of Nabweras and Shikukus has been replaced successfully by Musalias, Eugene Wamalwas and Bonny Khalwales. In Rift Valley, the William Ruto juggernaut has come with new, youthful leaders to replace the Barngetunys and Biwotts.
In North Eastern, the Maalims and Hajis have slowly given way to the Duale’s, Abdilkadirs and Keynans while Amason Kingi from Coast is the youngest Cabinet Minister in Kenya holding two ministry portfolios at the same time.
Yet in Central Kenya, whilst the majority of the Members of Parliament are youthful, effective power has continued to be elusive for most of them.
With the passing away of Michuki, the only other MPs in Central Kenya who have been in Parliament since the advent of multipartyism in 1992 are Kiraitu Murungi and Martha Karua. Mwangi Kiunjuri is now marking his 15th year in Parliament and has mark-timed as an Assistant Minister for donkey years despite playing a backbone role for Kibaki since their days in the opposition.
The predominance of octogenarian-led politics in Central Kenya has brought forth another problem -may be more serious that the generational issue.
This problem is the curse of money in determining the leadership of the region. This is really the bane of Central. Whereas money continues to be one of the major factors influencing leadership in all regions of the country, in Central it is a problem of bohemian proportions.
As a result, the quality of representation of North Eastern, for example is exponentially higher than Central.
The lack of leadership transformation in Central cannot be divorced totally from the legacy of Mwai Kibaki. Today there is a group that has come to be known as the Moi orphans. Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, leading presidential contenders who control roughly 50 percent of the votes according to multiple opinion polls belong to this group.
Whilst the term Moi orphans has been used derisively in some quarters, I think Daniel arap Moi deserves a medal for mentoring and actively promoting a generation of leaders to take the country forward after his exit.
In a country without effective leadership colleges and institutes like the West, it is incumbent upon those in power to ensure that they develop a new crop that provides a sense of continuity and progressivism after they exit.
On the contrary, Mwai Kibaki cannot parade even three new generation leaders whose rise can be attributed to his presidency. Mukhisa Kituyi, Danson Mungatana, Mwangi Kiunjuri, Cecily Mbarire, Raphael Tuju etc had the potential of defining Kibaki’s legacy the way Tom Mboya, Charles Njonjo, James Gichuru and Kibaki himself formed a ring of 30-something year olds who worked with 80 year old Jomo Kenyatta with maximum ease, even posing for photographs while on swimming excursions inside Mombasa’s warm beaches.
This failure to develop and deliberately promote a new crop of leaders will be a permanent blot on Kibaki’s otherwise good legacy.
The most fitting tribute that Central Kenya can pay to the fallen leaders, John Michuki and Njenga Karume is to focus seriously on developing a new progressive, intellectually competent and broad minded leadership.
If this had been done progressively over the last 10 years, today we would be truly celebrating the lives of Michuki and Karume, confident that they have imparted the wisdom that comes from long experience to the leaders that takes the baton forward in this relay towards prosperity. It is rather ironical and indeed sad that instead a whole region is in panic mode that it is being left without leaders and managers.
It is not too late to make amends. The region has to make a choice between the quality of leadership and the depth of pockets. A false move and the region will pay dearly for many generations to come.
The writer is the spokesman of the Party of National Unity. The views expressed herein are his own.