There is a ‘Kalonzo’ in all of us

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When Kalonzo Musyoka failed to show up on Tuesday during the much-touted swearing-in ceremony of Raila Odinga as the People’s President, the nation went bonkers. Memes started flying as they were quickly designed. Parodies of the swearing-in flooded social media timelines as the act of not showing up hijacked the headlines.

He was called names. The most shared fruit became a watermelon as they alluded that Musyoka was a turncoat. Some members of his community decided to make their sentiments known through the incident, denouncing the man as “not allowed to transact any business on behalf of the community”.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua seized the moment, delivering a lethal tackle: “…it is now CRYSTAL clear to ALL that Kalonzo Musyoka has over and over again proven he can NEVER be DEPENDED on. Trust him at your own peril,” read part of his tweet.

He was mocked since he ducked the Bible and later while speaking to Musyi FM, he sought to clarify why he didn’t make it. Whether his reasons would suffice in the eyes of the public, especially that of National Super Alliance supporters, we can only wait and see.

As the nation continues to mock Musyoka, dedicating to him ‘the coward of the county song’ by Kenny Rodgers, I believe we can draw lessons from this entire circus.

You see, Kalonzo not showing up is reflective of a society that rewards cowards and punishes those who dare to try out courageous things. We live in a country where those who question authority are branded rebels and outcasts.

If you have an idea that may work but breaks from tradition or norm, you are instantly called names and if you are unlucky, you are crucified. We are more comfortable in the presence of those who have never dared anything bold in their lives than we are in the presence of courageous men. Our country loves people who are predictable and ‘harmless’.

We cherish those who are as meek as sheep and take orders like soldiers. When you are outspoken and smart, frustrations will be erected on your way unless you act stupid and loyal, covering your brilliance in a heap of fake loyalty. Frustrations will be your cup of tea every morning.

In politics, we reward loyalty rather than effectiveness. You would rather fall down and worship at the feet of the appointing authority without working and you stand a bigger chance of being re-elected rather than if you worked and you were deemed not to be a loyal man. That’s why we deny our nation a pool of talent that might once in a while question what is going on.

It did not start yesterday. We decided to honour our bravest sons years after they died by giving out a statue rather than implementing the ideals they fought for. It’s a shame that Dedan Kimathi today only has a road named after him and a statue in his honour but the ideals he fought for are never talked about. In the process, we are slowly killing a system of meritocracy and courage so that we only reward people based on their loyalty.

Our education system is hopelessly ineffective and cannot deliver us from the chains of cowardice that are holding us back. Kenya’s education system is designed to encourage cramming, not innovation. 8-4-4 = 0, and the sum of the entire education ladder is a piece of paper saying you were the fastest in the rut race but we never demand a clear product from the education system.

Those who dare to go against the grain are ostracized and called names.

We have defined careers that are lucrative based on the colonial legacy.

We are more comfortable being the only shining light in a room, even if we are thousands in there.

It’s a typical Kenyan behaviour not to show up especially in our politics where elected leaders can brazenly lie with a straight face in terms of the promises they make. They will play the masses, take them for a ride, break the promises they gave but a year to the Election Day, they would walk in with handouts and we would forget about their failures. Because our levels of expectations from our leaders have been reduced to a bare minimum that those who try are seen as towering giants.

You can call him all the names you want. You can write him off as a man who can never be trusted to show up when he is needed the most. You would have all the right to say those things but in my opinion, that would be too simplistic.

Mocking Kalonzo is mocking ourselves and a culture that rewards cowards. Mocking him is looking at ourselves in the mirror and laughing at the image we see. Mocking him is pointing a speck of dust in his eyes and forgetting the forest of guilt in our own eyes.

Unless we start to celebrate the courageous in our society, rather than vain seeking socialites and celebrities, the trait of cowardice will thrive.

The writer @DannishOdongo is a reporter with Capital FM and also the Chairman of the Political Leadership & Governance Programme Alumni Network. Views expressed here are his own.

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