I must admit 2013 is ending very differently from how I had imagined it would end when I was mapping it out 12 months ago. Let us start from the fact that I had planned (and was aggressively working) towards getting Raila Odinga into statehouse! Man proposes, but God disposes, and Uhuru Kenyatta is now my President.
2013 is also the year when I finally got to understand that to make a difference in my world, I must first accept to work within the reality that I have rather than from the ideal world I hope for. Then I must seek to achieve the best that I can from that reality, rather than strive for what I imagine, that is not available. This is a lesson successful politicians have internalized, but which most other people cannot fathom.
The other major lesson that I learnt this year is that in any elective situation most people vote for the person who can do something for or against them in the future, rather than for someone who has done something for or against them in the past; if not voting against the person they fear. This is a harsh lesson that was brought home rather painfully as I watched the election results from sections of the Rift Valley that had been the epicenter of violence after the 2007 general elections.
The other lesson is pegged on the words ‘Accept and Move On’. Kenyans used this phrase so many times this year, and to mean so many different things, it nearly became our national mantra. However whether or not these words actually did anything useful for you depended on which of two main dimensions you used them.
One dimension is ‘fatalistic’. It is figuratively or literally quitting on an issue; e.g. when the various arms of government did something some section of Kenyans did not agree with; like the Judiciary deciding the presidential petition in Uhuru Kenyatta’s favor; or Parliamentarians raising their salaries; or the Executive re-organizing Kenya’s foreign policy. This is when Kenyans would just throw up their hands in resignation.
The other dimension is when used positively as a process of accepting that one’s reality was different from what was expecting, and engaging pro-actively within that reality to move forward progressively. This second dimension, which is a mind-set shift, is my main lesson for 2013 and what I am carrying forward into 2014. It is my version of ‘Constructive Discontent’.
Kenyans can be discontent. We complain about literally everything. Our main grouse is the government where we will complain about every statement they make. We complain about sports, work, politics, media, travelling, education, children/parents, neighbors, religion, friends, holidays or lack thereof; … we even complained about turning 50 as a nation-state!
We now need to get constructive with our discontent.
In 2014 we need to graduate from just complaining; i.e. ‘observation and loud exclamation’ of what is going wrong; to deliberate efforts to at the very minimum, suggest ways of how to fix it. Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s CEO says ‘constructive discontent’ is a mindset that’s based on ownership. If you are part of the ownership of Kenya, you will want to do more than just complain when you see something oing wrong.
Constructive discontent means young Kenyans, instead of just complaining that Francis Muthaura should not have been brought back from retirement to chair LAPSSET; insist that if he really is the best man for the job then he should only stay there for a set period and be understudied by a young person.
Constructive discontent means that the Media, instead of just complaining that the government is being high-handed with the digital migration issue, researches and makes recommendations on how other countries have done it; or that Healthcare providers, instead of allowing poor patients to die for lack of treatment to show their discontent with government, rally these patients to raise a million signatures; and force a referendum on the issue.
Constructive discontent also means that the even Government, if it must implement digital migration now, seeks to make it a popular campaign so that the market drives the change; or that if ‘NyumbaKumi’ has started off badly, rebrands it to ‘Nyumba10’; puts it on Facebook and Twitter, and makes it a youth movement (or ties it to existing religious ‘home-groups’ and allow it to be a ‘coalition of the willing’).
Constructive discontent means the CORD Opposition, instead of waiting to shoot down literally every policy the government comes up with, preempts the government by identifying areas of public concern in security, education, health, trade or foreign policy; suggests how they should be tackled, sets bench marks and evaluates the government’s performance based on these benchmarks. (Or better still produces a quarterly public communiqué that compares the government’s performance with how the opposition would have dealt with each particular issue had it been them in office).
May you have a constructively discontent 2014!