Why don’t we all just give politicians a blackout?
Here we go again. The headlines say it all: the coalition government is crumbling, the principals have fallen out, the shilling is sliding, investors are nervous, we are facing another meltdown.
But I ask you: what exactly has changed since last week? What cyclone has hit Kenya that our prospects look so suddenly bleak? Have we lost hundreds of thousands of people, like Haiti? Are we impossible to govern, like Somalia? Are we perpetually at war with ourselves, like Congo?
No, none of that applies in Kenya. Yet the transformation in public opinion is dramatic. That is how fickle our opinions are. The economic fundamentals, as pointed out last month on this page, are exactly the same. We are a strong, resilient, diversified economy in an enviable location, powered by enterprising people. None of that has disappeared. So what exactly has happened?
The two sides of the coalition have had a spat, that’s all. For that we are back on international TV screens, the subject of much analysis and debate across the globe, not least in our own barrooms. Most worryingly, Kenya’s angry young men are being marshalled and are giving warnings about protecting “their own.”
Do you not have better things to do, Kenyans, than discuss the internecine and infantile arguments of politicians? How does getting involved in these squabbles advance your own life one inch forward? So leaders’ egos are bruised and they are issuing ultimatums and warnings. So what? When are we going to realise that our personal development has nothing to do with these things, and everything to do with ourselves?
The current machinations are about both sides of the coalition manoeuvring for power. Each side wants to be rid of the other and free to govern on its own. Neither side is appreciating that the deep political divisions in the land would not allow one side to rule unchecked. In other words, our leaders need to learn to get on, collaborate, share, consult – just like most of us do in our lives. But that is alien to their natures, and so they are about to throw us all into turmoil yet again.
But I ask again: is it so difficult for you to ignore these people? Why are you so fixated on reading every pointless headline, relishing every inane ultimatum, following every accusation and counter-accusation? Do we not have children to educate, personal development to worry about?
Some of you may be tiring of reading it in this column – but what the hell, I’m going to say it again. Most of the personal success you achieve in your life is going to come from within you – not from the outside world. It is your personal character that is the biggest driver of sustained success. You could do so much better, for yourself and your country, if you invested time and effort in yourself rather than in politicians.
Look around you in the world: who attracts your admiration and respect? It is not these politicians, certainly: you may follow their every deed, but it is only a macabre fascination. The people who truly influence others and who leave a legacy of respect are different. Their character shines through. Real success is only available in life to those who work relentlessly hard, who build their skill sets with great determination, and who position themselves to stand out in a crowded world.
So, if you want a modicum of success for yourself and your children, does that not give you plenty to be getting on with? Can you really afford to be distracted every day by the antics of others?
I have an idea for you. Why don’t you make a resolution to ignore politicians? Why don’t you deny them the “oxygen of publicity”, in Margaret Thatcher’s words? If newspapers are filled with political intrigues, stop buying them. If news bulletins highlight rabid politicians, switch them off. If a politician, any politician, holds a rally in your area, ignore it completely. When friends want to discuss the latest machinations in mind-numbing detail, tell them it doesn’t educate anyone’s children.
If we all give politicians and their intrigues a blackout, we will force them to follow our agenda, not theirs. Their agenda is personal power. Our agenda is personal and national development. Let them understand that we only give them power if they use it to do all the things we want and desperately need: unite the country, build its infrastructure, and terminate grand corruption. Anything else is a sideshow we are not interested in.
The second step is to give most sitting politicians a kick in the teeth during the next election. Refuse to give them your vote, and resolutely vote for someone new or fresh. Of course, the new person may be no better, but that is not the point. The point is to penalise non-performance, and to create a perpetual people-led agenda and a tradition of bowing to what the people want. That will transform this country like nothing else will.