Citizen Centricity; the True Definition of Political Progress
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been looking at the journey of one young man called Jose who traveled from East Africa to Europe for his studies. Through his eyes, we had the opportunity to experience the contrast between the two places.
In today’s article, we get to read a letter he wrote to his friend Tony back in Kenya about what he thought his country needed as a matter of urgency if it was to make some strides forward and leapfrog into a developed country.
How have you been since we parted ways as I embarked on my journey to this new home? I hope you are and have been well. Let me assure you that every single day I remember you. You may wonder why I am writing and not calling you. I hope you understand by the time you finish reading this piece.
Do you remember the last time when we attended a rally at the Kasarani International Sports Centre and you lamented how some things did not sound right with those speeches? I vividly remember your sentiments about hearing those sweet speeches all the time since you started picking political sense of your own.
You complained about how only the political class was the only beneficiary of ‘goodies’ alluded to be for the good of all people in those narrations. What broke my heart however was the statement you made at the end of the day that that was our fate and there was nothing we could do about it.
My heart has been heavy since then every time I recall those words. I usually wonder if our children and our children’s children will let fate take charge of their destiny by believing that there are people who are more people than them.
Fast forward to today, I hope I have been enlightened a little bit about what change needs to be infused into our politics if we are to attain the level of development that you envisioned; one in which the village that muscled resources together to take you to university would partake in as well.
I should give you this disclaimer first. That this is a matter of soft skills that need psychological change rather than hard skills. You and I know far too well that we have a lot of folks with the required hard skills we need to drive our country to very great heights.
We have very bright engineers who can build very nice roads and housing for our people. We have awesome architects who can design very robust and innovative infrastructure to put us on the world map. The urban planners churned yearly out of our universities would do an excellent job of redesigning our urban infrastructure to make them modern and sustainable. We have very highly qualified medical doctors who can treat, and mechanical and computer engineers who can build the technology that will take our country to the next level.
You may be wondering why I have not written about business graduates running our firms. I did not forget. We have lovely business leaders, scientists, and teachers who are extremely qualified and each plays their roles well and should be commended for that.
But all these great citizens need an enabling environment for them to thrive. This is where we are not doing as expected. The level of corruption and embezzlement of public funds is on another level. The bitter thing is that the corruption is being propagated and driven by those we mandate to be our voices.
And it seems to be a culture that has been perfected with a good number of those in politics. Given the normalcy purported by the electorate as acceptable, we have thus perfected the concept of politics centered around the politicians and their ‘cronies.’
That is why you said that it has and will always be our fate. But are you sure that is ok? As long as it continues to be politician-centric politics, then we are very far from ever reaping the fruits of the freedom we celebrate every single year on independence day.
I have noted with a lot of interest here (in Europe) that the politics dominant is citizen-centric. They are not perfect in their own right but I can authoritatively say that the fruits are visible and they are very good. Rewards are given to the deserved and not according to ‘connections’ and friendship ties that need to be repaid as debts irrespective of whether they mean good to all.
This citizen-centric politics or leadership as I may call it is action based. People speak and argue on behalf of their people while meaning it and whatever they get, they bring to their people as a part of the bargain. They ensure the people benefit directly by all means.
I know our case over there is the reverse. People speak citizen-centric politics and play politician-centric politics in reality. Politicians go negotiating on their behalf first and where people are lucky to feature, they become second at the bargaining table.
We have perfected that so well that the politicians now know it and take us for a ride. It saddens me that a lot of people don’t see this and are obscured by regionalist and tribal faction ideologies. But I give you a taste of this hoping it can transform you and a few of the others with whom we interact.
The change we desire will take a long time to lag in this soft skill of understanding that the politics to be asked of our politicians is none other than the one that has our pure interest. Otherwise, we will focus too much on the hard skills which we have done relatively well to date and whose impact is failing to be felt because they are being hampered by the soft side which ought to have created an enabling environment.
If there is any progress we desire and wish to attain in our politics, it is none other than that of infusing citizen centricity as the most integral aspect for us to get a taste of heightened progressive development. Otherwise, we are a passing generation that will live to say the stories of how we fooled ourselves as has always.
I pray we don’t find ourselves there.
You now know why I had to write this. I will call you once you share your new contacts on my Facebook inbox. You’ve not replied to my messages for the last two months. I know it is not easy but get some bundles and let us keep in touch.
I hope to see you someday.
Your loving friend Jose.