By Dorcas S
To be clear, there is nothing wrong establishing an institution such as the Fort Hall School of Government if its research reflected a modicum of objective thinking commensurate with the loftiness its founder, Mutahi Ngunyi, yearns for his brainchild.
Stanford University in Palo Alto houses the conservative thinktank Hoover Institution whose luminaries include former Secretary of State George Schultz and Defense Secretary William Perry alongside a “Who Is Who” in public policy areas across all fields of study.
Rice University has the James Baker School of Public Policy. Mr. Baker was a former Chief of Staff and Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan and G. H. W Bush respectively.
Harvard, for its part has the world-renowned JF Kennedy School of Government and that says it all.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is also a conservative thinktank that works with legislators and private sector members to formulate bills and policy proposals that can be modified for introduction at the state and federal level. The organization is headed by Leah Vukmir; a Republican (GOP) member of the Wisconsin Senate who also happens to be a Registered Nurse (RN). Ms. Vukmir has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Marquette University and an MS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Put another way, ALEC’s policy positions are rooted on sound research that have undergone peer review with conclusions that are less about currying favor and more about driving an issue – immigration, abortion, tax policy etc – from the GOP’s perspective.
Other think tanks of note include the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute.
Fort Hall School of Government bills itself as “the premier executive education provider in Kenya offering professional skills based training”. Surprisingly, the institution’s motto (and I use the term ‘institution’ generously) is the deep-sounding “Evolutio Est Melius Quam Essentiae”; Latin (not Gikuyu OR Swahili) for “Becoming Is Better Than Being”.
The school’s website does not indicate which accreditation body sanctioned its charter as an “executive education provider” nor does it provide a listing of faculty members or fellows – resident or visiting.
Fort Hall’s claim to fame is its “The 5th Estate” YouTube show; a channel created by the self-described “veteran political scientist Professor Mutahi Ngunyi” where “students” of the school “hold weekly political discussions with ‘Professor’ Mutahi Ngunyi amongst other ‘public intellectuals’.” – the foregoing quotes are texts taken from school’s website.
The sparse website also has one link – a subscription button to its 5th Estate YouTube channel!
A google search of “Professor” Mutahi Ngunyi yielded 221,000 hits but none linking to his educational background nor his chops as a scholar/”professor”. I find this very strange and unusual for a “Professor” of “Kenya’s premier executive education provider”. Additionally, Mr. Ngunyi does not have what is typically par for the course for most public figures – a Wikipedia page. A search for “Mutahi Ngunyi” yielded the message “Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name”
To date, the school’s YouTube account has fifty-two videos with the latest video titled “Did ODM Swallow NASA? Is Raila a War Monger?”. The video which was posted “1 day ago” and has garnered 18,559 views. The first video posted on the site was titled “Case Against Tyranny of Numbers” and unlike the school’s staid and erudite mien, the video is a failed attempt at satire and plainly silly. It also deals with a subject/expression that shot “Professor” Ngunyi to fame while also crystallizing the questions surrounding the man’s scholarly gravitas. The video was uploaded “1 year ago” and has garnered 30,984 views thus far.
Any reputable scholar who references another scholar’s works, in this case the works of Bell Laboratory’s Jack Morton, usually includes an attribution to said scholarly works.
In his 1958 article for “Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers”, Mr. Morton used the term “tyranny of numbers” to describe the problems design engineers were experiencing at the time; namely limitations the day’s technology had on the increasingly complex field of computer science.
As computers became more complex, the quantity and intricacies of the modules needed to run them also increased. As with any manufactured equipment, the more assembly pieces used, the harder it is to assure reliability – too many interacting pieces This was the case with computers of yesteryears. This is what Mr. Morton referred to as the “tyranny of numbers” i.e. the near-impossible task of assembling the requisite number electronics components into a reliably functioning computer.
Jack Morton, originator of the expression “tyranny of numbers” was NOT referring to the political “union of convenience” between two of Kenya’s most populous tribes during the 2013 General Elections!
Of the ten videos issued by the Fort Hall School of Government over the last two months, all painted NASA the party and any one of the party’s principals (Raila, Kalonzo, Mudavadi etc.) negatively including the breathless episode titled “Is Raila a War Monger?” and one with a grainy black and white image depicting Raila with a gun held to his head!
While the Hoover Institution and JFK School of Government feature world-renowned public servants and academicians, Fort Hall, as depicted in the videos, features articulate young men and women with initials such as “DM”, “JM”, “PG” and captions that say “PhD Candidate – Swiss MC Uni Zurich”, “Lawyer – LLM Candidate Uni of Cumbria” and “Political Scientist”.
Mr. Ngunyi, wearing muted fall-colored sweaters, polo-style shirts and his trademark horn-rimmed glasses, sits on a rich cordovan leather high-back wing chair. The “Professor”, in the requisite “thinking man/scholar” pose – what with a bookshelf of books in the background – is a constant presence throughout the 10-30minute long videos.
One female “scholar” (or “analyst”), like most Brazilian football players, just goes by one name – “Wang” – though she does not look Chinese!
All told, Mutahi Ngunyi, in his attempt to gain credibility and become one of Kenya’s respected thought leaders, places himself and the Fort Hall School of Government under the microscope; the latter without any discernable or readily available regional, national or international accreditation; this just like the founder’s doctoral works.
This should give all Kenyans pause.