By G Oguda
In the light of the earthshaking corruption scandals currently unfolding before our eyes, somebody asked me a question yesterday when I was counting cars along Ngong Road: What is wrong with Kenya?
I replied by telling him this story.
When I left the village life in Seme to take my deserved place at the University of Nairobi in 2003, the Goldenberg Commission of Inquiry hearings were going on at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). President Mwai Kibaki had just been overwhelmingly elected into office with a public promise that he would pinch the balls of those pinching public money.
Goldenberg was the biggest corruption scandal in the country, at that time. According to witnesses at the commissionâ€™s hearings, 60 Billion – a fifth of Kenyaâ€™s GDP – was looted from our Central Bank through Kamlesh Pattniâ€™s Exchange Bank in 1991. Kenya had waited 12 years to see a whip crack on someone’s backside, to no avail.
This was the moment of truth.
These hearings were public. The area around that hall to your left as your enter KICC was the most secure quadrant in the whole country. The screening into the hall was crazy, you had to be seated 30 minutes before the sessions began. The interest in the Goldenberg Commission hearings was so intense Daily Nation dedicated kilometres of pages running down the previous proceedings verbatim, and in full colour.
Justice Samuel Bosire is one judge I will forever respect. I know Ahmednasir Abdullahi ripped his academic certificates apart during the JSC vetting of judges but I loved his composure, dignity, and respect, for the office of the Judiciary. He was accommodative, but firm. I don’t quite remember anything about Justice David Aganyanya but you got the feeling Justice Le Pelley was brought in to fill the numbers.
But it seems that Kenyans did not come to listen to the Goldenberg hearings, neither were they interested in the facts. School children, some as far as Laikipia, would be ferried to the public hearings in Nairobi in full school uniform to witness history in the making. They would later be notorious for, believe it or not, haranguing Kamlesh Pattni for a photo moment after the sessions were over. You would see Kenyans rushing to be photographed with the chief architect of a scam that had taken our country back 20 years.
The message passed on then, to the younger generation, was that it was cool to be a criminal.
No attempt, whatsoever, was made to seek audience with bright minds like Prof. Terry Ryan – a hugely underrated economist. No attempt to introduce school kids harbouring ambitions of being lawyers to Justice Bosire, Dorcas Oduor, and Phillip Murgor. No attempt to take the kids on a tour around the Supreme Court building if only to put images into the notes being dictated to them during History and Civics lessons.
Instead, teachers and school administrators who accompanied their kids to the public hearings went back with an autograph of the nation’s most wanted man. And they took group pictures smiling and showing the middle finger to those miserable Kenyans crying to God everyday that justice be seen to be done.
When we socialise our children to look up to thieves and criminals, we should not be surprised when another 12 years down the road, 60 Billion now looks like child’s play in 2015. When we train a critical mass of school-going children that professional ethics is just an english word in the Cambridge English Dictionary and not a doing word, we shouldn’t be surprised when university student leaders – who were in primary school then – now slit each other’s throat in the fight to control a student kitty enough to feed Wajir County for 5 years.
As a nation, we may need to start asking ourselves difficult questions going forward. And unless one grand thief is paraded on a public shooting range and head blown off, we may be forced to ask that this country be auctioned and everyone be given their share to sort themselves out.
This country is sinking without a trace.