By Joseph Lister Nyaringo
When the current constitution was promulgated in 2010, majority of Kenyans welcomed the new dawn with optimism; believing that it will accelerate reforms the country’s social, political and economic spectrums.
What Kenyans forgot was this, laws are mere safeguards and not engines of transformation in any society if people are not ready to be transformed.
While most of the challenges facing our nation are due to failure by our national leaders, the regular citizens should also remember that they have a critical role to play in making Kenya a better habitat for current and future generations.
Remember, any flub; big or small contributes to national decay. How we conduct ourselves in public and private is the foundation of personal and collective achievement.
A critical question that crops in my minds is this: Are Kenyans honest? Do we plan, carry out collective and individual responsibilities without cutting corners? Are we values-driven citizens?
Our thought process defines the decisions we make in life. According to Gautama Buddha, the sage of Buddhism, what we think, we become- a corrupt mind will compel us to be corrupt, while an evil mind will lead us to commit evil.
It takes a willingness mind to walk away or towards tribalism, nepotism, violence, corruption and bribery.
According to a US philosopher Ralph Emerson, you sow a thought and reap an action; sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny. The moral uprightness we read in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism is of no value if we are not ready to inject it in our everyday life.
One may say that the reason why most of the religions practiced in Kenya have not changed people is because majority of their adherents are hearers of the word and not doers of the word, just as the Bible tells us in the book of James verse1:22.
If we plant hatred, tribalism, greed, envy and strife, we reap the same. We have to make choices; we have to choose whether we want to become good trees which bear good fruits as in Matthew 7:18 or vice versa.
When you learn it, live it or apply it so that it can have meaning to create impact in society. In other words, learning good stuff is meaningless if one is not ready to apply it.
We need to nurture the principles of probity in our society. If we want to be treated with honest, fairness, and truthfulness, we need to treat others the same way.
If you find someone’s wallet in a matatu, its unethical to take it; thinking that you are the luckiest person. In Hinduism, Karma, is a term often used to stress the consequences of our action or the rebirth of our good or bad.
Corruption is corruption whether it’s through Eurobond, SGR, NYS, Anglo Leasing or Goldenberg. Stealing your neighbour’s chicken or gouging the prices of essential goods like Unga by unscrupulous business people is pure corruption.
I recently forgot my cell phone in a New York restaurant.
When I made a follow up the following day, I discovered that a customer picked it and handed it to the manager. Think about what would have happened if the same happened in a Tom Mboya Street eatery!
What does not belong to you is not yours. We don’t need religion to learn this. It’s just simple acts of ethics.
If we expected the President, Governor, Legislator or MCA, to operate with honesty and integrity, we need to remember that as citizens, we have a cardinal responsibility to act the same way. After all, it’s us who elect these people into office.
As we stride towards the August election, we need to elect value-driven leaders. Those with dubious records should be rejected at the ballot.
Vices in our society are plenty. Offering a job to a person without the requisite qualifications merely because you share a similar dialect is morally wrong. It negates meritocracy, service delivery, and promotes corruption.
When a farmer bribes a clerk at a tea buying centre for additional kilos than his actual produce in order to fetch higher earnings, the farmer is actually promoting self-theft. If he stops doing so, he will end up being a victim when another farmer starts a new cycle. Remember, the clerk has to steal the extra kilos from other innocent farmers.
Is there any justification for the said farmer to complain about corruption in the national radar when he or she is involved in corruption? Even the tea clerk is not justified to demand for better remuneration from the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) when he swindles farmers while on a salary.
We always accuse traffic officers of corruption on the highways and forget that, Matatu operators are purveyors of the same. The operators are used to bribery to the extent that, even if the vehicle involved in a traffic check is 100% road worthy, the operator will still hand money to a traffic officer on a road block.
Why bribe especially when you know you are operating within the law?
We need to understand our rights. Cutting corners often denies us justice. If we were a value-driven nation, managing a mere general election which comes after 5 years would not been a controversial affair. The current standoff at the IEBC over the ballot tendering process is unnecessary.
One wonders why Chairman Wafula Chebukati, and his team cannot pursue an alternative avenue which is acceptable to all. If indeed, there is a red flag as raised by NASA after they awarded the printing tender to the Al Ghurair company of Dubai why not pursue a neutral avenue to break the impasse?
I think one critical step Kenya should take is to fully incorporate ethics in our education system. If this becomes mandatory, schoolers in all levels will be inculcated into a culture where they will understand that moral ethics is the cornerstone of social, political, cultural and economic development.
To fully ensure that education shapes character in society, Singapore uses this concept in its school systems: “Nation before community and society above self.” This is the country’s shared nationalistic mantra.
Today, the country is one of the four Asian “dragons” as a result of rapid industrial growth despite being at par with Kenya, 54 years ago.
We need to wear the wrist watch of honest and drill in discipline with character. This is the surest way to make Kenya a haven of prosperity.
Joseph Lister Nyaringo is the President of Kenya Patriotic Movement, a diaspora lobby group