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Friday, September 28, 2007

Mwai Kibaki Politics And The Experienced Cobbler


Artists impression wioth crayon of the nice guy president who was never meant to be a politician posing with his family recently.

One of the things Kenyans must do as we approach the elections later this year is to look back and analyze mistakes that were made in the past so that we stop them from ever being made again.

In understanding Mwai Kibaki the politician, it is useful to take in the following short story. I love to tell stories and I hope you love to take them in.

Nzisa was new in town and wanted her shoes repaired. She saw quite a number of cobblers at one street corner and went to the first one, an elderly looking man, and asked him how much it would cost to repair her shoe. The old man with a very bored expression on his face said it would cost Kshs 200/-. He didn’t even look at her shoes.

“But why is it so expensive?”

The cobbler replied rudely that she was free to take her shoes to the other cheap cobblers if she so wished but he had 40 years experience as a cobbler and his price was 200/-, take it or leave it.

Nzisa decided to ask the other cobblers for a quote so that she could compare prices. She approached a young good-looking cobbler who smiled and welcomed her.

Mathe hio itacost 20 bob.” He told her after carefully examining the shoes.

Nzisa was confused. The old experienced cobbler charged 200/- but this other one charged 20/-. There had to be a catch somewhere. After some thought she decided to use the old experienced cobbler because she really liked her shoe and did not want any cheap cobbler messing around with it.

The first thing that went wrong is that she came several times on false promises before the shoe was finally ready. But her problems had just started. When she saw the way the shoe had been done with string showing and even sticking out where the cobblers’ needle had gone through, she wanted to scream.

The old cobbler remained bored as Nzisa bitterly complained about her special shoe which had a lot of sentimental value above all else to her. But now it had been damaged beyond repair. She stalked off with her shoes, the tears flowing down her cheeks. The 20/- cobbler saw her and hurried after her. He calmed her down and assured her that he was able to solve the problem as she waited. It would take him only 20 minutes.

The cheap shoe repairer did it in 15 minutes and when he had finished work on the shoe, Nzisa could not believe her eyes. It was as good as new.

Many days later when she had recovered from the ordeal she invited the young cobbler to a cup of tea. She was very curious and this was one mystery she was determined to solve.

“What happened to you sister has happened to very many people who don’t know the old cobbler.” The young cobbler told her.

“But why? Is it true that he has 40 years experience in the trade?”

“Yes, that he has,” Nzisa was told. “But the problem is that he was never meant to be a cobbler. He found himself in it accidentally. He hates the smell of shoes and can hardly sew straight. In short he has no interest in the profession that puts food on his table. In fact the reason why he charges 200/- is because he is sure any customer he gets will never come back to him again and will tell others how bad he is. So he charges for the 10 visits he know he will never get from you. The rest of us charge 20/- knowing that we have a customer for a long time to come.”

The problem is that the number of years in a profession is not as important as your capability and capability depends a lot on your love and interest for the profession.

The truth is that Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki was never meant to be a politician. He hates the lies, and the hypocrisy and avoids confrontations at all costs. At heart he is really a very good man, a gentleman and too good to be in politics. He got into it by accident when the late Tom Mboya drove all the way to Makerere to fetch him to become Kanu’s first executive officer. They required an educated person and there were not many gradutates those days, let alone university lecturers. Mr Kibaki would have made an ideal don and listening to him lecture wananchi sometimes, I feel pity for him and his missed calling.

Contrast him to Jomo Kenyatta who loved nothing more than a good confrontation and was never scared of the “mud’ that so easily splashes on you when you are in politics. Jomo also understood and greatly respected public opinion. He knew it was what kept a president in power and not control over the military as is widely believed.

That was one mistake we all made including yours truly in 2002. We elected somebody whom we did not really know. Somebody who was and is a great lecturer in economics and would have had an amazing career at any leading university in the world.

Raila and company chose him mainly because he was a Kikuyu and they wanted to neutralize Moi’s project. They were also sure that he would be the easiest to control and manipulate. What they forgot was that there is something called a kitchen cabinet and that kitchen cabinet just surrounded the president and made him completely inaccessible to those who had worked to get him into State House. The rest as they say is history. You can see the problems the president is having with a presidential campaign when all his campaigners and strategists the last time round are all in the opposition now. Watch what happens as he continues to implement his own neat theoretical ideas working at something he was never meant to be.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is my view that Kenya would have achieved much more under a Uhuru Kenyatta presidency. Moi stooge or no Moi stooge the younger man would have gotten much more done.

But alas, let us remember my old violent cane wielding teacher’s mantra; it is OK to make a mistake once. But twice? Eh!! That teacher of mine would go berserk with the cane, his fists, his legs and everything on any student silly enough to make the same mistake twice.

Very important lesson in this short life, very important.

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