I recently had a grueling soccer match with my 17 year old son and 7 year old grandson that taught me a lot about why we have a leadership problem in Kenya today.
The idea of the game was to display individual flair and dribbling skills with each player supposed to dribble past the other two and score in the single goal we were using. Now, I was a pretty useful soccer player in my days and managed to play for the school first 11 when I was in Form 1 (high school used to go to Form 6 in those days) and it was only my interest in rugby that made me shift my concentration away from the game and more into rugby, otherwise I was headed straight for Harambee Stars. I still ended up donning national colors in Rugby while still a sixth former. I was in fact knocking on the rugby national team doors when I was in form four. I am not bragging here folks, the background is important because of what I am about to say.
Our games with my son and grandson are pretty serious affairs with everybody playing hard to win. It is so serious that there is no laughing around, unless somebody gets so well beaten that they lose balance.
My grand son grabbed the ball first and shifted his feet over the ball either way without touching it—Ronaldino style, which did not fool me but when I lunged for the ball, he was too quick for me and easily got round my large frame and headed towards the goal. He was stopped dead on his tracks by my son whom I moved quickly to challenge after a quick recovery. This time I did not lunge for the ball but used a trick I had learnt years ago. I pretended to go for the ball forcing him to make his move but when I moved to take the ball, he easily got to it before me and left me on the ground as he slammed in the first goal.
I tried to step up my game but to no avail. Many times I gave instructions to my body that the latter stubbornly refused to obey or obeyed in slow motion. The truth that I hate to admit even to myself, finally dawned on me. I am not the same person I was 24 years ago when I wore the Kenyan short in foreign lands. Age has started catching up.
No matter how much I deny it, it is a fact and it can not go away. The reason why my kids were beating me to the ball was because I was doing things much slower (almost in slow motion) while they moved quickly all over the place. I was no match to them.
Sadly that is exactly what is happening to our leadership in our beloved country. Other countries with younger leaders are able to do things much faster while we rely on our grandfather-types to solve pressing new problems like how to deal with the war on terror and still keep our important allies happy. Or how to tackle rising crime. The old folks cannot get their minds to picture devolution working in the country.
Think of me telling myself that there was no way these youngster whose soiled napkins I was changing just the other day could beat me at a game that I knew so well. That’s our current leadership believing that their experience is the kind that younger politicians and leaders can never have and therefore handing over power to them would bring chaos.
Then think of the young idle potential in leadership as my son and grandson effortlessly moving around the pitch and running circles around me. They don’t have the experience I have like having two huge framers charging down on me near the touchline where I had just gotten the ball, moments after another colleague had been stretchered off the pitch after an encounter with them (my shuffle left them on the grass and wondering where I had gone). But that experience was useless to me because this was soccer and a completely different ball game and I was no longer as fast as I was when I did that shuffle over 20 years ago. The truth is that our current leaders are most experienced when it comes to figuring out a way of getting the paper work done to get money out of treasury for non-existent goods and the recent re-emergence of the Ken Ren fertilizer deal tells us that the highest authority in the land is playing those games too.
None of the leaders in the main parties standing for president is young enough to be classified in the new generation of leaders Kenya needs badly. They are all too old. Still devolution would thrust many young leaders into responsible positions to tackle some of the pressing problems facing many districts in the country today. Kenyans would be able to see for the first time the soccer match I had with my kids in progress as districts lead by older slower men would lag behind as those led by younger new thinking leaders would thrive.
If only PNU also changed tact and supported devolution, then we would be sure that at least the way in which the country is being governed would change after 2008.