Jambo. Welcome to our motherland, the republic of conniving government officials, witty procurement officers, scheming stock keepers, tactical auditors, lousy cartels, goons masquerading as public servants, overzealous business gurus, unscrupulous tradesmen and women and wealth oriented patriots with an insatiable appetite for riches and luxuries. The only state where corruption has been a long time extra income generating activity but unfortunately, it is yet to be legalized for obvious reasons. The most lucrative industry that has shaken the country’s economy to the core since the attainment of independence. The only trade that has stifled our country’s development for decades, quashed the dreams of our founding fathers and subjected kids yet to be born to indebtedness.
Ready to have a gist of this scheme? Well, take a ride with me on this roller coaster. For starters, this trade works in multiples. There are no legal requirements nor expenses such as the acquisition of trade license, custom duty or taxation. Meaning that basic income is equivalent to the gross income. Furthermore, there are no requirements for academic achievements, work experience or work ethics. The only special skill needed is the use of common sense. Not the ordinary common sense but rather, the proverbial ‘uncommon’ common sense. The other less demanding requirement is mastery of the art of connection. Armed with these two qualifications, you can cast your net in the high seas with the guarantee of fishing big. Anyway, why go small when you can go big?
Have you any idea of how magical the art of connection is in the government agencies and enterprises? Huh! Sips tea. Nowadays it’s the most luxurious drink, it costs even more than a glass of champagne, or so I hear. Well, It’s the perfect gateway to riches. An automatic press button from a nobody to a VIP. Oops! Pardon my ignorance. I meant from a hairdresser to a VIP. The easiest way to acquire public property such as land, money, dream jobs…the list goes on. You only need to know ‘who is who’ in the government enterprises. It could even be the cousin of your spouse’s grand-uncle. You never know. Having done so, you simply have to show up for the interview just for formalities, then await your letter of acceptance. For those seeking to acquire investment opportunities, you only need to gift the relevant officials with a handsome cheque. For the lucky ones, in exchange, you only have to offer as little as unwavering loyalty. You know, the kind of ride or die loyalty. Whether you have met the qualifications for the job or that deal is not important. Actually, the word ‘right’ is exempted. It is irrelevant in this context. Aargh! No need to subordinate ourselves to the so-called leadership and integrity values. After all, we can pick them up on our way to church on Sunday. Then once there, perhaps we can petition God to pardon our misdemeanours and accept our ‘humble and delightful’ offerings.
Have I mentioned the thrilling tender businesses in our government agencies? This is the real deal! Imagine snaking your way into the procurement officer’s list only for them to order for air supply worth millions of money from you? Better still, if you are an insider, you can ‘fix’ the cash books or the invoices to accommodate your appetite for riches. You can double or triple the prices of ordinary commodities like a pen, a wheelbarrow depending on your choice of menu. You only need to book a reservation at the high table. And just like that, with a snap of your fingers, you walk to your ‘trusted’ bank with sack loads of money. The ‘righteous’ call it money laundering, we call it money ‘ordering’. The uncommon common sense!
This is the only occupation that accommodates all and sundry regardless of their status quo. No limitations of age either. The young and the old fit in the same basket. What sets you apart is your experience in the trade. Your mastery of the rules of the game; knowing the right hands to grease and the loopholes to seal. Simply put, knowing what you want and how to get it.
Ever wondered how the rich get away with various crimes? Well, they are the greatest beneficiaries of this trade. As we all know, justice in our legal system is hardly served. It is mostly sold off to the highest bidder. It has never been, nor is it, a matter of serving justice according to the law, but rather, serving the law just-as-is the size of your pocket. The exchange traces its origin back to the police station, then to the investigators, to the high profile lawyers, to the prosecutors and finally the ‘impartial and uncompromising’ law interpreters who are always willing to bend the same law to have a bite of the coveted pie. They say that forbidden fruits taste sweet, no doubt, this is the sweetest. Not even the law enforcement officers can help it. It is simply irresistible!
This, certainly, is an exceptional trade. The only trade that rewards hypocrisy. The only trade that is cheaply punished despite the magnitude of it’s social, political and economic impact. In fact, the bigger the scandal the better for you. It is a boost to your profile. The fame attained from the trade makes you even eligible for leadership positions. You can easily clinch a diplomat position, parliamentary or the gubernatorial seat. Such a great platform to bolster your election campaign as well. No need to go through the turmoil of begging voters to buy your cheap manifesto. Instead, you only need to let your cleverly acquired finances do the talking. Having done so, you can sit still waiting for a landslide win. With that win, then comes another priceless opportunity to reap even bigger. Such a lucrative investment. No loses. That vocabulary does not exist in this transaction.
We even borrow loans and grants from the international community in the name of developing our infrastructure only to steal. In interesting scenarios like the Kimwarer and Aror dam saga, we borrowed again to offset interest accrued on stolen finances. Call it double trouble! Then we amend the tax rates such as the VAT on fuel, airtime, other essential commodities and PAYE to finance the deficit. We spare no chance. We know no bounds either. So huge is our appetite that we are highly ranked in the world for being the most corrupt country in Africa despite having a stable and democratic government. All thanks to the looters of public coffers masquerading as leaders.
Let’s take a walk down the memory lane and revisit a tale that unfolded at the height of the economic recession characterized by a wave of corruption politics during the era of Nyayo. The historic Goldenberg International limited scandal. A fictitious gold and diamond jewellery export trade that devoured almost 100 billion of tax payers money bringing the economy to its knees and consequently, the devaluation of the Kenyan shilling. This saga unravelled in the early 1990s, a time when law was brazenly perverted and manipulated to turn grand thefts into legal businesses. So well was the scheme executed that no one ended up in jail. In the end, it would take generations to recover from the menace of this scandal.
Nearly three decades down the line, another embodiment of the Goldenberg scheme took place. The ‘legendary’ NYS scandal that unfolded like a series show, premiering in two seasons with numerous episodes and characters entangled. Following the public uproar to have the suspects brought to book, our ‘highly esteemed’ government took them to trials, held them in custody for a while then set them free on bond and terms. Interestingly, the special suspects were detained in the private wing of our noble national referral hospital to spare them the agony of being locked up in remand prisons. An astonishing scheme that afforded them a chance to enjoy life with a big spoon after raking billions of taxpayers money, while petty thieves languish in prison. How unjust!
Having accomplished our mission, we then shift our focus to sealing the loopholes; the infamous whistleblowers and activists. At first, we offer them some tokens of money in exchange for their silence. However, if they continue poking into our conscience with their demands for justice, we whisk them away by use of hitmen who do the dirty work for us. The ‘noisy hornbills’ disappear mysteriously only for their bodies to be found lying lifeless in some dungeon, bush thicket or their homes. Then out of the guilt, we send our condolences accompanied with some financial assistance to the bereaved families to help in preparation for their beloved’s burial. Finally, we can rest easy. Phew!
Just when we thought that there would be a paradigm shift, then boom! Another saga. Our health officials, allegedly, are snaking sumptuously in the middle of a crisis that has shaken the entire universe. Having cappuccino tea laced with gold chips and snacks deep-fried in pans enamelled with diamonds, prepared by the high-end chefs with special culinary arts. And speaking of the culinary arts, that of course, doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, our legislatures have set the pace for exploring different cuisines from various cultures globally. Going out of their way to fund International trips for some of the members to go see what needs to be added to the parliamentary menu, just so to revitalize their spirits and provide the much-needed energy to go about the numerous uneventful businesses on the corridors of Parliament, like walking out in the middle of a heated constitutional debate on the implementation of the two-thirds gender bill. Or how else would you explain such quandary?
In just a few weeks, a whopping 1.3 billion shillings sourced from the world bank, supposedly, have gone down the drainage in hiring ambulances— yet there is a fleet of ambulances idling in the parking lots in the ministry and county hospitals— and supplying none essentials like airtime, ‘minting’ memos and circulars, accommodation, in addition to the sumptuous tea and snacks. At the same time, our health workers who are at the frontline in the battle against COVID 19 are risking their lives due to lack of personal protective equipment. And the most we can do as gratitude is to offer a synchronized clapping of hands every Wednesday at noon. How interesting!
People talk of misplaced priorities. On the contrary, I think we are ailing from a dysfunctional leadership right from the village chiefs to the highest position in the country, the president. A government infested with opportunistic vultures that are ready to devour every single penny that has been allocated to the projects aimed at improving the lives of the citizens. One scandal after another in the very institutions that claim to be corruption free zones.
The repercussions, needless to say, are felt far and wide. Justice is no longer our shield and defender, nor is unity, peace and liberty plenty within our borders. Most of our leaders no longer endeavour to serve, instead, they prefer watching the chaos brewing up from a distance and then take to the social media to troll each other as they entertain the members of the public. We hardly enjoy the fruits of our labour. So many lives have been lost due to the poor and inaccessible health care, food insecurity and catastrophes. So many dreams shattered due to the poor education system. So many jobs and sources of income lost due to the collapse of industries like Mumias. So many homes and property worth millions of shillings swept away by recurrent flash floods and landslides but nothing meaningful has been done to mitigate the effects of such catastrophes. So many families left homeless following the demolition of their houses that were apparently, built on public lands that were surprisingly, fraudulently acquired with the approval of the relevant government officials and sold to them unknowingly. So many of our activists live in constant fear due to threats. The never-ending industrial strikes due to poor remuneration of public servants and poor working conditions. So many stalled development projects. Rigging of elections…
But anyway, who do we blame for this predicament? Need I tell who the real culprits are? Well, it is us, the citizens. Yes, you read that right. We only have ourselves to blame. We are the very people who keep choosing these leaders time and again simply because they are our tribesmen, our political affiliates, our friends and our associates. Every general election since independence we have enslaved ourselves, betrayed our interests and aspirations to help them achieve their dreams. We are the very people who painstakingly chose these leaders, including those who opted to turn out to cast their votes. Thankfully, they voted in their favour silently by eliminating the chances of competent leaders being voted in.
Ultimately, we are the only people who can redeem ourselves from this limbo that we have been stuck in for decades. We have the power to change the story, and that power lies squarely in our votes. You and I owe this country the duty to vote and vote wisely. We have a duty to salvage a third of our country’s annual budget that always goes into a few people’s pockets at the expense of our development. So the next time you are about to cast your vote in the ballot box, pause and think of what could be at stake. You could be either choosing despair or hope, retrograde or progress, another regime of gold diggers or game-changers. The choice will be yours.