Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi’s defiance of the self-quarantine rule is part of the selfish Kenyan political DNA. After he travelled from Germany and knew quite well that he should have self-quarantined for at least 14 days, he decided to go about his business.
Each layer in the COVID-19 cluster he began in Kilifi points to a typical Kenyan leader, unwilling to put his/her own interests before those of everyone else. Saburi not only held meetings at his office, but he also attended a funeral and the International Women’s Day celebrations in the county.
That he went about his official life, and personal life, unbothered about a global pandemic he must have known he was exposed to is not a surprise.
Like most, if not all, of Kenya’s political leaders, Saburi did not care about who he was exposing to the virus he had brought home. Or even that unlike him, most people do not have the political connections and pay package that includes the best healthcare in the world.
Like them, he probably still doesn’t care about what social and economic carnage everyone who got infected will suffer. Or even that some will die either as a direct result of COVID-19 or lack of proper healthcare and facilities. Like a typical Kenyan politician, only two things matter, what he wants and what he needs.
In “Vagabonds in Power (VIP): Africa’s Greatest Problem is Selfish Leadership,” Socrates Mbamalu writes that “the major problem that many African countries have is not just the lack of principled leaders but rather the presence of selfish leaders who are nothing but Vagabonds in Power”.
It was the Nigerian maestro Fela Kuti who first called our leaders, and this is as true for the West African country as it is in Kenya, Vagabonds in Power (VIPs). These are people who seek and maintain power for, Mbamalu writes, “the benefit of selfishness and enrichment of the ruling elite.”
Political leaders in Kenya revel in “me” moments, seeking to satisfy their needs first at the expense of Kenyans. While Saburi is currently on the hot seat for his selfish act at a time that selflessness is required, our politicians have acted in ways that are equally selfish, endangering the health, safety and freedoms of millions of Kenyans.
Goldenberg, Eurobond, Afya House, Immigration, National Youth Service and the dams' scandals are just a few examples of the selfishness of our politicians, who would rather rob millions of Kenyans so that they can amass wealth.
It is the same politicians who scream about patriotism and love for one another while their own selfish acts show the opposite. Corruption is an indirect tax that Kenyans – who haven’t benefited from it, have to pay for. It has not only placed us at risk before, but it is even now.
The Health ministry has been the home of several major scandals in the last decade that will mean that coping with the current public healthcare crisis harder than it should have been.
Like Saburi, the politicians and their allies who stole funds meant for the healthcare of Kenyans did not care whether people lived or died.
Our politicians compete and seek power for one reason only, to enrich themselves, their friends and their kin. Parliamentary sittings to vote for salary and perk increases are often the most well-attended, and barely ever have any opposition.
The singular goal is to get paid even more than they already own, even if the rest of the country is struggling not just to pay them, but to stay afloat. It is selfishness by any name.
“They have [by suggesting pay cuts] taken away our dignity and we must reclaim it,” a lawmaker once said with a straight face. Nearly every corruption scandal worth mentioning includes an elected leader and other VIPs.
The common thread has always been that it is up to Kenyans to pay for whatever lifestyles or goals their leaders have while accepting that they are their last priority.
Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi is only a reflection of how selfish political leaders can get. While he selfishly exposed a number of people to the dreaded coronavirus, he and other politicians expose Kenyans to insecurity, a failing health system, a weak economy, unemployment, debt, every day.
These politics of selfishness have robbed this country of her dignity, her present, and her future. It is also our greatest weakness in the current public healthcare crisis.
Ms. Syindu Musesya is a corporate communications specialist. She holds a BA in Communication and Media Studies from Daystar University.