By Dr. Caesar Mwangi
I recently read a short video review by Phyllis Kimpel based on a New York Bestseller book written by Andy Andrews titled “How do you kill 11 million people?” And it made me sit up realizing how history repeats itself in so far as leadership or rather mis-leadership is concerned.
The review begins with the question: How did Hitler get elected resulting to the killing of 11 million people? The answer was that he lied to a nation.
It quotes Hitler’s words when he said ” How fortune for leaders, that men not think. Make the lie big, make it simple, keep it simple and eventually the people will believe it.”
In Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf Hitler is quoted as having said, “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.”
This book was widely read by Germans at the time and lo behold, the masses fell in two categories, those who believed Hitler’s lie and those who ignored it.
The reviewer observed that at the time, the total German population was 79.9 million people. Out of these less than 8 million people (barely 10% of the population) actively campaigned and worked to bring about Hitler’s proposed change agenda more than 90% of the population, fathers, mothers, ministers and teachers avoided the uncomfortable truth about what was happening around them and to them.
Eventually the Nazis even started targeting their children and unfortunately by that time they were too late to do anything about it. Terrible change had come as they watched from the sidelines.
The observation made by the reviewer is that speaking the truth is the least we should expect from our political leaders and if we stand by and insulate ourselves from the ongoing lies, then eventually we shall be destroyed as a people.
As I pondered this message, and in light of the titanic political battles that have begun in our country as we approach the elections, I could not help asking why we do not learn from history.
The key questions that came to mind were; what are our standards for being led? Is it alright for a political leader to lie to the populace whether with good or bad intentions? Can good intentions justify lies? How can the populace identify the good guys and hopefully vote for them as opposed to the bad guys who always burn to triumph? Can we judge our leaders by their actions as opposed to their words often laced with good intentions but hideously misleading in relation to their real intentions?
Is it a fact that we have been fed with the lie that Kenyans are so tribal that the only sensible thing to do as a nation is to entrench tribalism in our constitutional framework.
This could explain the 47 county structure arrived at to accommodate our 42 ethnic groups and with extra counties for subgroups.
This lie is inconsistent with the quest for regional integration and with any sense of logic but as was done in the dark history earlier outlined, a lie repeated truly becomes an acceptable truth. The jury is out as we seem to be more divided than ever and the prospect of one united nation gets dimmer by the day.
Another lie fed to the masses has suggested that leaders owe the electorate a living and hence financial largess is the only route to get elected in Kenya.
The hollow boasts from different national and county level political aspirants on the financial war chests they are building for their election campaigns is a complete misnomer in light of the huge government deficit and the shaky economic foundations our nation stands on as a primary producer that exports raw materials and imports finished products.
The truth shall set us free and as we proceed for yet another jamboree of tribal arithmetic and financial largess, let us be wise and accept the resources poured into our villages from benevolent and charismatic vote seekers riding in multi colored helicopters and shiny top of the range fuel guzzlers.
Let us make a pact to only vote for those people whom we can trust based on their consistent conduct in their private and public lives and not from the flowery pledges aimed at exciting desperate Kenyans seeking an imaginary utopia through an imaginary savior.
The lessons of history are on our side, let us use them this time round.
Dr. Caesar Mwangi is a visiting faculty at the Strathmore Business School. Read his profile here.