If there is one lesson for Kenya to take home from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that we can exist without Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Raila Odinga. The President, the Deputy President and the Opposition chief have been rendered irrelevant and redundant.
We have learnt in the age of coronavirus that our survival is not dependant on the heft, clout and money of any of the characters who have been busy herding us into groups and factions as they plot their political shenanigans. Kenyatta, Ruto and Raila, the Building Bridges Initiative and related 2022 election jostling have absolutely no space in the attentions of those who suddenly have much more urgent priorities — like simply staying alive.
Right now, we are preoccupied with religiously washing our hands and generally avoiding situations that may expose us to the infernal bug. We are suffering the economic disruptions wrought by the coronavirus, gripped by anxiety over how we will survive if the pay cheque is halted or the business goes belly-up.
The enforced isolation of the dusk-to-dawn curfew, ban on public gatherings; shuttered bars, restaurants and churches; and even family separations are all taking their emotional toll. We are accepting the reality that if coronavirus follows the trends seen elsewhere, we could die by the thousands.
But we also have to be prepared for life after corona. For every thousand who lose their lives, there will be tens of thousands more who will survive to pick up the pieces and rebuild shattered lives. Those lucky enough to survive must go out there to rebuild a nation no longer held hostage by selfish, conniving politicians.
Coronavirus will have taught us that survival depended not on fealty to ethnic kingpins in the political realm, but to individual observance of clean hands. Yes, we can only wash our own hands, and with that step out into the new world singing our own song.
Throughout the crisis, the persons we looked up to for leadership were not the political heavyweights who ordinarily direct the national agenda, but the bureaucrats and technocrats providing the information and guidance vital to surviving coronavirus.
Every day, we are glued to TV and radio news broadcasts not to be assaulted by the latest political noises from Uhuru, Ruto or Raila; but for the daily coronavirus briefings from Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and his staffers. We got plenty of useful information from the Acting Director-General of Health Patrick Amoth, a fellow who, in ordinary circumstances, would be toiling away unnoticed in the background doing the humdrum things that career public servants do.
As an added bonus, we got to learn that this government has some Cabinet administrative secretaries who are not just failed politicians and other unemployables who must be given a public appointment to remain relevant. In Dr Mercy Mwangangi, we have seen a CAS who actually works and evidently knows her job.
A few other Cabinet secretaries and other officials have also come to the fore, notably Dr Fred Matiang’i on the Interior and Coordination of National Government docket, and the Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai. Both are critical to the security implications of coronavirus containment measures.
Although Mr Kagwe, who is already attracting international attention, and Dr Matiang’i are being noticed because of providing leadership in their respective ministerial dockets, the political scenario cannot be ignored altogether.
Mr Kagwe is a politician, a former senator and Cabinet minister brought back in from the cold in January after having lost out at the 2017 elections. His performance since on the coronavirus hot zone has not only earned him rave reviews but seen him described as ‘presidential’ and a contender to succeed President Kenyatta as Central Kenya leader.
Dr Matiang’i, President Kenyatta’s ‘Mr Fix It’, has been regarded as de facto Prime Minister since appointment last year to chair a committee of the full Cabinet on critical cross-cutting issues. He denies harbouring political ambitions but has emerged as an increasingly key player in 2022 presidential succession politics.
If they don’t already know it, both men will learn soon enough that the knives are always out for those on upward political trajectory. They would be well-advised to focus on delivery and not get carried away by illusion of power. This will be especially important if the post-corona dispensation values performance over naked politics.
The virus has already exposed us to a system where we look for salvation in strong systems and institutions and relegate politicians to the background. We can call that the coronavirus bonus.
[email protected] @MachariaGaitho