Kenya desperately in need of visionary leaders

Friday, January 13th, 2023 04:30 | By
The Kenyan Parliament building. PHOTO/Courtesy

What any situation needs, indeed demands, is visionary leadership.

You need leadership when stuck in the middle of traffic with vehicles on both opposite sides of the road overlapping and nobody willing to give way. Somebody must be big enough to stand up and show the way.

You need leadership in the middle of national sorrow. Consider this: Martin Luther King Jr. has been assassinated and temperatures in black America are rising, baying for the blood of the assassin, and calling for civil war. President John F. Kennedy, his prepared speech for a different occasion now useless in his hands, stands up to make an impromptu address to calm the nerves of an angry people.

It is leadership when, Nelson Mandela, finds himself staring at a national revolt. The charismatic Chris Hani, the hope of black South Africa, has been shot dead by a white polish immigrant in a nation where race relations are at a boiling point. With that act it seems the hope of the restless black population across South African ghettoes is gone and only shading blood in revenge would atone for it. Mandela calms the nerves of a restless people, promising them that a better tomorrow was still possible.

Ronald Reagan is considered by many as a great leader of the recent United States of America. What did he do? He used words carefully crafted and delivered, to stir the spirit of a nation that for a while was lethargic, staring at a potential defeat in the hands of a belligerent Iran. Reagan promises to make America shine like a star on the hills. He reaches deep in the soul of American people to make them believe in themselves and make their economy chime again. Facing the majesty of the Brandenburg gate, Reagan, in a commanding voice of a Hollywood performer, calls on another towering figure of history, Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia, to pull the Berlin wall down. The rest is history.

The greatness of Winston Churchill is the audacity to give a nation in despair hope in the middle of war – to stare the enemy with a nation’s back to the wall, and still make UK believe that their best days were ahead of them.

A New Year’s beginning is a time of hope. One dreams that the worst of the past is gone with the turning of the calendar and the rising sun of January comes with a new start. Many people flock to places of worship to look up to the source of their dreams and draw new strength and inspiration. It is in when in despair that a nation needs leadership. Sometimes the role of the leader is to inspire self-belief that people have what it takes to turn around their fortunes and make the coming day a better one.

Leaders look beyond themselves and beyond pettiness to a bigger challenge and one which will turn around the fortunes of a people. Sometimes in our country and indeed in our continent, there is so much focus on the mundane and the opponents of our leaders are too small.

In Kenya’s politics, one gets the sense that there is a big chasm, with Azimio la Umoja on the one side and Kenya Kwanza on the other staring across from each other. The speeches of leaders seem only complete if they have reminded the nation who they have conquered or who has cheated them at the ballot box.

But greatness in leadership that will impact Kenya will not come about by conquering Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta or any of the towering figures of our political reality. Leaders must turn their attention to things bigger than Odinga, Ruto, or Kenyatta, to enemies whose defeat will make a real difference in the lives of the Kenyan people.

A New Year is a new beginning. It is time to dream and carry the people in that dream to Kenya that is in the people’s imagination – to Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill, only this time, that shining city should be Kenya.

— The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

More on Opinion