Listening to our leaders deliver speeches about the state of our nation, a stranger would easily conclude that Kenya is paradise. A land where milk and honey gushes, and no one is struggling to stay alive.
Yet, many living in the country would find it difficult to relate to this very rosy, almost utopian, picture that is often painted about life here. Juxtaposing our leaders’ rhetoric to the actual lived experiences of the majority, they seem worlds apart. It is almost as if we are living in different nations.
Of course, for our leaders, no opportunity can be missed, playing up the wins, while taking extra care to claim full credit for them, and quickly glossing over the blips. After all, it is a swansong and report card of sorts and no one would add in the weaknesses.
That is why the president on Tuesday shouted about the impressive economic growth ever recorded in a quarter, despite the ravages of the pandemic. There was a lot more to gloat over too, including the homegrown firms that successfully seized the so-called ‘inter-generational opportunity’.
They also patted themselves on the back enthusiastically for the inspired and decisive choices, the stimulus packages that supposedly muted the economic impact manifold, the expanded road network, electricity connections and all the other hunky-dory stuff. Clearly, success has many parents, like it is always said, and failure is an unwanted orphan.
While telling the beautiful story of the nation, almost nothing was said about the businesses that were casualties of the pandemic-inspired economic crisis, some firms downsizing and others going under completely, and with them, many livelihoods that left many grappling with the worst season in their lifetimes.
The sky-rocketing cost of living that has many struggling to stay alive, due to the punitive taxes, was also conveniently swept under the rug; instead, they chose to focus on surpassed tax collection targets. The elephants in the room – the runaway corruption and ballooning public debt – did not feature anywhere.
Not to be a pessimist, but what our leaders often prefer talking about, of the great things they have done, is just a small part of the story of the state of our nation.
Mostly, the said good life only exists on paper and in the lives of the few privileged ones who are doing well, in spite of the circumstances, thanks to luck, old money or proceeds of corruption. The mostly ignored bits make up many of the chapters in the story.
It is either that our leaders are in some bubble of privilege and cannot really relate to the state of the lives of the majority of us, or they just prefer to look at the sunny side of things to be seen to be doing something. What many go through must seem like work of fiction to them.
On the flipside, one cannot blame them entirely, anyway. Perhaps they do not follow the lamentations and tough times in the newspapers and radio and television; and neither are they on social media, having been supposedly run out by trolls.
Thus, they might have no way of hearing stories of the so-called ordinary people scrambling to survive. After all, theirs is a carefully curated version of what life is out here, with unpleasant bits conveniently edited out.
Sadly though, if our leaders really believe these things that they read to us in the speeches, then there is little chance that there is ever going to be a time when the challenges that many go through will be addressed. After all, they believe the situation is not all that bad. How can things be like that for citizens of a country that is the sixth wealthiest in the continent and is growing twice as fast as the rest of the continent?
However, what our leaders and their speechwriters and handlers should consider putting in mind is that the rosy stories they present to us and the rest of the world will not necessarily suffice as their legacies. It is not the things they say they did that they will be remembered for, but what can be seen and felt.
Alongside the rousing speeches, there is a need for tangible actions to make them trickle down and seem real in the lives of the majority.