Guest blog post
By Onguso Ochengo
Prophets and prophetesses of our modern-day Kenya have predicted an Armageddon War between the Hustler Nation and dynasties to be staged in 2022.
I have no relationship with the ‘gods’ of politics to deliver their message but I have studied their appetites long enough not to be surprised by their schemes.
For starters, politics is the authoritative allocation of resources and values (Harold Laswell). Resources. Values. And power is the ability to make someone do what he could otherwise not do.
Look at how as a nation we’ve been conditioned. Have you ever wondered why almost all political struggles are about economic juggernauts?
I took time to study the Kenyan political space. How we hailed JM Kariuki for bravery and fighting for the common man’s welfare! How we hail Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia for their role in the struggle for political pluralism! How we’ve revered Baba for fearlessness! Many examples abide. Yet one characteristic defines them all. Men of means! Economic bigwigs! Just to ensure that my meaning is not misconstrued, let me submit that they were both men of means and courage.
Check your locality of the person who was elected. Men of means are both revered and loved. The world is not as linear as we portray it. Here and there, examples of men on less means being entrusted with positions of responsibilities abide too. A 23-Year-Old student MP, a hawker or watchman here and there! These are exceptions rather than the general rule. Let us safely shelve these latter lucky sons of fortune. Outliers they are in the order of politics.
In the words of the good book, Mathew 25:29 “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
Then wonder not why as a people, we tend to give unto those who have resources, the responsibility of authoritatively allocating our resources; remember the definition of politics above.
Now turning to the main issue; Hustlers vs the Dynasties. Has such a dichotomy ever emerged in our Country? Who were the leaders and how did they fair on?
JM Kariuki is a man who famously encapsulated the economic classes dichotomy when he said Kenya has become a nation of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars. This is one man who challenged the Kiambu Mafia and was popular nationally. A very wealthy individual who had also benefited from the system and Israeli connections. He was touted as the First Kenyan African to own a Chartered Aircraft (some called it a Private Jet).
JM was once a Private Secretary to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Basically, he made his fortune through his close link with Mzee; hence right to say he was a beneficiary of the system. He was richer than many of the Kiambu Mafiosi.
But in his political quest, JM Kariuki-a master in populist politics, positioned himself in the eyes of the public as a true champion of the downtrodden! The them days advocate of the ‘Hustler Nation’.
Years later, JM was assassinated. The masses-specifically Kikuyu masses were bitter and popularized the ‘maai ni maruru’ (The waters are bitter); some kind of a movement. The Status Quo won. When one Njenga Karume was asked to comment about the assassination, he directly said, “You DON’T speak when you are eating!”
The other class struggle was weaved in the Mungiki vs Kikuyu elite- a dichotomy that is not automatically agreeable. Of the materials I came across, Mungiki posed as a movement of the sons and daughters of the peasant who were deprived upon the attainment of independence by the Kikuyu elite. I take this as the economic class struggle too. How this struggle ended/paused is a matter of public notoriety. The Status Quo won!
I have to submit the struggle for multi-partyism and the eventual exit of President Moi was not a class struggle. Propositions to the contrary are welcome.
Now 2022, supporters of the Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and political pundits have observed that the next elections will be between supporters of a Peasantry vs Supporters of Dynasties.
MIke Sonko, a close ally of the DP has come out guns blazing against the so called Central Kenya Mafiosi opposed to the Deputy President and his message is clear, “Let the people decide!”
Back to political facts. Do the masses organize themselves of masses are organized? One observer, call him Roberto Michel came up with a proposition known as, “THE IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY!” Simply put, no matter how democratic an organization is, or may pretend to be, a SMALL number of people will always be the once making decisions on its behalf. (Basic definition of Oligarchy is: a small group of people having control of a country or organization).
The masses of our respective tribes are organized by a small clique of individuals. Is it not true that had Raila consulted the bulk of his supporters whether he should shake hands with Uhuru Kenyatta majority could have said nay! Look at any community that does not vote as a block in Kenya and look at how well the elite members of their communities are organized/disorganized.
The best way to reach the masses has always been through its elites! Even those who claim to go directly to the people, deep inside they know this point is politically correct. During the August campaigns, the Deputy President, challenged by Gideon Moi, told the President during the burial of Mark Too, “Naambia watu wa kona hii bwana rais, ambao wengine unaskia kwa magazeti wanasema o, wewe lazima mpaka ukuje uombe kura hapa wewe mwenyewe. mimi nimewaambia, sisi tuliunda hii serikali ya Jubilee wakati wao hawakukuweko. Wewe unajua vile ya kuomba kura mpaka upate!”
In short, the DP was reminding the president, that if he won the votes in 2013 through aligning himself with the elites controlled by William, in 2017 those asking him to go directly to the masses to by-pass Ruto were misleading him! And true it was.
Are the elected leaders the face of the tribal oligarchies? Definitely not. Most of the elected leaders are representatives of special interests-interests of those who have sway over the masses yet the masses are not aware. This is no blind thesis. In 2013, how many of us knew the role Jimmy Wanjigi played in the Jubilee campaigns? In short, tribal oligarchs could be faceless.
Yes, the DP is making/trying to make inroads in Central Kenya using the elected leadership. Are they the factual holders of the key to Central Kenya? I doubt. Instead of the DP’s henchmen antagonising the so called inconsequential appointees like Kibicho, it is politically advantageous to seek these people’s support than to vilify their roles; after all permanency of enmity in politics is a term that has no prove. These appointees, as Sonko refers to them, may be ardent in not only organizing their masses but also changing fates of the elected leadership in their backyards- the rented soldiers of the supposed Armageddon war between the Hustler Nation and Dynasties in 2022.
When the Kibaki Regime sacked the Kalenjin elite en masse upon ascendance to power, what became of the relationship between the Kikuyu Masses and the Kalenjin masses!
The masses hate the idea that there are gatekeepers to communities, of necessary evils, the inevitability of these gate keepers is top in ethnically diverse nation.
Finally, we the masses are poor-as Ruto calls us Hustlers. As shown above, there have been attempts in our history to have a ‘We vs They’ struggle based on our economic means. All have failed when faced with the ‘We vs They’ based on our ethnic identity. Of all identities in our politics, the ethnic identity is the most salient. Remember how the popularity or Maina Njenga plummeted when he joined forces with Agwambo against the wishes of the membership of his ethnicity?
If in public the DP has to invoke the class struggle, in private he must be active in mobilizing the elites-beyond the elected leadership. For elites, majority who are not hustlers, will at long last order the affairs of their hustler communities.
2022, is not a war between hustler nation and dynasties and even if it were, dynasties could win. 2022 is a battle of ethnic alliances-with or without constitutional changes and the war will not be fought by the masses but by the elites-though through the masses.
(DISCLAIMER: I believe in democracy but I also accept its limitations)
Ochengo is a lawyer and political strategist