The Age of the buffoon leader is over

Back in 2013, I wondered whether in the likes of Gideon Mike Mbuvi Sonko, we were in for a new kind of leader. The former Nairobi governor has been severally featured on this blog. I have consistently taken the view that he is a buffoon and a fraud. In that last blog, you will see that I watched a TV interview in which he seemed to make some sense and I wondered whether that signalled a new kind of leadership.

Across the atlantic, in the US, Donald J Trump was to be elected as President of the United States – and he was billed in the same way as Sonko and former Kiambu Governor, Ferdinand “Baba yao” Waititu – a straight-talking kind of leader connected to the masses, one who would directly improve the lives of the suffering poor. They were billed as refreshing in that they said what everyone was saying in their living rooms about how government could make a difference in people’s lives.

Buffoon- mid 16th century: from French bouffon, from Italian buffone, from medieval Latin buffo ‘clown’. Originally recorded as a rare Scots word for a kind of pantomime dance, the term later (late 16th century) denoted a professional jester (Google, 2018). 

Well, the jury is in – these leaders turned out to be what many of us feared: shamelessly callous, maniacally self centred and self-serving, corrupt and perhaps worst of all, shallow and simplistic. They demonstrated no depth of vision at all, no foresight. They all have many allegations of corruption, both Waititu and Sonko have been impeached for corruption. The worst thing is the impact of their leadership.

  • Media reports have it that since 2017, the value of new buildings approved in the Nairobi has fallen from Kshs. 314 billion in December 2016 to Kshs. 210 billion by the end of last year.
  • Nairobi is worse for the wear now than it was when Sonko took the job and the poor are even worse off – even before COVID-19 hit our shores.

“I took him for a kind of buffoon. Now I see he is a devil.”

― Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

Here’s the big lesson: leadership for our counties and our nations need thoughtful, deliberative men and women who have the capacity and the foresight to allocate and manage resources professionally and diligently. Unfortunately, that leader is not boastful, flashy or populist. One hopes that Nairobians will think things through as they start to relook at their choices.

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