Social sense was my main guiding principle as a teacher of literature, which is the most human of all the humanities. This social sense, as I might have told you, means self-respect, respect for all our fellow human beings and respect for our environment.

Any of my students who goes into this election determined that he or she will not do anything below his or her human dignity will be a winner, even before the first vote is cast. The same goes for all those candidates who will respect all their compatriots, election officials, voters and fellow contestants, throughout the process. Sure winners, too, are those bent on ensuring that Kenya does not become “a place full of fools”, polluted by noise, dirt (including defacing posters), strife, corruption and ecological irresponsibility.

Politics is not a dirty game. It can only be rendered dirty by those dirty creatures that often invade it. The thought of a significant number of my clean and well-intentioned disciples valiantly coming forward determined to charge and take charge is a source of justifiable comfort for me. I know that the honest voters will not go for mbaya wetu (as Ken Walibora’s play title has it) when there is a mwema wetu (our good one).

This brings us to the expectation of vision. Since most of my students are trained and mostly successful professionals, I believe that what is taking them into elective politics is a vision for their people and their country. I trust that we remember the aspects of transformational action: awareness, analysis, vision, mobilisation, organization and struggle. I assume we know the state of our society and we understand the causes of its shortcomings. The challenge is where we want to take it and how to take it there. A good candidate is one who knows and can explain to his or her people what a better future for them should be.

This underlines what we called love of the job. If you have that vision of the “future golden time”, you must be committed to making it a reality. We know of politicians who think that elections are mere popularity contests. Others, alas, go in expecting to make money and amass privileges for themselves.

These just love themselves. They do not love the job of serving their people. These are the ones who have given us the stereotype of the despicable mheshimiwa that we see in our location only once every five years.

But, as I frequently tell my students about teaching, do not go into it unless you love it. It is the same I would tell honest and serious would-be politicians: do not go there if you do not love your people and you are not determined to do everything to give them a better future.

Speaking of teachers, I hope that those teachers aspiring to become politicians will work to give us a genuinely effective education system. Such a system should seek to optimize our young people’s potential, not to “mediocritize” it through robotic exam-oriented cramming.


Prof Bukenya is one of the leading scholars of English and Literature in East Africa. abubwase-

Page 2 of 2