As a base metal, tin compared to other minerals, ranks pretty low. That's why the unflattering figure of speech 'tin god' refers to 'a pompous, self-important person'. Typical tin gods expect lesser earthlings to benchmark their standards and beliefs against their own, even when they ooze nothing but effluence. Something very wrong infects the mind of Kenyans the moment they get into positions of power and authority. Numerous stories are told of how ordinary Kenyans who, prior to appointment to high office, were harmless and humble, but quickly turned into inaccessible demigods upon elevation.
Our MPs-can be said to be a species of tin gods. They now want an enhanced gratuity paid at the end of their term in pure gold. Majority of the sitting MPs are aware that-courtesy of blanket pre-election rejection by voters-they may be bidding farewell to political office forever. But the primitive venality that now plots a shameless daytime raid on Treasury tells exactly who these characters are - wolves in sheep's clothing - and what they really think of the 40 million Kenyans who are not MPs - sheep in sheep's clothing.
For once, l am with the Prime Minister and I sincerely pray he is pursuing a 'No' out of genuine conviction, not a perverse political correctness. Assuming it is conviction that is the driving force, the PM scores with the right hand and dribbles off his gains, big-time, with the left hand. A couple of days ago, the PM spoke firmly against Ministers over the issue of their interference in parastatals under their dockets. He also told off the AG over the vulgar amounts MPs want to be paid as gratuity at the end of their term.
Yet the very same mouth that seemed to really care has been completely zipped on the recent mega theft at the NHIF. What else to you call double-standards? The PM angrily flattens the feeding trays from which some tin gods owe their tumbo kubwa while at the same time turning a completely blind eye on one of his own even as their names hit the headlines on allegations of outright theft of public funds at the NHIF. If those behind the thievery at the NHIF get away with it, they will become formidable tin-pot tyrants indeed, and if they get away with it because they have taken cover under the mighty prime-ministerial wingspan, that will elevate him into a potent tin god indeed.
At the end of the day, Kenya will become a land beset by tin-pot tyrants and tin gods, and the empty-debe din of their strutting pompousness will fill the air. This is already happening. The Bwana Kubwa Syndrome begins long before the attainment of elective and, or appointive office. Its earliest manifestations is the school prefect system. Bullying, spying, extortion, sexual predator and other physical assault-cum-mental torture, are first encountered by many Kenyans who later enter the job market under the monitoring or prefecture systems in our schools.
Some of the worst of the formative tin-foil tyrants and tin-foil gods of Kenya's boarding school systems move on to bullying careers - joining the ranks of anything from the Nairobi City Council Constabulary to the Traffic Police and the General Service Unit and beyond. The less physical "psychological warfare" specialists from the school systems become anything from city and county councillors to Cabinet ministers, from journalists to lecturers and judges and generals, and, yes, to Presidential candidates. It is clear that, as a nation, we are seriously, woefully in need of tutoring in leadership, sacrifice, mentorship and role modeling from a very early age indeed.
The service ethic is in tatters in Kenya even in the lower rungs below the political, managerial and administrative classes. The matatu tout who, as a PSV conductor, makes passengers' lives a humiliating hell, and the lawyer who preys on ignorance of the law are only the most overt symptoms of a system and a people who have basically no idea that to lead is to serve or it is nothing.
Fadhili Kanini is a communications and public relations practitioner in Nairobi who comments on topical issues.