"The conduct of elections was so materially defective that it is impossible to establish true or reliable results for the presidential and parliamentary elections," said Johann Kriegler, former Chairman of the Independent Review Commission into the 2007 general election.
At first glance this statement is not about you or I because Kriegler was surely talking about the now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya. Wrong.
There is more to the conduct of elections than just ballot papers and tallying forms, that the materials of polling and democracy include human goods such as values, reason and choice.
Kriegler was not just casting aspersions on the ECK but on everyone and everything that is a part of the process, a criticism of our entire political life-culture, systems, processes and participants.
It's a horrific claim; it is scary to imagine that a nation can be so flawed.
The systems and processes of our political life have found redress in our new constitution, in the IEBC and in new electoral laws, in an emboldened registrar of political parties and other measures.
What then about political culture? The principles and values that direct public life, the interaction between those seeking political office and those who elect them and the attendant psychology and philosophy.
As we approach another election it is vital that we examine the charge that our political culture is moribund; that we interrogate the values-or lack thereof- that determine eligibility for political life, frame political discourse and ultimately those upon which voters rely to filter successful candidates from the unsuccessful.
The most critical question of our politics: who should govern this country and why?
The obvious question is the best: we want the crème de la crème of our society in virtue, intelligence, mental fortitude and education- a meritocracy. We prefer that the best get ahead, only in politics but all spheres academia, media, law and jurisprudence, business and even sports.
I feel that politically our meritocracy is virtually non-existent, it has suffocated under the colossal weight of ethnicity yet in other spheres it lives, even thrives.
A look at the CV's of our politicians minus a select few reveals that before politics most fit the bill of excellence in various arenas; we have brilliant lawyers, respected businessmen, celebrated activists and NGO officials, professors and farmers.
Clearly merit is not the problem it's in the transfer of excellence from private to public life that we get it wrong as a nation. When men and women of remarkable talent make the transition to public life, the best of them gets lost in translation and we are massively poorer for it.
What happens? How does this 'loss' occur? I have a theory.
In private life the correct values are inculcated and practiced, its the only way to reach the top, but as soon as a private citizen reaches the stratosphere they are consumed by the community; the successful entrepreneur is becomes a Luo businessman, the fast rising lawyer becomes a Kamba, the esteemed don a Kalenjin professor.
Most elite Kenyans can tell of approaches by political point men urging them to enter politics, vie for this seat or that because the community is proud of you.
This is when moral corruption happens, those who buy this pitch quickly disown all previous values and embrace greed and glory. Unlike the path travelled in private people realize they can shorten the process considerably if they embrace the tribe, they can discard character, discipline and moral intuition and grab power for a moral pittance.
Power corrupts; imagine how quickly and definitively when it's obtained at zero moral cost.
This theory however only explains one half of the equation, what about the public? How do we as Kenyans fragment into tribes and keep falling for the same lie despite our education and experience to our glaringly obvious detriment. I have a theory too.
People know who the crooks, hate mongers and incompetents are in our politics, Kenyans also know where merit lies but this knowledge is obfuscated by fear, the kind derived from a selfish narrative of community written by men corrupted by power, the first men to govern Kenya.
We have been taught to be afraid of government that is not in the hands of our community or a friendly community.
When our first meritocrats rose to power they found power intoxicating but they also realized the possibility that there could arise someone tomorrow someone with more merit than them so they devised a way to kill meritocracy, to remove reason from political discourse and the answer was to create fear among people who live a common life and who face the same problems and chase the same aspirations. They made it so that Kenyans forget what binds them and live in fear of each other so that they do not interrogate too closely who is governing and why?
This is how we lost our meritocracy and all Kriegler was saying was that we have not yet found a way to resuscitate it.
Pharis Kimaru works with an advertising company and comments on topical issues.