Deep in the annals of history lies a name not familiar to most of us, maybe to only a few ardent historians. Adolfo Suárez is a name that was only known to me in Archie Brown’s The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age. The erudite world historian cites Adolfo alongside other great names like Nelson Mandela in the category of transformational leaders. He portrays him as a leader who was able to unite his people and to lead in a way the populace had least expected.
Let me briefly elevate you to a historical point. Adolfo Suárez was a right-hand man during the despotic regime of King Francisco Franco of Spain. Following the death of the King in 1975 Juan Carlos appointed Suárez as the Prime Minister. The leftists viewed this as an attempt to perpetuate the iron-fist ruling that had marred the previous era; citizens reeled in despair knowing much was not bound to change. A year later, he was to lead his party into the first democratic elections since 1936. Also at the acme of his achievements was persuading the Communists to accept a constitutional monarch, something that was only achieved through adroit negotiations with Santiago Carrillo, the then Communist leader. The rest can be found in the books of history.
He had appeared to many as an unlikely agent of change, thanks to the subservient support he had displayed during Franco’s regime. Not even the political commentators of the day had predicted the pivotal role he would later play in taking Spain through the path of democracy. This unlikely figure was able to rise to the occasion and today finds a spot in the Roll of Honour of world’s transformational leaders. There is indeed a lot any leader can learn from this former Spain Premier.
Today, even as we congratulate the President Kenyatta of Kenya for securing a second and final term following the upholding of his October 26th victory, we must also remind him to take cognizant of the duty ahead of him and take time to pause and reflect on how he plans to lead the nation in his last term. Kenyans pin their faith in the incoming President. We can only hope that he will use the super-majority his party vaunts of to pass bills that may, fundamentally, not be popular among his own MPs; but which will put the country in the path of economic progression.
This country is yet to heal from the nadir of police brutality that have been carried out at the behest of this very government. Such unfortunate killings of citizens, some in the comfort of their houses, have but served to create fear and a suave façade of calm. The President should seek forthwith to lead, in both speech and actions, with clear-headedness that opens the eyes of the opponents and not in overweening and unbridled power that arouses anger and fear. This can push the nation to the brink of civil strife. He must also deliberately seek to address the blazing flames of disunity and ethnicity whose embers have continually been fanned by the violent winds of injustice and unwarranted police brutality – brutality which in truth have been targeted to certain communities. As a nation, we must seek to open the half-healed surface for a deep infection hovers beneath. We can’t ignore this evident rift then harbour the delusive hopes that things will somehow work.
Inclusivity is another issue that should be addressed. He should be able to adroitly accommodate the views of the opposition. He should create peace and a general national contentment that predicates on genuine patriotism and deep respect for the President. “He sought consensus and his style was collegial. He made concessions and compromises, but in pursuit of a goal he steadfastly pursued – that of democracy. In this he was astonishingly successful.” Prof Brown records of Adolfo. “It was Suárez’s consensus-building style that was to be decisively important in reconciling, to a remarkable degree, apparently irreconcilable differences.” He adds.
CORRUPTION AND GROWING PUBLIC DEBT
Another towering challenge that must be deliberately tackled is corruption and the growing debt levels. This comes days after IMF warning on the growing debt levels. Kenya’s public debt currently stands at around 4.4 Trillion from less than a trillion shilling in mid-2014. This is alarming! The President must go beyond the gilt-edged talks and walk the talk. His commitment in fighting graft and working a sustainable economy must not only be seen in the brilliance and profoundness of his speeches but in a firm resolve to tackle these issues head on.
We must move forward as a country for it is the most expedient thing to be done. But we have to stop to build a foundation upon which we are going to build this nation. We can’t build on the sinking sand that currently lies at the foundations of this nation. This would be precipitous and a ticking time-bomb.
I know we may not agree on many things today, but if there be an immutable truth we have to contend with, it is in acknowledging that doing things the same way they have been done in the past five years will turn the wheel full circle. It will be highly disingenuous to claim that this government has in the last term done the best a government can and it may be equally unfair to fail to acknowledge the few gains that have been made. The president must be able to preside over a government whose actions will be in accordance with the rule of law, and a government accountable to parliament and the people.
Such are the things if done by the President, he will be able to unite this country and win the hearts of even those who at the moment, lack conviction in his wherewithal to take Kenya through the journey of political inclusivity and consensual leadership and like Adolfo Suarez history will speak well of him. For now, we can only but hope against hope.