Needed: Lessons in politeness for Tuju and Ruto

PHILIP OCHIENG

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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In most situations, the most important task that faces any individual, especially if he or she means well for his or her country, is to ensure that Kenyans of all ethnic, racial and religious communities are communicating in an increasingly mutually respectable and mutually beneficial manner. That, indeed, is a teaching which somebody ought to deliver particularly to Mr Raphael Tuju and Dr William Ruto.

Mr Tuju recently poured some extraordinarily rude words on the Vice-President. As I have often pointed out in my language column, the adjectives “political” and “polite” come from the same root. that is why all thinking Kenyans always expect exemplary conduct from all “politicians”, including from Mr Ruto and Mr Tuju.

In fact, that political twain should play the topmost role in the national task of ensuring that our country’s political rivalry is always conducted in an increasingly polite and increasingly respectable manner. In summary, nationally useful political competition does not demand mutual insults every time you open your mouth against a rival in any field. Politicians who behave in that vile manner should be made to pay for it in some way.

In the minds of all properly educated Kenyans, you always lower your own dignity every time you use vile language against opponents. Yet your assumption should be that your people are becoming better and better educated and, therefore, socially becoming more and more intelligent. Why, then, do Kenya’s politicians think that insolence is the most useful weapon against a critic?

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Indeed, exactly what profit do you bag by always hitting your opponent(s) with the rough end of the oral stick? Exactly why should Mr Ruto and Mr Raila Odinga, for example, aim the rudest words at each other? Shouldn’t foresight tell them — and all other leaders — that their present opponents might, in the near future, turn out to be their most important political allies?

It is for such a reason that mutual insults do not play any constructive role in political competition and social well-being. For, indeed, in politics, your present rival may, in the very near future, turn out to be your most beneficial ally. So a wise politician always keeps that in mind because politics is a game of perpetually alternating fortunes.

Your “enemy” of this evening may always turn out to be your most reliable and most useful ally by the time the sun re-emerges in the Orient. That is why, in the mind of a wise politician, there is no such person as a permanent opponent or a permanent enemy. Always remember that the political climate is always fickle and that, therefore, politics is always a game of investment and counter-investment in individuals in perpetually alternating alliances.

In that game, then, your bitterest enemy this morning may turn out to be your most dedicated ally by the time the sun goes down in the west. In that gamble, whenever you think of any individual as a permanent enemy, you are the one most likely to suffer in the end. For politics is always a game of changing investments and counter-investments.

To be quite sure, even in politics, you are likely to think of your investment only in terms of immediate gain. But it is much better to be advised. Be always prepared to think of investment as a long-term exercise that may end up as a loss. Thus, if you do not enter the game with the attitude that it is but a game, you are most likely to emerge from it like the majority of those who go to the horse races — namely, horribly disappointed.

That is why you should think hard before playing such a game. It is why I always avoid all gambling “games” — namely, because all of them are designed in such a way that, collectively, all the players lose to the machine’s owner.