During his lecture in memory of the late Wangari Maathai at the Storymoja Festival recently, the celebrated playwright and poet Wole Soyinka called on all of us to be fundamentalists of liberty. The same way terrorists are devoted in their doctrine, we should precisely in return give them a dose of their own medicine. It is this context that I feel cheated by one Mike Mbuvi Sonko. Whatever he is doing has nothing to do with philanthropy but what I would compare to pulling stunts. Now, before you throw shoes at me the Migori way, let’s indulge; when he pays air tickets for middle class Kenyans flying to coast for serious businesses or holiday, how is that transformative leadership? What of dishing out money to youths or paying for shoppers’ wares? No pun intended to his overzealousness in kindness, in fact the good books talks of blessings to the hand that gives than which that receives. My only problem is when a politician insults or rather compromises our conscience through hiding under financial generosity. How sustainable is it to dish out money? He is only worsening a culture of citizens soliciting for money from their leaders. Assuming Sonko was rich enough to give all Kenyans a million shilling each, the question is, would he have solved all our problems? No, because our fundamental problems do not require money to solve them. Ignorance cannot be won through money; it’s a change of mindset that is needed. Wole Soyinka warned of acceptance of general status quo, it’s through its results that the likes of Al shabaab ideologies are borne, a catalyst of bad leadership.
This country needs systems that are working not politicians practicing populist politics. We need the leaders we voted for, to influence policies that can bring sustainable solutions to our afflictions. If we are talking about the senator initiating programs to assist vulnerable girls from the slums, through technical skills that can discourage them from being lured in ‘selling their bodies’; then we will be transforming the society. If he is compelling the county government to pay doctors and nurses on time as well have transparency and fairness in promotion, we will be moving in the right direction. If Mike Sonko would be putting pressure on national government to employ more teachers to reduce the ratio of teacher – pupil in the slums, I would be the happiest person. If he has so much money to give out, let him advice youths, women and men to form chamas that can sustain them through revolving funds. With that he will instill financial discipline in the society. Next time they will have no reason to queue for handouts. Money will never be adequate for any single person; we can only do so much with what we have.
Philanthropy has a connotation of sustainability and transformation, it brings long term solutions. Whatever Mike Sonko is doing is in fact, creating new problems. In any case it will be extremely catastrophic if we‘ll judge our leaders through their financial prowess. Americans were brave enough to vote overwhelmingly in 2008 for a black president Barrack Obama, yet he didn’t have any financial muscle at the expense of John McCain, in fact they mobilise funds to support a candidate of their choice. In Africa we do not question the source of the money; we’re only interested in what it does. That’s the major underbelly, perhaps a reason why we’ll remain developing countries. If for instance the source is drug trafficking, meaning 60% of the population which makes up the youth is vulnerable, if the money is from illegal charcoal business, meaning weather patterns will change drastically, so will be the environment, and our very existence jeopardized, then we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. My point is, whether that money is channeled to build roads, or bring piped water closer home, it’s all in vain. It’s beyond being myopic.
For me, philanthropy is what Wings to Fly Initiative under the brain child of Dr.James Mwangi is impacting on our society. Bright kids from humble backgrounds have doors of opportunities equally open as those of their counterparts from more privileged families. Philanthropy is what the celebrated icon Oprah Winfrey is doing through Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, training girls to be the best decision makers and leaders. Boniface Mwangi through his savings founded PAWA254, Nairobi’s unique social enterprise through which innovative professionals from diverse artistic fields exploit their creative genius to foster social change. A platform where photography, music, graffiti, poetry and journalism meet with one resolve, to promote positivism and offer inspiration. That alone is by far more productive than giving random youths handouts.
With all the cash flowing freely from Senator Sonko, Nairobi is still on the list of shame with the largest urban slum in Africa and more continue to sprout in every corner you dart your eyes. As they say an apple does not fall far away from the tree. Her daughter went all loose in the press, attacking socialites claiming the ‘real socialites’ are from influential families who have ‘real money’ to afford the limelight. It’s one thing to be wealthy but it’s a totally different thing to be successful. It goes without saying, true success changes generations positively and it embraces wisdom.