Martha Karua: Kenya's Hope?

Published on 5th May 2009

Clean money; clean politics; and clean government. These were the most noticeable words that I picked from Martha Karua as she made her case to Kenyans through an FM Radio Station recently. What we may not know is that Martha Karua may have unconsciously been responding to filling a gaping leadership gap.  I am tempted to relate Karua’s move to  a thought provoking occurrence that not many Kenyans may have noticed or given much thought of, towards the end of 2008.


Passengers travelling by bus from Bungoma (in Western Kenya) to Nairobi got a rude shock near Naivasha, when five of them turned into gangsters and commandeered of the vehicle. As one gangster drove the bus into the bushes, the other four embarked on emptying shocked passengers of money and other personal effects.


One disturbed passenger did not take the ordeal lying down. Probably guided by his adrenalin, he sized up the gangsters and wrestled one of them to the floor. Other passengers gathered courage and joined this brave passenger in conquering the other three. Although the four gangsters escaped from the wrath of the now furious passengers, the gangster driver was not lucky. His life was quickly terminated by the now heroic passengers.


Of interest, is the leadership skills demonstrated by this anonymous but overly courageous passenger. Notably, leadership comes in many forms. One unique form is situational leadership which was clearly exhibited by this heroic passenger. Many times you may have encountered accident scenes along our unusually accident prone roads. More often than not, the people who initially arrive at the scene stare helplessly at the situation. Then, out of the blue you notice an unusually enthusiastic person who takes charge of the situation. He/she pushes bystanders aside, checks the state of those injured and starts begging onlookers to help in taking the injured to hospital or at the least calls the police.


Situational leadership does not call for prior preparation or pre–planning. It is instantaneous. The Naivasha case is certainly exciting. One key leadership trait is personal risk-taking in search of solutions to ongoing challenges. You take personal risks as you identify a task or mission requiring immediate attention. You inspire others into joining you in accomplishing the task at hand. The courageous gangster conquering passenger did exactly that as he tried to save his own skin and that of others. The other passengers promptly came to his aid.


In Kenya, we are permanently encountering many desperate situations of poverty, corruption, greed, poor leadership and many other woes. When we notice these occurrences we seemingly ignore them and just move on. We disregard the fact that the same may end up destroying our future. Right now, the national leadership situation is in a sorry state. No Kenyan can tell where the country is headed. Not even the political leaders themselves. Besides, Kenyans are fed up with the current crop of leaders.


Unfortunately, nobody has volunteered to take a personal risk and inspire Kenyans towards change. There are glaring signs which indicate that Kenyans are indeed ready to support anybody who promises to guide them towards a safe and bountiful future. A future filled with hope. That future is seemingly a tall order considering the nature of our current leaders. They are naturally tired of many years at the helm and therefore bankrupt of new ideas that are capable of changing national direction as Kenyans would so wish.


This situation has left Kenya in an awkward state. Kenyan leadership needs injection of fresh blood. But where is the fresh blood? Like the heroic Naivasha passenger, Martha Karua may have taken the risk of changing course. She has refused to sink with the current crop of leaders, when that time comes. Karua may have in fact read the mood of Kenyans and realized their desperate need for new leadership direction.


The Kenyan bus under the current leadership has actually lost momentum and direction. It is seemingly headed towards a troubled destiny. The drivers and conductors have turned into gangsters seeking to willingly destroy whatever little hope that Kenyans have for the future. This leaves the country is in dire need of a situational leader, who may not be associated with the injustices that have become the undoing of the Kenyan Nation.


Following her resignation, Hon Martha Karua has apparently joined Kenyans in experiencing the continuing leadership frustration. Whether Karua is the situational leader that Kenyans may have been craving for remains to be seen.


By Mwangi Wanjumbi


Managing Consultant and Chief Trainer of Newtimes Business Solutions.


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