The David Ndii Christmas Interview on KTN/KTN News
One of Kenya’s foremost public intellectuals, Dr David Ndii had a very interesting interview with KTN News’ Sophia Wanuna. I enjoyed it! Immensely. In it, he had surprises and thought-provoking views, about the country’s politics and policies.
Let me put some of the quotes to whet your appetite to view the whole interview. Yes, if you like cats, there are two beautiful cats playing in the background. You’d love those.
One surprise: Anne Waiguru, the former devolution secretary and now Kirinyaga Governor was Ndii’s “research assistant: when they produced a report on harambees for Transparency International in 2001. Githongo was TI’s boss.
“Anne Waiguru was my research assistant at the time,” he told Sophia.
About Mutahi Ngunyi, well, well, well….
“I don’t think people like Mutahi Ngunyi are intellectually qualified to label me.
“Most of the things I say and do are written. I have been part of the political opposition all the way from the formation of FORD, I have never shifted. The people I am with today, we have been together since the early 90s… I am probably one of the few prominent Kikuyus who has not left and joined the tribal bandwagon, and that I think embarrasses some of my old friends like Mutahi and that’s why I think they make up some of those stories”
Is it difficult, scary to be in the opposition, i.e. the risks associated with a rogue State
“It certainly isn’t difficult for my immediate family, for my wife and daughter. It is difficult for my extended family. Partly because being a Kikuyu, many people in my extended family…it is more of a political issue. They find that I am taking this sort of risk for what they don’t consider a cause that is worthwhile ….”
“In this country we have tended to avoid the raw political debate about our political predicament and our political challenges as a society and the questions of ethnic exclusion, marginalization and political domination which have strong ethnic undertones
“(Secession) is an intellectual subject, so there are some things you don’t dumb down
“My objective was to frame, that’s what intellectuals do. I am not into statecraft.
“I have no problem with people deciding that Kenya is not a politically viable entity and therefore they decide that we need to break it up, as long as we do it peacefully”
For more about the arguments he has made on the subject read his initial article about Kenya’s cruel marriage, and the latest memo to the ‘nationalists’
The people are Supreme!
“I think we have to keep reminding people that the people exist outside of government. Then they form the State and then within the State, the State has a government. So people are way above the State and way above government.”
To the comments of the Attorney General and Majority Leader on Nasa’s People’s Assembly’s
“I really do not respond to that kind of nonsense”
Working with Raila Odinga
“I was there when FORD was being formed with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and the others. I actually have not worked with Raila until after 2013, for the simple reason that our political paths went different ways ... we were all in opposition, interacting but not working together
We actually have the same strong social justice focus, we probably don’t see things economically the same way, and in those (cases) he very often defers to my expertise”
Later in the interview he says, on politics, he has to defer to Raila’s experience and “political instinct”.
Raila’s postponed swearing-in?
“It’s going to happen. I am absolutely certain that it is not treasonable. I think it is fairly obvious that we are not going to march into State House. That is part of our political strategy.”
“The government has a huge legitimacy deficit. If you want to know why, you need to go back to your footage of Jamhuri Day. What the government did as is happening all over the region is a phenomena which we are now calling the electoral authoritarianship (sic) so that the new dictatorship model is not a single-party State or that of military coup. What you do is you capture the electoral agency and intimidate the courts. So you have a ritual called elections every five years but its outcome is pre-determined. That was the plan and it has actually been executed. It had a few hitches like the Supreme Court annulling the election, but as you saw even after that they were able to come back and have a that sham election of the October 26 (2017), and go through the motions of legality. The trouble with that system is that it may confer you legality but it doesn’t confer you legitimacy. This particular administration which is backed by the interest of capital, both domestic and foreign, needs an environment which is called business as usual. They do not control those two variables. Those two variables are to a large extent, we control."
About his “this country will burn” comment where he warned about rigged elections
“I do not think that our postcolonial State as it has developed, can actually be reformed. I think it has to be reconstructed or it will implode on its own. I actually think this country is now on a trajectory of implosion. In the process of implosion, it could get to a point where that precipitates large-scale violence. As an intellectual prognosis, a sham election is a way to a slow-burn.”
At this point Sophia, was like, ha, “things are back to normal…” and Ndii was like “Let us have this conversation two or three years down the line…”
“There’s a make-believe wish that we are back to normal. We are not. I go round the country, people are very angry, there’s a sense of despondency, this whole desperation. The opposition will neither go away, nor accede to the sort of things that these people would like to go on the table. We have fairly irreconcilable differences across the country. They have very strong ethnic undertones. And we know what that does particularly in Africa.
About electoral justice…
“Electoral justice. That is the thing people are avoiding. You cannot have a democracy, without free and fair periodic elections in which there is a probability of the opposition and the incumbent losing. What is the point of being an Opposition if you can never win an election. The motivation of being in politics, is the chance of you winning. (If you are in the opposition), you work hard, so that you impress the electorate so that in the next election you win. If you are in government, you work hard, so that you impress the electorate so that in the next election, they re-elect you.”
Doesn’t he fear arrest for treason?
“When we do the swearing in, we will then walk to the nearest police station and say, ‘we , get on with it”
And this portion was just too hard to resist. I had to transcribe the whole of it.
SOPHIA WANUNA: If President Kenyatta in forming his new government decides: here is my biggest critic, he knows all the bad things with the Kenyan economy, how about I get him into my government to fix those problems. Would you take such a job?
DAVID NDII: No (shakes head)
SOPHIA WANUNA: Why?
DAVID NDII: One, you work for people you respect.
SOPHIA WANUNA: Do you respect the Kenyan people. Are you working for the man or the country?
DAVID NDII: You would have to work with them every day. And I don’t respect them. I think (it would) be dishonest. I would have to pretend and call them sir which I don’t mean. And I am a principled person.
SOPHIA WANUNA: So you stand to critique (sic) but not do anything about it? Can you do something about it?
DAVID NDII: There is a presumption in Kenya that only in government can you make a contribution to society. That what I am doing is not important…
SOPHIA WANUNA: But he’d be acknowledging that what you have been doing in critiquing is so important that he wants you to transition to put that into action
DAVID NDII: I don’t think he is qualified to chart my course about how I contribute to my country. Uhuru is not my peer professionally, intellectually… anywhere.
SOPHIA WANUNA: But you choose to look at it to the person Uhuru that you say you do not respect but what about the Kenyan people
DAVID NDII: I am making the following point. I consider fighting to restore democracy in Kenya fundamentally more important in the long term, than trying to rescue people from their own mess which I have pointed out for many years. And everybody is coming around to my view… Even they have approached me occasionally to say ‘okay, we now acknowledge that you say the economy is on the wrong track, what is the right track?’ And I have told them, “Listen, democracy works as follows: you play, you pay. I am on the other side, I am the leader of the NASA policy team. If you read the manifesto which I led the team to produce, it has stated how we ourselves would go about dealing with those challenges. What I will not do is undermine democracy…
SOPHIA WANUNA: Would you work with government at an advisory capacity to help the country?
DAVID NDII: Been there done that.
DAVID NDII: Been there done that.
SOPHIA WANUNA: Would you do it now?
DAVID NDII: No! I have done it before many times. I worked very hard on the economic recovery strategy…
SOPHIA WANUNA: So you intend to continue throwing stones as some people would put it?
DAVID NDII: Yes! Absolutely. That role is very important. The roles which are being suggested are more lucrative. It is the easier path. And I don’t need anything. I don’t need any more money, I don’t need another home, I don’t actually need anything material from government. So, I will continue doing what I believe in.
SOPHIA WANUNA: Okay.