This is not a political post; it just draws lessons from a political figure and the political landscape.
A few weeks back, someone in my Twitter timeline mentioned that Kanye West had not only joined twitter but he was tweeting some hilarious stuff. Given I love the man’s music; I unashamedly followed him and started reading some of his tweets. One that caught my eye was when he was talking about perceptions. He tweeted that “I accept the idea (ideal) that perception is reality”. He then went on to tweet that “When I say perception is reality I mean whatever you think is the truth… is your truth.”
In the past few weeks, opinion polls have consistently shown that Martha Karua lags behind all the other presidential hopefuls. But the other day, in the wake of the 2 out 3 wins by her party in the by-elections, she could no longer hide her frustrations as she accused the pollsters of conditioning Kenyans that someone (meaning Raila) is the only leader. Macharia Gaitho asked her to abandon delusions of grandeur and take a reality check in his Daily Nation editorial.
You can understand Martha Karua’s frustrations especially given the political battles she has “won” and the “moral authority” tag that she loves dangling at any her corruption implicated opponents. That Karua is a smart lady is not in doubt. And it obvious that she run circles around any political opponents when engaged in a debate, legal or otherwise. In fact, Raila appeared outnumbered when Martha Karua singlehandedly took him on last week in parliament. But for a lady with such strong attributes, why doesn’t she rise to the top as the preferred presidential candidate. She is smart, she is strong and some even call her the Kenyan Iron Lady, and she certainly seems capable. So what gives?
Earlier this year, Karua and her nemesis, Ruto, were being interviewed by Julie Gichuru on Citizen TV. During the introductions, Julie mistakenly introduced Karua as having been the MP for Gichugu since 1997 instead of 1992. Any other person would have corrected Julie with a simple, “pardon me, it is 1992, not 1997”, but not Karua. She rudely interjected and with a raised voice said “Excuse me! It is 1992!” while raising her mouth like a snobbish Frenchman in cartoons, and then turning to look away like she always does whenever she has made a point in panel debates. Whichever way you slice it or dice it, this was pure arrogance.
Her reaction caught everyone off-guard. I was online and the immediate reactions by people on both Facebook and Twitter proved this. I for one was not even mildly amused by this. I can excuse many behavioural flaws but not arrogance. To me, her reaction was so over-the-top, it was simply uncalled for. Following her reaction, I remember writing on my Facebook wall that “Karua can sometimes be so bitchy”. A couple of lady friends asked me to justify this and I reiterated what had just happened. In Karua’s defence, a friend said that given the political environment that Karua is in, she must be combative. I agreed but only to a point.
Karua lost my vote for picking fights with wrong people. It is like a man faced with the choice of marrying an angry woman – you will run! I was never really a fan of Julie Gichuru until I heard her speak at TEDxNairobi, just in case you may be inclined to believe that this is a reaction to Karua’s tirade against her alone. Julie here represents the wrong people Karua picks fights with for no reason at all. Being combative is only effective in as far as you know who to pick fights with and when. But when it seems you are always spoiling for a fight at every corner, this shapes people’s perceptions. It certainly did mine.
Just do an image search of Karua on Google and tell me what immediately hits you. Yes, you guessed it, ANGER! The pictures where she is smiling or at least doesn’t seem angry are negligible. And that is my point. This is the vibe she gives off.
I remember sometime back having a chat with @RafikiKenya and couple of other tweeps on Twitter on this very topic and he kept insisting that Karua really needs a great PR team. I think she also needs a good digital media person to make sure pictures of her smiling more actually rank higher than the angry ones – but that is just me. Her attributes as a leader were not even in question, it was just the arrogance that most of us could not get past and hence the need for a strong PR team to work their magic.
Karua does not believe that the research reports reflect the truth on the ground. She believes that she is more popular than the research claims her to be – consistently lagging behind all the other presidential hopefuls – despite her clean track record and their tainted pasts. But here is what Karua needs to know, people actually like the people they vote for. She has been touted as the Kenyan iron lady and I agree. She is. But she suffers the one fundamental flaw that is common to iron; it is a useless metal in its pure form.
The best leaders have key attributes at their core but these are tempered with a little bit of everything else to make them great well-rounded leaders. The Iron Lady status that Karua wears should be her core but she also seek other ideals such as humility, charm, to appeal to more Kenyans. Different things draw us to the leaders of our choice; it is never that one thing for everyone. She is the iron lady, but iron is brittle and pretty much useless unless when it is combined with other metals to make alloys. Her only choice then will be the percentage of iron to retain in this alloy. Anger and arrogance should not be the sum total of her personalities. It is working against her.
Kanye said it best and I reiterate it once again, “When I say perception is reality I mean whatever you think is the truth… is your truth.” If my perception of Karua is that she is angry and arrogant, that is my truth, the truth that I will take to the ballot box. So advice to the iron lady will be to try becoming an alloy and shape these perceptions. They count more than she knows.