Leaders must front call for personal responsibility

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 00:00 |
A health worker takes a throat swab sample for COVID-19 testing.

Norman Mudibo

The President looked unhappy as he gave his 13th national address on Covid-19, especially on the wanton irresponsibility of leaders as the world grapples with one of the world’s worst outbreaks in a century.

They were and are still behaving as if life had gone back to normal. Their behaviour is increasingly at odds with what one would expect of a leader in such times - gallivanting in total disregard of the health protocols. and consequently exposing thousands of Kenyans to the virus. 

“We have failed Kenyans as leaders,” the President retorted. He railed at leaders for their double-speak: they were a letdown and the weakest link in the fight against Covid-19.

His seventh State of the Nation address was also directed at leaders to lead the way in combating the pandemic.

The world is confronting a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths, with countries struggling with their most widespread wave of infections yet.

Those in Europe and the Americas are witnessing sharp spikes in infections, and  have reinstated lockdowns. Others, mostly in Africa, Kenya included, are delicately balancing their acts – savings lives and livelihoods.

Recovery for most sectors from the free-fall triggered by the pandemic will be long-lived.

All signs show we are well in the second wave. In England, a recent study was done showing almost 100,000 people were catching the virus everyday, prompting the government to impose restrictions including closure of bars, restaurants, and other social places. Experts have warned of alarming infection rates, especially in Europe. 

Kenya is witnessing a sharp increase of cases and deaths, with healthcare workers bearing the brunt.

We are among 11 others in Africa cited as having spiraling numbers of new cases in the past few weeks.

It is an inescapable reality that this virus has wreaked havoc across families and communities.

There are signs of pandemic fatigue, with people going about their daily lives. Those who cherish freedom continue unabated.

We have lowered our guard – no masks, plenty of hugs and handshakes, no washing hands or sanitising.

Before the President banned all public rallies, these gatherings (they continue, though) were fertile grounds for super spreaders.

Then as now, it is causing alarm to health officials and fear in counties of overstretched medical facilities. 

During the BBI Report launch, the President called out pretense that shadows the political leadership.

Whereas he was referring to leaders perpetuating tribalism while posturing as national figures, it summed up what ails our collective national conscience. 

It surmised the leadership morass afflicting us. They have a profound impact on current Covid-19 situation.

Unfortunately, there is a wide gulf between what they say and what they mean.

The political class has become impervious to reasoning, through their rallies, they continue to pursue selfish political interests in disguise that they are advancing priorities for the hoi polloi.

They are the worst violators of the public health measures.  They  have joined their counterparts elsewhere in Brazil and Nicaragua who have been blunt and blatant in discouraging compatriots from following pandemic protocols. 

President-elect Joe Biden was appalled as outgoing President Donald Trump and his advisers attacked leaders of US states that have imposed new restrictions to contain rising cases.

“What the hell’s the matter with these guys?” he said. “It’s totally irresponsible.

As it is and going by the impact the first wave had on lives and livelihoods, we cannot afford seal offs and lockdowns.

We may resent curfews, early-close times for bars and restaurants and other restrictions, but the difference between destruction and development will be determined by how responsible we are – starting at the individual level.

We risk being overwhelmed by overstretched health facilities, a deadlier hit on the economy and unprecedented loss of lives and livelihoods.

Our leaders could do with a dose of measured reflection, lead by example lest they become authors of despair, desperation, and death.— The writer is a senior accounts director at Apex Porter Novelli

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