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How governors can accelerate development in counties

We have been treated to impeachments, threats of impeachments and other stand-offs between county governors and their assemblies or between counties and the national government on some contentious issues. The issues cited as the reason for these squabbles should not even have gone that way had the leaders and stakeholders involved embraced the use of soft power, African traditions of resolving conflicts alongside African ideals on leadership, where leadership was supposed to be accommodative, consensus based, effective handling of politics and associated developments.
Embattled Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza. She was recently impeached. For counties to prosper, they should practice politics that aid development.

Traditional African chiefs were surrounded by elders representing all the tribes or clans resident in their areas of jurisdiction. Governors should know that they are in the throne in such a time to be of help and support to all in line with Ruth 4:14. They should think of their legacies and hence what people in and outside the county will remember them for. 

As a governor, ensure you develop all areas in the county, accommodate all your residents, including those that didn’t vote for you, those that competed against you and hence need to be guided by a book called “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”. 

Abraham Lincoln worked with the rivals who he had fought with in ending the slave trade and other ideological issues of his time. Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America worked with Hilary Clinton, who had fiercely opposed him for the Democratic party ticket for the President in 2008. President Obama named Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, Equivalent to Minister for Foreign Affairs! Sometimes the best advice and abilities to strategically execute programmes could be resident in your rivals, go for it. 

The concept of soft power was developed in the 1980’s by Harvard University Professor Joseph Nye. He noted that soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, intimidate, being stiff necked and being driven by hard power tactics. Hard power tactics have been practiced for long and though they appear as though they are quick fixes to conflicts, they cannot work in the current structures of governance and management.  

Leaders can use soft power to shape and re-orient opinions of their targets through appeal and attraction, hence they should not be motivated by the desire to just win arguments and appeal without carrying alongside them the residents and the bigger interests of the county. In the information age, “credibility is the scarcest resource”, hence with credibility and genuineness, leaders can disarm most of their opponents. 

Through soft power, leaders can make their opponents to agree with them in the process, which increases their chances of getting what they have wanted all along without breaking a sweet. Under soft powers, leaders’ resort to greater use of diplomacy, strategic communication, assistance to people, civic actions, economic reconstruction and development, all of which pull and attracts people and opponents to their train of thought. 

In soft power, they will influence the behaviour of others and hence get the outcomes that they seek to achieve. In addition to soft power, leaders should be able to handle political stability of their counties. It was Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s founding president who said that “seek ye first the political kingdom, and all things shall be added unto you”. Aristotle, the founder of education noted that three things matter namely: first Politics, secondly Capital or Wealth and thirdly Education. Both Nkrumah and Aristotle recognized the central role of politics in the development of human affairs. 

The governors in our Mt Kenya and Central Eastern counties are now reigning. Meru county had developed Meru Vision 2040 before the current governor, how far is the implementation of this vision for example?

Other counties of Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kitui and Machakos need to come up with their county grand visions which are above the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs). The expected visions are expected to drive development beyond the terms of these governors, and well into say three or four elections to come. This is one sure way of accelerating and ensuring sustained development momentum. 

People will remember the current governors as being instrumental for the rapid developments of their counties if they enacted county grand visions akin to the Kenya Vision 2030. Our counties must get airports, airstrips, mega water projects, mega industries, factories, road and electricity projects, conversion of municipalities to cities and hence tapping into the many benefits attributable to such urban areas and lastly, because of the land sizes in our counties, we can become the “Dubai of Kenya” by attracting all manner of investments and development projects. This requires that governors look beyond their knowledge and friends to include opponents. 

Soft power and well managed politics are at the centre of economic and political inclusivity, which leads to accelerated socio-economic development for the counties and the nation at large. If all leaders whether in government or opposition in the counties are engaged, if all innovators and entrepreneurs are given a free hand to innovate and hence practice their trade, through inclusive politics and economics, counties will indeed become engines of growth. But then the impeachments and threats for the same may negate all these gains. Governors should use their political goodwill and finances to win over residents and hence ensure a culture of increased performance and development. 

Dr Giti is an Urban Management, Public - Private Partnerships (PPP) and Environment specialist. 

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