The 26th US president, Theodore Roosevelt, once said: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
President Roosevelt knew a thing or two about making decisions, because he is largely credited as the driving force of the Progressive Era which eliminated the challenges of urbanisation, industrialisation and political corruption at the beginning of the 20th Century and helped make the United States the global superpower it is today.
While it may be a be over half a century later, Kenya is finally entering its own ‘Progressive Era’.
It is clear that for many decades after the establishment of the Republic of Kenya, there was little or no great strategic plan for our nation, which had been liberated from an oppressive foreign rule that had divided our people, privileging one tribe over another and raping much of our resources.
Perhaps the mentality was a result of putting out fires rather than creating the foundations for a long-term strategic plan. Maintenance was honoured over building and forming anew.
All of our fancy sounding plans and visions were very nice, but were more about the end result rather than a clear roadmap on how to attain them.
As Roosevelt makes clear, a leader needs to be someone who can make decisions and not put off issues or leave malaise to remain.
A good precedent was set recently by President Kenyatta when he cancelled the Kimwarer Dam Project. The dam, and its sister Arror in Elgeyo Marakwet County, has received a lot of headlines recently.
A dozen or so of officials, including National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, have been charged with corruption-related crimes, including the massive inflation of the cost of constructing it. There are also reports that the whole project was reliant on a feasibility study from nearly three decades ago and could be a geological disaster because it would have stood on top of a seismic fault line.
These and many other details meant that a decision had to be made.
Arguably, under another leader, the decision could have been made to ignore concerns about the dam and just continue with it in the hope that, at least in the short-term of a president’s relatively short tenure, nothing would happen.
President Kenyatta only has less than three years left of his second term, so it would have been easy to have just sat back and avoided controversy.
Some of the key elements of Roosevelt’s Progressive Era, like modernisation, the building and strengthening of a burgeoning middle-class, exposing corruption, and constitutional reform, are also the building blocks of President Kenyatta’s second term.
While everything was far from perfect during Roosevelt’s tenure, it is clear that much of what makes America truly great emerged from this era.
It is clear that, regardless of current public opinion that has become so imbued, perhaps rightly, with a healthy dose of scepticism, President Kenyatta will likely also be remembered in the future as the leader and game-changer who paved the way for a brighter future of progress and development for Kenya.
While it might be in the fields of fighting corruption, the Big Four Agenda or the Building Bridges Initiative, at the base of all of these and many other issues is the fact that we have a leader who is not afraid to take decisive action and make difficult decisions when there is need.