As Kenyans wait for the results of the presidential elections, I was thinking about this poem by Emily Dickinson,
“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.”
The way it’s usually analyzed is that Dickinson wrote about how people with the greatest needs for success are the ones who value it the most. As the tallying continue, Uhuru Kenyatta – the candidate who who faces charges at the International Criminal Court – happens to be in the lead, so Raila Odinga’s camp – in the voice of Musyoka – is beginning to complain about results being “doctored” (his words not mine). Kenyans are tense, hoping that the president would be announced peacefully without the bloodshed and the fires that burnt Kenya in 2007.
But why I was thinking of Dickinson’s poem…if the loser places a higher value on success than the winner, then logically, the winner considers success to have less value (the opposite sides of a seesaw). But there’s another reason why a winner shouldn’t be too excited about winning a position like the president’s, because it is a position that comes with great responsibility. According to 2011 statistics, there are 41 million people in Kenya who the president should be thinking about. From the barefeet children running in the slums of Kibera, to the hungry people in Turkana, and the clouded-in-a-shroud-of-oblivion drug addicts on the Coast, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that position.
All eyes will be on the president to make changes in a country where 50% of the population is under poverty line . And mind you, those changes must be positive. So whoever wins, Raila or Uhuru, they need to know that after they celebrate their victory with their families, running mates, and dancing troupes, they’re going to have to step out onto the street every morning and work hard to make positive changes in the lives of 41 million human beings, they’re going to have to step up to the challenge of fulfilling the expectations of those who voted for them, and they’re going to have to spend every day knowing that with great privileges comes great responsibility, and that taking the president’s seat is more about giving to the country than taking from it.
And I personally wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.
And talking about people who truly understood the responsibility of leadership, I am reminded of the saying of Umar Ibn AlKhattab- the second Caliph- “By Allah, if a mule tripped over and fell in Iraq, I would be afraid that Allah will ask me about it why I did not level the road up for it.”