The politics of mediocre

BY JACOB OKETCH

A group of politicians from Western region were involved in a scuffle with the police who were at their gathering to disperse a crowd that had apparently contravened the guidelines for containing the Covid-19 pandemic. What baffled me about that encounter is that the Mumias East MP Hon Benjamin Washiali accosted a senior police officer whom he blamed for persecuting them yet they were doing the bidding of his fellow tribesman, the Deputy President William Ruto. To him, it did not matter that they were contravening the law, as long as the one in charge was tribally affiliated to their master, the DP.

It is this kind of attitude that frustrates efforts to eradicate negative ethnicity. That the lawmaker could casually trash the rule of law in favour of tribalism frustrates efforts to unite Kenya. The cohesion commission together with other relevant agencies ought to be watchful of this kind of impunity, especially when we are approaching the General Election. It could easily lead to lawlessness and anarchy.

Closer home, there is an impasse in the Senate over the revenue allocation to the counties. There are counties who stand to lose a substantial amount of money should the new proposed formula be adopted. On the one hand, there are a group of senators who feel that enacting this formula is tantamount to weakening Devolution. On the other hand, some Senators have claimed that the formula restores the rights of counties who have higher population. They aver that the formula that was being used relied on false population data and that this contributed to unfair allocation.

The impasse is yet to be unlocked with Senators failing to pass a Bill after the eighth attempt. Compared to the previous leadership of Senator Kipchumba Murkomen as the Majority Leader, it is not hard to see how dismal the performance of the current leadership is.  Never in the history of the Senate has the Government taken this long to pass such a crucial Bill. Matters have been complicated by the fact that even some notable members of the ruling party have ganged up with other likeminded Senators to thwart efforts towards the passing of the proposed Bill. It is noteworthy that the passing of a revenue allocation bill calls for bipartisanship since the matter at hand affects the entire republic.

Anyhow, it is important to note that the idea of Devolution is to ensure that resources get to the grassroot. As it is, the new formula has to be implemented because the timeline for the formula that has been in use has elapsed and nothing can be done about that. We also know that the way funds are allocated in the counties will, in some way, influence how the BBI report will be handled by the electorate. It therefore behooves the legislators to look at the bigger picture and come to a consensus. We must not sacrifice an opportunity to address problems with the Constitution at the expense of getting higher allocation of funds. I would rather we implement the formula for the sake of the progress of the constitutional drive.

Even as we hurtle towards the General Election in 2022, we need to accommodate certain scenarios that may play out against the expectation of the public. Looking at what is happening in the US with regards to the covid-19 pandemic, one cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic can change the political direction of a country in unexpected ways. President Donald Trump is fighting for his political life after bungling the response to the pandemic. What he thought would be his campaign plank, the economy, has fallen like a house of cards. He is staring at defeat.

In the same way, the pandemic has undoubtedly changed the political calculus locally. We have to account for the fact that if the pandemic stretches a lot further, there could be a possibility of postponing the General Election. That would mean that President Uhuru Kenyatta would have an extended term. This is not a farfetched idea considering that just across the fence, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has already told Ugandans that should the pandemic prolong, he would not hesitate to cancel elections that are slated for next year. It is therefore important that political schemers accommodate this probability in their calculations.

The Deputy President, Dr William Ruto is in a quandary over what role the so-called ‘deep state’ will play in the succession game. Unapologetically, he has come out guns blazing, claiming that the deep state is indeed working hard to put brakes on his quest for the presidency. However, some leaders have come out to rebuke the DP for his remarks. They have questioned the veracity of such claims given that the DP is actually at the apex of political power. Others have also opined that the DP’s remarks are an affront to his boss – President Uhuru Kenyatta. How this back and forth exchange between the antagonistic leaders ends remains to be seen. One thing is clear though; the DP seems to have decided to take on the shadowy powers that seem hell bent on stopping him from succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta head on.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is claiming that he has a secret pact with ODM leader Raila Odinga about the 2022 General Election. The ODM fraternity has however come out to deny this. The former VP may have to consider the fact that Raila himself may want to vie. Infact, some of his close allies have been hinting just that for some time now. Given the journey both leaders have travelled since the last election, I would caution Hon. Musyoka not to be too optimistic about whatever alleged agreement he has with Raila because the race is still wide open and Mr Odinga may be having other ideas up his sleeve.

This school of thought has been hugely vindicated by the flurry of endorsements for the ODM leader for the top seat from some of the consequential political leaders. First was the Jubilee party vice chairman David Murathe who even likened Mr Odinga to Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former President and liberation hero to the entire world. He was swiftly followed by COTU secretary general Francis Atwoli who also rooted for the former Prime Minister to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.

In central Kenya, the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta as a kingpin is heating up by the day. With the exception of Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth, the rest of the contenders are not experienced enough to take up the mantle. Much as Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri has been in politics for a long time, he has not handled major responsibilities in the political arena. Had he stayed in his ministerial docket, it would have given him leverage to position himself for that role but now that he was elbowed out early enough, there is nothing to clutch on. Hon. Wa Iria just appeared on the political scene when Devolution took effect. He will need to hang on the shoulders of the more politically experienced leaders before eventually ripening to be the region’s kingpin.

The issue of gender representation in Parliament has to be dealt with once and for all. It does not look good on us to have passed a Constitution that we have been unable to fully implement. This is the third administration since the 2010 Constitution was promulgated. One wonders why it has become so difficult for the National Assembly to ensure that the two thirds gender rule becomes law. Partriachal tendencies have emasculated the necessity of passing the law. It is plausible to argue that even the current clamour for constitutional reforms to expand the Executive does not make sense if we have been unable to live by the spirit and letter of a supreme document that we enacted just a decade ago. If Rwanda can do it, why is Kenya, the most influential country in the East Africa region dithering?

Proponents of winner takes all nature of our presidential elections have to climb down from the high horse. We must have elections that give the citizenry clear options regardless of the outcome of elections. The endless cycle of violence after every poll is a stain on the nation’s conscience. Can you imagine the number of lives we have to lose whenever we have elections and what this portends to the future generation? We have to reset this button and quickly enough.    

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