By David Wanjala
The odds have never disfavoured an incumbent as much as they do now for the President and his entire Jubilee Party battalion in the August 8 General Election.
Even though a couple of polls have, in the recent past, put the President ahead of the Opposition, the Jubilee Government’s inner circle, I am inclined to believe, is taking the polls with a pinch of salt, like the rest of us. If this is the case, they can then work on an instant coffee winning formula, if not a miracle, in the remaining months. If the contrary is the case, they should be prepared for a rude shock on the August 9 or thereabout.
To start with, the circumstances that galvanised the President’s TNA and his Deputy’s URP into the Jubilee Coalition on whose ticket they rode into power in the August 2013 elections have since changed. In a nutshell, the Jubilee’s nerve centre has diffused. The centre no longer holds. The placenta has disconnected from the umbilical cord, and the foetus is no longer getting nourished with oxygen and nutrients, and runs a high risk of suffocating to death.
Jubilee’s nerve centre diffuses
To get a clear picture of how this is happening, you only need to dissect the Deputy President’s five-point speech at Jubilee Party’s membership card launch on January 13 at Kasarani. First, William Ruto said that in 2013, the Jubilee Coalition had been stalked by a heavy load of “the case of choices have consequences”, referring to the crimes against humanity case they faced in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, and that today, they walk free. That baggage, the DP said, is not with them any more.
Ruto should, however, be reminded that it is the tightening of the ICC noose around his and President Kenyatta’s necks that whipped up emotions in their strongholds and galvanised fanatic support on which they swung into power. The belief by their supporters that the only way out of the imminent international humiliation for the two was if they wielded State power is what drove the passion in their backyards, right from voter registration, voluntary mobilisation and the ultimate vote. With the ICC out of way, all that is gone.
Further, the dejection seen in Opposition regions has crept into their own backyards as well, following poor leadership that has affected Kenyans across the board. To win, President Kenyatta will have to come up with a more motivating factor from his five years in power to fire up voters’ psyches to the levels witnessed in the 2013 General Election.
Unfortunately, Government has nothing on their scorecard for the last five years that can achieve this for them. The President’s party should brace for voter apathy in its strongholds.
In 2013, the DP asserted in his second point, the Jubilee Coalition asked for votes as different political parties. This time, he said – referring to the merger of Jubilee Coalition affiliates into the Jubilee Party – they are going to “face the people of Kenya as a party that unites all communities, regions and faiths of the republic of Kenya”. This is yet another big blunder that the President’s party is heavily going to rue.
The merger was forced on the parties within the Coalition, trashing all resistance and voice of reason. The fall out from the nomination nightmare awaiting the Jubilee Party will be such that the ruling party might not recover before the election date. The war between the incumbents and the aspirants for various elective offices, more so the gubernatorial and MCA positions in the strongholds of the party, will be vicious, and the fallout irreparable.
After it is done, they will end up in their backyards, with unpopular representatives that will have gotten tickets by other means other than through the nomination process – a fertile breeding ground for voter apathy. In regions beyond their strongholds where they stand equal chances of winning, it will result in direct loses to the opposition. How the entire think tank of Jubilee Party sees this as a plus defeats all political logic. It would have worked much better if, like in 2013, they went in with a coalition of many parties whose allegiance they have under lock and key, rather than force the dissolution of those parties.
Thirdly, the DP also said that, in 2013, they faced the electorate with a list of pledges and promises but that in 2017 they are going to face the electorate with “a scorecard and a track record that speaks for itself”, one they are proud of. Jubilee Party bootlickers and hangers-on might be telling the President and his Deputy only the sweet things they want to hear, making them proud of their scorecard. The two should be told plainly that their track record and scorecard cannot, and will not win them a re-election. They were better off in 2013 flaunting an attractive blueprint that gave the masses a renewed hope of better, improved life. It will be very hard to sell a scorecard that reneged nearly on all the promises of 2013.
His fourth point, said lavishly and cheered at the most, the DP said that in 2013 they faced a formidable opponent with half the government, with a sitting Prime Minister in Raila Odinga and a sitting Vice President in Kalonzo Musyoka, but that today they face “a clueless, rudderless, leaderless, planless, disorganised Opposition”.
The DP should be reminded that with an opponent that owned half the government, Raila and Kalonzo’s Cord suffered backlash of the incumbency, especially when President Kibaki was not seeking re-election. In fact, the Jubilee Coalition was so crafty in exploiting this that all the successes of the Grand Coalition Government were heaped on the retiring Kibaki while all the failures were apportioned to the former Prime Minister, Odinga.
Jubilee has baggage: unparalleled corruption scandals, failed governance, failing economy and labour unrest, to mention a few. It could be futile for the ruling party to gleefully flaunt the incumbency card in their campaigns. It could easily boomerang.
Finally, the DP said that five years ago, they went into an election that was heavily influenced by tribalism and regionalism, but that this election is going to be about issues that matter to Kenyans. This election, lest the Jubilee Party forgets, is going to be as about tribalism and regionalism as it has never been before in the history of Kenya. The President and his Deputy will have themselves to blame for presiding over a government that has excluded all other Kenyans save for, largely, the two major tribes that form their coalition.
It is going to be a resentment statement to their exclusionary leadership especially in sharing of the national cake, to the tyranny of numbers that has so often than not been shoved in the faces of Kenyans in the two Houses of Parliament, as well as bending, massaging and corrupting legislation at the whims of the Executive. Even if the election were to be made about “issues that matter to Kenyans”, it will not be in favour of the Jubilee Party. In fact, it would be in the interest of Jubilee not to make the elections about issues that matter to Kenyans – corruption, security, health, economy, road safety – unless their list of what matters to Kenyans reads differently.
Government is trudging into the August 8 elections in the most difficult of circumstances – some natural but most self-inflicted – to expect a win. To start with, Kenyatta’s Government claims a gold medal in quick firing, mega corruption scandals. Not only that; unlike in President Kibaki’s first term where at least sustained public pressure would amount to some batting of eyelids, this government has responded to corruption allegations with unprecedented arrogance, unwittingly fronting a simmering view in public domain that corruption is happening with the President’s blessing or on his behalf.
The list of emerging scandals in the Jubilee administration’s five years in power surpasses by far that of their predecessor, President Kibaki’s ten years in office, not to mention the sweeping under the carpet of previous scandals that were under investigations when they assumed office. It all began with the Sh100 million renovation of the DP’s official residency, which was followed by the “hustler’s jet” that saw abnormal expenditure on unnecessary luxury on the DP’s first trip out the country in his official capacity.
But that was just a testing of the waters; what followed, and the accompanying arrogance, is not stuff for the faint hearted – including the Standard Gauge Railway tender, Anglo Leasing pay-out, medical equipment leasing, JKIA terminal tendering, ‘Chickengate’, armoured personnel carriers, Eurobond, NYS, Afya House, the Rio Olympics fiasco, just to flag a few.
Jubilee has abused its numerical advantage in both Houses of Parliament to the dismay of a majority of Kenyans. The infamous tyranny of numbers has never, not once, been put to use in Parliament with the interest nation at heart. The trump card has only been put to use, especially in the National Assembly, to advance Government’s narrow, parochial and partisan interests.
Uhuru’s government has reneged on most of the promises pledged to Kenyans in their manifesto. It does not help that even where there have been attempts to fulfil those promises, it has come late in the day, advancing the persuasion that the fulfilment is more to do with scoring political mileage than good governance.
Security issues have dogged this government’s first term in office from day one. Kenyans have suffered unprecedented terror attacks, with unimaginable suffering under the watch of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Internal security has broken down to levels not witnessed before in the country with sporadic massacres that have left huge numbers of Kenyans dead or maimed. Cattle rustling has taken a business twist and is on the rise, unabated. The National Police Service has never been as corrupt as it is today, with dire consequences.
We have, weirdly for Jubilee Government, entered an election year with a crisis in the most critical sector of the economy; the Health sector is on its knees. The suffering common Kenyans are subjected to following the doctors’ strike is heart-rending. How on earth can a government that wants to seek a second term let doctors’ remain on strike into an election year? Lecturers have too gone on strike, which will, as well, paralyse activities in higher learning institutions.
The greatest governance advantage since independence in all Kenyans’ eyes is Devolution. It has brought services closer to the people and is also the hallmark of equalisation of regions in terms growth. It is, despite its teething problems, the most appreciated political phenomenon in Kenya today. Yet, Government has projected itself as being against Devolution. In fact, it is believed on the ground that the government is a saboteur of Devolution, and this is going to work against President Kenyatta’s re-election bid in a major way.
Jubilee’s biggest waterloo, however, is its arrogance in the manner it has gone about addressing issues of national importance, the so-called “issues that matter to Kenyans” that the DP decoratively says will determine this year’s election. It is not lost on Kenyans how the government handled the teachers’ strikes after reneging on a CBA it had agreed upon with Knut and renegotiated by a court of law. It is the same template it has approached the doctors’ strike with, cajoling, threatening to jail and attempting to bribe union officials with no regard to the consequences the enduring strike to the masses.
The arrogance is so entrenched into the top government officials, manifest in the mannerisms and talk of the President, his deputy, Leaders of Majority in both Houses of Parliament and the Speaker of the National Assembly. Such statements as “continue salivating, we shall continue eating meat”, said at the burial late last year of William ole Ntimama, should not come from the mouth of one who says he is President to all Kenyans. It is irresponsible.
DP Ruto has not fared any better. His forays in opposition regions meant to woo votes have achieved right the opposite thanks to what some call his “foul mouth” and “venomous tongue”. Leader of Majority, Aden Duale, comes first among equals in displaying the arrogance that has so much worked against President Kenyatta’s re-election bid. It will soon unfold to Jubilee, when campaigns proper begin, that indeed, it is not going to be a walk in the park. Not that they do not know, the plastic, cosmetic braggadocio of DP William Ruto portrays to keen observers a panicked, unsure government.