Ethnic voting, money and incompetence

Case studies of President Kenyatta and Governor Kidero

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By Kenyatta Otieno

This year’s general election has been shrouded by the dynamics of independence candidates. As parties grapple with a new phenomenon of people who may win seats by the knack of their individual abilities and potential, some serious matters are being swept under the carpet. We are avoiding the hard truths by taking meanders that massage our ethnic and political biases. In this miasma of ethnic arithmetic and political machinations, Uhuru Kenyatta and Evans Kidero are smiling all the way to the ballot.

When Peter Kenneth announced his bid for Nairobi Governor, I went to a Nairobi suburb and tried to vouch for him. One Luo man was forthright in his response; “Why do you want us to dump our Kidero for not delivering yet Kikuyus are standing by their man Uhuru and he has not delivered? We are not fools.”  The two leaders have underperformed because they have not delivered on the promises they gave. Yet ironically, their parties have nominated them to defend their seats. They are riding on their money, tribal blocks and coalitions to bag second terms.

Confession is good for the soul. In as much as Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto outlined a colourful manifesto in 2013, I saw nothing more than ICC in different colours. Dr Evans Kidero, in his bid to become Nairobi Governor, illuminated his achievements at Mumias Sugar Company. I did not buy Kidero’s story because someone who worked at Mumias told me that Kidero left Mumias a shell. True to his word, by the time Kidero was settling at City Hall, Mumias Sugar was clutching on straws asking for government bailout.

Four years later, Uhuru Kenyatta and Evans Kidero have proved to us that apple mangoes will never be apples. The country is at its lowest economically. Our national debt levels are pathological while the cost of living has blown the roof off. Even after the government brought subsidized maize flour to cushion the common man, people are complaining that they are spending three hundred shillings to look for Sh90 worth of a packet of maize flour. Last year Kenyans went crazy and hilarious on social media on #UhuruChallenge to show case how the president was going around commissioning inconsequential projects. The only silver lining in Uhuru Kenyatta’s government is Cabinet Secretary for Education, Fred Matiang’i.

Dr Evans Kidero’s only visible achievement is the blocking of Westlands and Tom Mboya Street Roundabout to curb traffic congestion. Another move to beautify Uhuru Highway when Barack Obama was coming home flopped after the grass that was planted dried up. Garbage is all over the city, health services have not improved, and water shortage is persistent. Everything else is the way George Aladwa left it as the last Mayor of Nairobi. If the rumours about his private fortune are true, then he has over achieved for himself.

Track record

We made a mistake to elect Uhuru and Ruto to the presidency without a people-friendly track record. Former President Moi was a teacher whom, upon joining politics and becoming president, became a champion for education. Despite his draconian tendency to hold onto power, Moi left Kenya an African powerhouse in human resources because of education. Mwai Kibaki was a thrifty economist and Raila Odinga is a good governance junkie. We saw what Kibaki’s economic polies did during his first term as president. The only thing Uhuru and Ruto are known for is their pursuit for power as a means of wealth consolidation and creation respectively. For this, my expectation on their tenure was low if not very low. Apple-mangoes can never be apples.

When they won the elections, I did not expect much. I remember watching them on TV in white shirts with folded sleeves and matching red ties as they announced their cabinets. That is where I lodged my one and only expectation of an Uhuru presidency: I saw a chance of Uhuru uniting Kenya because of the choices he made in members of the cabinet allied to his TNA wing of Jubilee Coalition.

In as much as Deputy President William Ruto downplayed the clustering of cabinet secretaries into TNA and URP nominees, the matter came to the fore in March 2015 when the President suspended four Cabinet Secretaries on corruption allegations. Charity Ngilu made the number five when she was later asked to step aside as well. The URP wing complained that the government was targeting their nominees in the fight against corruption. Three of the first four casualties were allied to URP in Kazungu Kambi, Davis Chirchir and Felix Kosgey.

The cabinet list of 2013 showed that URP had picked Kalenjins and members of pastoralist communities in Hassan Wario, Adan Mohammed and Kazungu Kambi while the TNA side had a mix including Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu. For this reason I harboured some hopes of Uhuru Kenyatta delivering us on the road towards turning Kenya into a nation of 47 counties and not a country of 43 ethnic nations.

Uhuru’s easy mien and a touch with the common man despite his privileged upbringing made me believe that this was a low-lying fruit. To my disappointment, he scored a pre-Matiang’i D- grade. Kenya is as divided if not more divided as he found it. The fiasco of a national event going down in Kikuyu as Uhuru watched just because it was held in Nyeri killed my hopes further. Uhuru and Jubilee Party can brag about the SGR, Lapsset and even add a nuclear plant into it among other achievements, but if we can never craft a united nation, then we will end up with infrastructure and no development.

As things look, one or both of these two leaders in very crucial dockets will win after August 8. They must count themselves lucky that the Kenyan electorate has the memory of a goldfish. No one digs deep for facts, no one asks the hard questions as long as “one of our own” is in office. The media is not helping matters either in educating the common man.

Fred Matiang’i is proof that it can be done without extra budget allocation from Treasury. Dr Matiang’i has transformed the education sector with the same resources his predecessor Prof. Kaimenyi had. For the first time, despite poor national exam results, people were satisfied that it was true representation of our students’ abilities. When you have been elected into an office that has some executive powers, you can be forgiven for public relation stunts but not incompetence.

Just like that Luo man told me off to my face, I will say that supporting Uhuru Kenyatta and denouncing Evans Kidero for incompetence is ironical to say the least and an oxymoron at it its best. The reverse is also true. However, that is the state of our democracy. It is not about what kind of leader you are but how deep are your pockets for the sake of your tribal voting machines.

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