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Narrative on development wearing thin by the day


Deputy President William Ruto has never tired of regaling Kenyans with tales of an opposition that is fumbling along, unable to pick its presidential candidate unlike Jubilee Party that dispensed with such matters long ago. Days ago, the Orange Democratic Party gave direct nominations to candidates who did not get challengers in their respective areas and Jubilee went gaga. How that should provide fodder to Jubilee’s campaign machinery is baffling but betrays an ideological bankruptcy among the political elite.

Unforgiving Kenyans on social media where the political wars are being fought viciously are taking sides with glee. Two analogies have emerged that attempt to contextualise the ruling party. First, Jubilee has been depicted as a tortoise that finds itself atop a fence post. Obviously, the tortoise did not go up there by itself. Then, finding itself up there, it has no idea what to do next.

It is not a secret that some people believe Jubilee did not win the 2013 elections. The opposition at the time lodged an election petition that the Supreme Court handled in a manner that raised more questions than answers. 

By its verdict, the Supreme Court catapulted Jubilee to the apex from whence the latter got bewildered. It took time for the heady feeling to settle down, but only after social media took a poke at it. The youthful, playful exuberance the Uhuruto duo exhibited; the identical shirts and ties made some Kenyans wonder loudly whether the duo had become members of some choir, and that sobered them up.

Terrorist attacks

The serious business of leadership lay ahead, but Uhuruto had developed fascination for some fad. In characteristic fashion of the bewildered, President Kenyatta has on several occasions asked Kenyans what they wanted him to do. When Al Shabaab militants struck Kenya with impunity in 2014 and 2015, public entreaties for enhanced safety were met with the famous “security starts with you” quip, of course, absolving the swamped State security machinery.

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It was not to end there for when the word ‘corruption’ could even be found on the lips of children, El Presidente wondered, “Mnataka nifanye nini jameni?” (what do you want me to do). This, notwithstanding that the man claiming to be so powerless had no qualms overseeing the destruction of a ship in an illegal drug trade despite a court order or authorising the payment of Anglo Leasing and changing the Constitution to allow him ‘toy’ with the office of Inspector General of Police.

Jubilee has no idea how to confront rampant corruption, runaway cost of living and unemployment among youth that makes betting so attractive. It has no strategies to turn around agricultural production even when subsidies could act as a springboard. In critical ministries like Health and Water, the level of infighting among Cabinet and Principal Secretaries that points to selfish vested interests is such that the ministries are moribund. But while decisive action on the belligerents was expected, they merely got light taps on their wrists. Transfers don’t solve problems. The tortoise indeed!

Then there is the analogy of Ngiri (warthog), reputed to have the shortest memory of any animal around. Where matters and the politics of nominations are concerned, Jubilee leaders make the Ngiri look good despite its ungainly looks. For, if I may ask, where does the Jubilee leadership get the moral authority to deride and label another party’s decisions on nominations ‘boardroom affairs’ when no one remembers when or where Uhuru and his sidekick were subjected to party nominations to emerge Jubilees flag bearers?

One could not miss the duplicity by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Wafula Chebukati when he rebuffed ODM’s nominations, claiming IEBC had not gazetted the list of candidates yet has not singled out Jubilee for the same rebuke. Such are the pointers that the playing field might not be level. Gratifyingly though, an increasingly independent Judiciary is plugging some of the loopholes.

But as matters stand, both sides of the political divide are groping in the dark. It is only three months to the elections yet apart from vitriolic outbursts, infighting while jostling for advantage and petty vendettas, we really don’t know what the parties stand for. Forget portals, the tired narrative of a development record that exists more in utopia than here is wearing thin. Parties must articulate what is achievable because we shall hold it against them.

Jubilee failed in most of what it promised in 2013 and we must hold it to them. They promised zero tolerance to corruption yet it multiplied a million times. They promised creation of a million jobs annually. Instead, Jubilee’s tax regime and skewed business competition led many companies to close shop and unemployment soared. They promised maize flour would be cheap, yet today Ugali is a luxury. The economy, they averred, would grow in double-digit numbers but what we got instead was double-digit inflation rates. The question is; do you still want to play “karata ya pata potea” with your vote?

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The Standard.  [email protected]

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