Three presidential candidates last evening described National Super Alliance (Nasa) and Jubilee as among the problems Kenya is facing as they painted pictures of a bright future for the country without tribalism, corruption and bad manners, if elected.
At the first contest of ideas for the men who will be on the ballot, Dr Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance and independent candidates Prof Michael Wainaina and Dr Japheth Kavinga Kaluyu were united in condemning their counterparts doing better in the opinion polls.
If Kenyans wanted a lesson on what is wrong with their country, these three PhD holders had it all mapped out, and each had a solution for it.
None of the three have ever held an elected position. In the latest opinion polls by Infotrak and Ipsos, this first lot of candidates had the support of one per cent of those sampled.
They did not let that deter them.
Missing from the debate were Mr Abduba Dida, Mr Cyrus Jirongo and Mr Joe Nyagah.
Dr Aukot, who was the chief executive officer of the Committee of Experts that oversaw the drafting of the Constitution, said Kenya needs a strong hand at the top.
“What Kenya needs is a no-nonsense leader, not a benevolent dictator in the normal sense of the word but a leader who will not tolerate bad manners,” said Dr Aukot, who used Rwanda’s Paul Kagame as an example.
Prof Wainaina said his criticism of the current leadership is based on what they say about each other.
“It is not me who has said these things. They say these things about each other. It is they who call each other thieves. It is they who call it each other tribalists. It is they who call each other clueless,” said Prof Wainaina.
He had clearly done his homework and referred to a newspaper article in which Mr Musalia Mudavadi had referred to the leadership in the then Cord and Jubilee as being engaged in ‘political gangsterism’.
On tribe, Prof Wainaina said to get the country going, the first priority ought to be getting rid of the kingpins in Nasa and Jubilee, who employ tribalism in the way they run things.
He used the fight against malaria as an allegory. “You can cure malaria but as long as you haven’t got rid of the mosquitoes that cause malaria, you are not going anywhere,” he said.
After that, he said, one would need to “invest and inspire in the young people.”
Prof Wainaina said his mission is to leapfrog Kenya from “a primitive, tribal Third World country to the modern world.”
He criticised the fight against corruption, saying it was destined to fail because “those helping to find the lost goat are the same ones who have taken it.”
Dr Kaluyu described himself as “uncompromised, independent” and belonging to no cartel.
He assured Kenya that he will end corruption and that he will ensure that one caught in corruption is prosecuted publically and barred from running for political office.
“If you think of taking money from the public coffers, please start packing because a new sheriff will be in town,” said Dr Kaluyu.
On national cohesion, Dr Aukot proposed that first 100 days of his office will be to ensure regional and ethnic diversity of Kenya as per the Constitution.
“Tribalism is stupidity. I will end it by invoking the Constitution to ensure that we have all communities involved. What Kenya needs is a father figure that looks at all tribes as his children,” he said.
Dr Kaluyu said he will end tribalism by being a “good leader” who he said will consult with people from all walks of life to consult on the solution for the problem.
On corruption, Dr Aukot said the vice had thrived because of lack of political goodwill, and what he said was an inability by the leadership to nip it in the bud.
“This is a factor of leadership. We will establish a hall of shame, we will take public officials to see how jails are bad, and then jail them when they are corrupt. We call it theft of funds, not corruption,” he said.
Dr Kaluyu linked corruption to campaign funding, that he said later hit back at the presidential candidates when they get to office.
Dr Aukot’s plan on education, he said, is to standardise, modernise and equip schools with a proposal to scrap school fees from primary to university, one better than Jubilee and Nasa proposal of free primary and secondary education.
“No country can prosper without investing in education. It is an equaliser that makes me a nomad from Turkana now running for President. We need to treat the teacher- child ratio, now at its worst at one teacher to 42 pupils,” said Dr Aukot.
Dr Kaluyu said the problem with Kenyan education was having career re-assignment with places and “restructure careers to places.”
“You think of Matiang’i, I will be a Matiang’i on steroids,” Dr Kaluyu said on his education plan.
Prof Wainaina defended his education proposals that were said to be at odds with his idea of availing quality education to all, since he owns a private school.
“What I am doing here is to scale up the lessons at my school to other Kenyan schools, especially public schools,” said Prof Wainaina.
He appeared to stumble when it was pointed out by Yvonne Okwara-Matole that owning a private school appeared to be contrary to his stated ideals.
Without explaining, he said that his school, Midas, “teaches students when they are on holiday” and that establishing a private school is one of the most stupid ideas an investor would come up with.