Only candidates with serious corruption credentials should be elected as governors for the 47 counties in Kenya.
With the exception of two or three county bosses felled in the party primaries, all first-time governors are seeking re-election. So far, none of them has fled the country or squirreled off their wealth to a tax heaven in the Caribbean islands, despite at least 20 of them being cited for corruption, abuse of office or of descending into the feculent depths of graft.
Of the 246 candidates vying (63 independents and 183 party men and women), the ones that recommend themselves the greatest for election are those with experience on the job.
They have called out their political persecution for what it is, naming the taboo and robbing it of its seductive power. You buy a wheelbarrow, and the county’s knickers get into a twist; you tarmac a road and people from Nairobi start asking stupid questions; you join university for an evening course and the police start investigating your kindergarten grades.
On their way to sainthood, governors in Kenya have dodged summons to the Senate, wiped off allegations from the public investment committees and wriggled out of investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Their moral agility and political litheness recommend them for a continued presence and expanded role in public life.
Electing someone saturated in the scent of scandal guarantees the public a defender who will always fight for them, no matter the size of the opponent. Corruption in Kenya is a cancer eating away at every organ of the republic’s body politic. The little guy cannot survive in this jungle without a guide who has disguises that enable him to fix the system.
Year on year, the Auditor-General and the Controller of Budget have been telling Parliament tall tales about the loss of billions of shillings in unsupported expenditure, ghost projects, irregular payments and faulty procurement in the counties; they have created folklore about how governors lack enthusiasm in declaring the revenues collected and exact figures of pending bills. The President has tried to submerge them in claims of squandering Sh1 trillion in three years, and still the governors remain afloat.
Governors never seem to get caught, but still, Kenyans keep demanding big scalps in the fight against corruption. They say the bigger they come, the harder they fall. So far, President Uhuru Kenyatta has given the loudest hint that people are going from the governor’s mansion to a maximum security jail after the elections. He has dirt on individuals such as Kilifi governor Amason Kingi and the Kwale gubernatorial candidate Chirau Ali Mwakwere.
Lack of competence and experience at the Senate and in the county assemblies has consigned every attempted governor’s impeachment to premature collapse.
After this election, hygiene factors will eliminate a few governors from leadership by the mid-term, and then it will dawn on everybody that these public officials need a second posting.
Being ineligible to run for the post of governor for more than two terms, and enjoying the support of at least half of the counties they have been running, the county bosses will be promoted to the Senate without breaking a sweat. These men know all the tricks for dodging accountability. They have deep knowledge of the tricks thieves use and the nooks and crannies where money in the counties is hidden. Imagine if the Senate just had 40 former governors elected as members for life. Governors will be going to jail every week. One or two crazies will seek the presidency, and some low achievers will seek parliamentary seats and positions as Cabinet Secretaries, but it is the Senate where the governing will be done come 2022.
Kwamchetsi Makokha is the programme advisor at Journalists for Justice.
The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of JfJ.