President Uhuru Kenyatta’s delivers State of the Nation address. (Photo: Beverlyn Musili/Standard)
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State of the Nation address was not short of colourful moments.
One moment, the President had the legislators laughing and cheering, and the next, he had them thinking critically.
In another moment, he sang for them.
While much of the speech lasting one hour, 17 minutes – the last in the first term of his presidency – dwelt on defending his administration against the Opposition’s claims that his government had not done much, part of it made for serious food for thought, especially when he called for a reduction of salaries for elected leaders.
The address began on what appeared to be a tense note, when Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi invited Uhuru to address the joint House. Some members feared a recurrence of the previous address when a number of Opposition leaders disrupted proceedings.
Perhaps the suspension of Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi from the House, for months, following last year’s incident, was enough to deter Opposition legislators from staging a similar action this time.
Notably, the majority opted to stay away.
Parliament orderlies, however, were not leaving anything to chance as they took vantage positions before the address began.
Security outside Parliament was equally tight – so much so that Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery’s official vehicle was barred from driving all the way in by enthusiastic police officers who initially did not notice him sitting in the back.
Inside Parliament, the President’s speech was cut short only by standing ovations, mainly by Jubilee members, who at times went against the standing orders by resorting to clapping for Uhuru instead of the usual foot thumping that is the tradition in Commonwealth parliaments.
With the mood getting electric from the encouragement Uhuru received, the head of state at one point waxed lyrical to sink his point home – that contrary to the Opposition’s claim, his government had kept its 2013 promises.
To prove that Jubilee had built roads all over the country, he used the example of the ongoing construction of the 51km Mariakani-Bamba road in a song: “Safari ya Bamba ni Machero (Bamba’s journey heads towards Machero),” saying it needed to be rewritten as the road would now lead up to Rero.
“In Kilifi, the construction of the 51-kilometre Mariakani-Bamba road means that the famous song, ‘Safari Ya Bamba ni Machero’ needs to be recomposed to ‘Safari Ya Bamba ni Rero’,” he said.
National government has failed Turkana
National government has failed Turkana
For those who did not remember the lyrics of the classic, Uhuru sang a few lines much to the excitement of the legislators present.
When a parliamentary orderly offered to pour Uhuru a glass of water, apparently concerned that the President was parched from speaking for so long, the gesture did not go unnoticed.
“Asante mama, wewe tu ndio unanikumbuka (Thank you, madam, you are the only one that has remembered me),” Uhuru said, causing prolonged laughter.
As the President enumerated the Government’s successes, Deputy President William Ruto sat right opposite him in the Speaker’s gallery, reserved for VIPs.
Mr Ruto nodded in approval of every success story Uhuru highlighted about Jubilee’s wins, as did Cabinet secretaries, who also sat in the VIP area.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta cut her usual figure of grace and class as she followed the proceedings, sitting next to Ruto.
There was however one moment of apparent uncertainty when Uhuru addressed the serious issue of curbing the wage bill, approving a proposal by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to cut the salaries of elected leaders coming to office in the 12th Parliament.
Suddenly, the legislators, including those in Jubilee, who just minutes before had been cheering the President on, seemed unsure how to react to the news.
But National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale took charge as he rose to prod his colleagues to a standing ovation.