Quitting your job to join politics? Here is what you need to know

There is a flow of political ambitions from employees in the public and private sectors who have decided to resign from their jobs effective February to freely hunt for votes.

Sources in the human resource department at the Public Service Commission (PSC), for instance, say there will be an upsurge in the number of those quitting to try their luck in elective politics compared to previous years.

It is a cycle repeated every five years.

Mr Emmanuel Mokoro, 46, senior assistant director at the ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, told the Sunday Nation that he will be gunning for Kajiado East Parliamentary seat on the ruling Jubilee Party ticket saying having worked in the public service for 19 years, he needs to create an imprint elsewhere.

Many of them throng their constituencies, wards and counties every weekend in what is derailing service delivery in some offices particularly on Fridays and Mondays as they keep off work or report late.

And because regulations are tighter in most private companies, the individuals have devised clever ways of beating the system with some making use of their off and leave days to go interact with the electorate.

In the mainstream media, for instance, chairman of the Media Council of Kenya Charles Kerich asked journalists who want to run for political offices to quit early due to conflict of interest as the campaign fever sets in fast.

But before setting out on a massive task like this, one that has seen many regret the move, there are vital do’s and don’ts a vast majority need to help them navigate the murky terrain as they plan to tender their resignation.

Career coach Alex Musau, who is the chief executive officer at Esquire Consultants, asks anyone leaving their job for politics to ensure they have a plan B in case things do not turn out as fashioned.

“This should not only apply when they lose but also at the end of the five years, political wind may change and sweep you out.”

Most importantly, he advises that such aspirants must have investments to cushion them during hard times.

“You must have a war chest purposefully for the campaigns without eating into family savings. Have a pension plan otherwise the rigours of it may leave you in tatters as many will tell you. It is an expensive affair.”

Even handier are the lessons from Dr Wahome Gakuru who quit his plum job as the first director of Vision 2030 in the run-up to 2013 elections to run against Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua.

He says because you will be in this for the long haul, do not resign until the last day when you should.

“You need that income for your family and campaigns.”

He says with proper organisation, weekend visits are just enough at the initial stages of “popularisation tours”.

Most certainly coming from the past experience, Dr Gakuru tells the aspirants to be wary of brokers who only tell them what they want to hear.

Such individuals who have perfected the con-game of collecting money from almost all the aspirants claiming how influential they are, will shower one with platitudes because they do not want to lose the cash flow, ending up creating a false sense of reality.

Dr Gakuru, who will be making another stab on the seat on a Jubilee ticket, further advises fellow aspirants to invest in their political parties.

“Even as you engage the people, ensure you have a cordial relationship with the party leadership, it will go a long way in propelling your ambition,” he said.

Mr Mokoro told the Sunday Nation that in readiness for the probable disruption of his way of life, he is scaling down on his debts and is in the process of clearing the loans he owes banks.

“I do not pay rent and I’m also making arrangements on how I will be paying school fees so my children do not suffer as a result of my political ambition since I’m not in it to make riches. I’m in it to win and serve the people,” he said.

While some will be seeking to make quick money motivated by those waheshimiwas whose fortunes have changed overnight, the rare category is the one inclined to public service.

In his famous 1918 lecture in political science circles, Politics as a Vocation, as captured by Gerth and Mills (1946; pp. 83-84) German political economist Max Weber says there are two categories of politicians:

“Politics, just as economic pursuits, may be a man’s avocation or his vocation. There are two ways of making politics one’s vocation: Either one lives ‘for’ politics or one lives ‘off’ politics.

“He who lives ‘for’ politics makes politics his life, in an internal sense.

“Either he enjoys the naked possession of the power he exerts or he nourishes his inner balance and self-feeling by the consciousness that his life has meaning in the service of a ‘cause’.

“He who strives to make politics a permanent source of income lives ‘off’ politics as a vocation.”

Mr Moses Nandalwe, who resigned from public service in 2012 and unsuccessfully ran against Sirisia MP John Waluke, agrees the move can destabilise one’s lifestyle if not cautiously executed.

“When resigning, you have to first believe in your ability but also prepare for any eventuality. You may not win immediately but it finally pays off if you have the conviction,” he said.

Although he was lucky to get his job back after the loss, not many have the advantage of such a luxury.

Acknowledging that the civil service will lose many employees to politics, PSC chairperson Margaret Kobia said swift arrangements would be made to avoid a vacuum occurring in the service.

“We will ensure that within six months, the positions are filled competitively. After the election, those who will lose can apply whenever a vacancy occurs and if one meets the requirements, they can be rehired in public service,” she said.

“In terms of numbers, it will become clearer in January,” Ms Carole Kariuki, chief executive officer of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), said.

Some of the aspirants we spoke to from the private sector believe there is more job stability in politics compared to their current jobs given the high rate of downsizing that has been going on in tens of companies in the last one year.

Equally, there are those who live to regret their audacious move.

It also suffices to highlight that more than half of parliamentarians today and a good number of governors quit employment to contest.

Union of Kenya Civil Servants Secretary-General Tom Odege laments that the law is biased against civil servants with political ambitions.

“We have been lobbying to have an option where our members do not have to resign to vie for these positions. They should be allowed to take long leaves to try their luck and come back if they do not make it,” he said.

History is replete with many politicians who were daring enough to quit their jobs for politics and never looked back.

Retired President Daniel arap Moi, for example, owes his political career to Baringo District Education Officer Moses Budamba Mudavadi who urged him on and even promised to allow him back to class if he did not make it in the 1955 elections to represent Rift Valley province in Legco (Legislative Council).


Mr Moi went ahead and won and later influenced his former boss to join him in politics, being elected MP for Sabatia and even made him minister.

Most of the civil servants we talked to prefer an arrangement similar to this in case their bids flop.

To minimise chances of being obliterated, these individuals, fairly greenhorns, will realise that order and decorum they have been accustomed to in their places of work are a rarity in politics and must thus adopt pretty fast.

They must be willing to “soil their hands a bit” and engage in monkey business such as planting moles in the competition’s camp, what is realpolitik, and learn that every politics is local.

Until Justice Isaac Lenaola last year found Section 43(5) of the Elections Act which required civil servants who intend to join politics to resign by February to be discriminatory and declared it unconstitutional, the electoral commission had advised them to prepare and leave office without further delay.

But now they are exploiting that vacuum to carry on with their political activities unabated.

Justice Lenaola (now Supreme Court Judge) advised the Attorney-General Githu Muigai and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to consider kicking off the process of amending the law without further delay.


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