What you need to know:
- Our politicians have monopolised the national cake and believe every resource in the country is theirs for the taking.
- Poverty amid the general population was high even before the pandemic hit and is bound to get worse.
Kenya has embarked on an expansion spree of post-independence roads, rails and stadiums like never before. Billions of shillings is being poured into brick and mortar to connect Nairobi with the rest of the country and even the world.
The Nairobi Expressway is taking shape and should make journeys to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport much faster. The JKIA project is music to the ears of the bourgeoisie, whose cars will soon be immune to the legendary Nairobi traffic. Just as well that we’re thinking of faster routes to the airports as more cars are planned for politicians.
The token of car grants offered to MCAs means we are bound to increase traffic on Kenyan roads by more than 2,000 cars instead of decreasing to decongest them. The grants, which coincide with the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) campaigns, has justifiably drawn some criticism.
The timing is immoral: The funds used as allowances for MCAs and car grants should have gone to key workers such as doctors and nurses and offsetting the national debt and the cost of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BBI train seems to have left the station; it seems there is nothing stopping the tokenism either. Calling it bribery does not do it justice. Passing the BBI in the counties was, therefore, anything but democratic. The BBI proponents having gone all out to butter up MCAs to vote for BBI. We need to ask ourselves whether State-funded cars should even be part of political campaigns.
Two things have come out as we legitimised early campaigns for 2022. First, politicians are campaigning on state resources and, secondly, during official working hours. They have been on the road since the last election looking for votes. They have gathered in Karen, Kajiado, Sagana, at funerals and marketplaces in convoys of cars, helicopters and police outriders, at taxpayers’ expense, on personal business.
Political campaigns, whether early or not, are personal businesses to the politicians and should, therefore, be conducted on personal finances and vehicles and outside official hours. If an ordinary government employee did as much as walk out of the workplace with a paper clip, he or she would face the music. But we dare not question the wanton abuse of state resources and official hours by ‘leaders’.
Sweden, a country much wealthier than Kenya, does not offer its politicians the lofty perks our politicians, who lead one of the poorest countries, enjoy. Neither do the Swedes have official cars or secretaries; they are expected to use public transport like everyone else. Their lives are not expected to be different from those of the citizens that they serve. Public service is at the heart of what they go into politics for.
Dripping in wealth
The lavish lifestyle of Kenyan politicians shocked even a South African MP, Nqabayomzi Lawrence, when he visited Kenya and saw his affluent local counterparts dripping in wealth. South Africa is Africa’s largest economy, but has not seen it fit to offer MPs unrealistic remuneration like us.
The transport networks we are building will be used by politicians alone if we do not rein in the unjustifiable perks that we keep offering them despite their performance having no value for money.
Our politicians have monopolised the national cake and believe every resource in the country is theirs for the taking. The truth is, the benefits accruing in the country should go to all the citizens equally, to put everyone on an even keel.
Poverty amid the general population was high even before the pandemic hit and is bound to get worse. Prevalent inequality and insecurity point to the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.
A woman in Taita-Taveta became one of the victims of politicians’ monopoly of the national cake recently when she died while waiting for an ambulance for three days! Her MCA is, in the meantime, waiting for a new car to roll off a conveyor belt.
How many counties are in desperate need for ambulances, and even hospitals, as we misdirect resources to politicians to influence political outcomes?
One thing we need to do is transform our politics. We cannot use the same old draconian tactics of marginalising the citizens and expect different results. Politics of threats, bribes, tribalism and intimidation contribute indirectly to inequality in our society. Politicians and other citizens should be voting of their free will for individuals, policies and agenda for the country. Most importantly, public service ethos should be at the heart of governance, something that is glaringly absent, looking at our self-centred politics.
A country that keeps crying about being highly indebted needs to reflect on how it manages its revenues, hence the need to review and reflect on the use of state resources in political campaigns. Billions of shillings in taxpayers’ money is lost pampering politicians and a lot more for their personal political campaigns.
With the massive waste of public funds during political campaigns, how do we justify going bowl-in-hand begging for loans?