Let 2022 contestants campaign

Deputy President William Ruto receives a bunch of bananas from his supporters during an event at Sironga grounds in West Mugirango,  Nyamira County.

Photo credit: Rebecca Nduku | DPPS

What you need to know:

  • Ours is a country where a contestant for the presidency must win or lose everything simply because the Constitution says he or she is a stranger in Parliament.

Beyond his constituency and part of the greater Mt Kenya region, Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni is fairly unknown. Indeed, his claim to fame rests on two achievements: He was one of a handful of politicians who obstinately clung on to former President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity when most other political outfits decided to join the winning party, The National Alliance, in 2012, which morphed into Jubilee Party with significant help from Mr William Ruto’s United Republican Party.

Mr Kioni was to get some brief national fame when, in 2013, he was picked by presidential contender Musalia Mudavadi as his running mate, but even then, he remained unknown nationally, first because their campaign did not go very far, and also because Ndaragwa is a peripheral area in Nyandarua County, dwarfed by the better known Kipipiri and Kinangop constituencies. Also, it does not seem to be in Mr Kioni’s nature to make political waves through noise like many of his peers.

Now, the man who chairs the all-important Constitution Implementation and Oversight Committee has come up with an idea, which will, if implemented, salvage the careers of many who lose during presidential elections and are subsequently consigned to political limbo where they mightily struggle to remain relevant and often fail to re-invent themselves. According to Mr Kioni, one of the problems that make our brand of politics a do-or-die affair is its sheer waste of opportunity.

Budding statesmen

Too many budding statesmen and women fail to make a mark simply because they are denied a chance to have their voices heard where it really matters. Since there can only be one president at a time, this becomes rather awkward.

Ours is a country where a contestant for the presidency must win or lose everything simply because the Constitution says he or she is a stranger in Parliament.

Now Mr Kioni wants the law amended to allow political parties to nominate their leaders to that House. The section in law that allocates nominated seats proportionate to the number won by a party reads fine, but for some obscure reason, the lists of nominees have so far excluded the party leadership.

Of course, such formations must be parliamentary parties – those allowed to nominate legislators according to their numbers in Parliament – which, obviously, means that briefcase outfits stand no chance of enjoying such a privilege. Some people merely form parties with the express aim of using them to bargain for inclusion in government.

This idea of nominating presidential candidates to Parliament after they lose is not new. Many commentators have decried the winner-take-all format in which those who don’t make it are denied any formal platform to articulate their views, thus forcing them to use unorthodox means like street demonstrations.

It is ridiculous to subject losers to anomalies like being allowed to nominate their side-kicks, leaving themselves out of the equation.

Can you imagine how different the affairs of this country would have been in the past decade if, for instance, Raila Odinga had been allowed to sit in the National Assembly as Leader of the Opposition or in the Senate as Minority Leader?

Others who fell by the wayside include Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi. There’s no doubt these would have made Parliament a lively institution where weighty national issues were thrashed out and the government kept in check.

Now, these men and others on the losing side may have a chance to sit in those hallowed chambers if the Bill by Mr Kioni goes through. But instead of allowing as many credible people to fight for the presidency, it appears the political and judicial establishments are fighting hard to place as many hurdles as possible against them.

Political gatherings

A case in point is the recent ban on political gatherings, which not only affected the intended target, but others too who have declared interest in the presidency in 2022.

There was no point, for instance, in stopping Governor Alfred Mutua holding a peaceful interaction with a group of people in Nyeri this week. He seems to be onto something – an innovative method of selling his ideas to small groups of voters, and he should be encouraged. It certainly beats the use of huge cash donations to buy allegiance during countrywide campaigns camouflaged as harambees.

Even more frustrating is the court ruling that governors who aspire to run for the presidency must resign from office six months before the next election. This may be the law, but it does not stop being unfair for that reason alone. Why should Wycliffe Oparanya, Mwangi wa Iria, Hassan Joho, Dr Mutua and MCAs resign when their jobs have little to do with their ultimate goal?

We always understood that the people to quit ahead of time should be civil servants, parastatal heads and journalists. The governors affected must now await court interpretation with bated breath.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; andrewngwiri@gmail.com