One-man-one-shilling debate rages as Mt Kenya wants BBI goodies

Youth display a placard to show support for BBI

Youth display a placard to show support for BBI at Ndathi village in Nyeri County where President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the last mile power project on February 1, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“I was among the first ones who raised this debate immediately after Kenya Kwanza Alliance was sworn in but I received several frowns from some quarters and was accused of speaking too soon. We in Mount Kenya have been made to accept that our bursary allocations should be Sh1,000 per child while others are getting Sh50,000 per head,” said Ms Wamuchomba on Friday in an interview on Inooro TV.

“But regardless, take this as my guarantee that we must have the two principles enacted into law by the President Ruto administration”.

Going by the stance taken by Mount Kenya legislators, the one-man-one-shilling debate is likely to become a defining political subject.

It is expected to shine a spotlight on Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa and House Budget chairman Ndindi Nyoro as well as the Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru, as the senior Mount Kenya leaders, to make it real.

They have so far remained guarded on the debate.

The one-man-one-shilling principle was a linchpin of the failed Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment attempt that was fronted by the Jubilee administration.

Speaking on April 9 during the homecoming party of Juja MP George Koimburi, at Toll Primary School, Kenya Kwanza elected legislators in attendance said it was high time the national resource allocation formula was revised.

“We are the ones who have the highest population accounting for 39 percent as per the census register…The National Treasury, Commission on Revenue Allocation and the Controller of Budget should stand warned that we will no longer accept baseline math in resource allocation. It is one-man-one-shilling or nothing,” said Mr Koimburi.

The leaders say the Mount Kenya region generates the highest share of tax revenue owing to its huge population and enterprise but gets a raw deal when it comes to accessing funding for development projects and services.

Ruiru MP Simon King’ara recalled a recent incident where a male parent died in a stampede over bursary allocation.

“They gave me Sh40 million for the bursary to share it out to 70,000 parents to mean a Sh571 per parent… In my bursary allocation functions, people queue for two consecutive days and it is a real headache to determine who gets and who misses. In some parts of the country, it is the MP who goes searching for pupils to award bursaries and scholarships,” he said.

Gatundu North MP Elijah Kururia said Mount Kenya counties on average have 200,000 pupils in need of bursary, while some other regions have on average 5,000 pupils, yet bursary allocation is uniform for all MPs, punishing the numerical strength.

“In this, I support you completely and you should have no other considerations… Start the agitation and move with speed. Even if it is today go into that Parliament and commence dealing by first amending the percentage quota that the National Government-Constituency Development Fund Act reserves for the bursary as we tackle the bigger problem of entrenching it into the national laws,” said Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria at the Juja MP’s homecoming party.

Musician Ben Githae, who campaigned for the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party last year, told the Sunday Nation that he was happy the Mount Kenya leaders “are slowly coming back to our senses.”

“The collapse of BBI stressed my friend the retired President (Uhuru) Kenyatta a great deal knowing too well the best it contained for us as a community,” said Mr Githae.

Opportune moment

“It is now the most opportune moment to know how President Ruto values Mount Kenya and also how those who succeeded getting into government because Mount Kenya worked hard to make it a success want to relate with area voters ahead of 2027.”

Jubilee Party secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni said the revival of the debate means Mount Kenya voters have started to appreciate what the BBI would have meant for them.

“This is not about where one belongs and what we individually or collectively deem a political stand…this is about our people and if there was that one time we were supposed to remain vigilant and conscious, it is now. What we were incited to refuse when it came packaged in the Building Bridges Initiative has now dawned on many that retired President Uhuru Kenyatta had a point,” said Mr Kioni.

Mount Kenya region is politically deemed to include Nakuru, parts of the Nairobi metropolis, Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Meru, Laikipia and Tharaka Nithi.

All are heavily populated and united in demanding equalisation both in resource allocation and representation.

Critical pillars 

Kirinyaga County Jubilee chairman Muriithi Kang’ara told the Sunday Nation that “it is not about whether we should have the one-man one-shilling one vote effected... rather, it is about why it was not implemented yesterday and why not start it today. It is that serious and for that, I will share a table with the devil to push it through.”

When the BBI debate was raging in 2021 and 2022 before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, then Mathira MP and now DP Gachagua said: “We do not require a referendum to realise resources and representational equity, rather, it is something that we can effect through tinkering with laws in Parliament.”

His position was supported by both Mr Nyoro and Mr Ichung’wa; who were then critical pillars supporting Dr Ruto’s presidential campaigns in the Mt Kenya region and, by extension, led the region to reject BBI.

“The shoe is now on their feet… and the very way it hurt Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga through their direct onslaught…it is upon them now to brace for the hurt since all in their region have ganged up to demand that it be enacted…that the region gets value for the 47 percent votes that formed the government and the 84 percent of total votes cast in its favour in Mt Kenya region,” said political analyst Ngugi Njoroge.

Prof Njoroge warned that “it was noted in 2022 that Dr Ruto was not enthusiastic about the debate when it raged and for nine sittings at the Senate, no consensus was arrived at regarding how to ensure people got resources as per their numbers and constituencies as per standardised, registered voters”.

Prof Njoroge noted that “some of the opposition came from allies of the President and who now are part of the inner circle of his administration, making the current agitation in Mount Kenya a threat to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance cohesion”.

He warned that Azimio politicians in the Mount Kenya region would be too happy to support the debate “since it affords them an opportunity to politically harass President Ruto and also endear themselves to the voters who gave them 16 per cent of cast votes in the August 9 General Election”.

Kiambu governor Kimani Wamatangi said: “I do not know why people are reading any intrigues about this debate when it is simply an entrenchment of the bottom-up economic model that is in the soul of this administration”.

“It will come to be since it is the most practical thing to do so that we can equalise access to opportunities across the country.”

Laikipia East MP and The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri said: “It does not matter who is opposed to this principle but we must push it through now”.

He said it is a matter that is causing jitters in the ruling alliance “to a point where some legislators have been silenced from agitating for it but we must relaunch this debate and make it stronger than ever before since it is our only hope of getting things right”.

Mr Kiunjuri claims six elected leaders from the region have been cautioned against raising the debate about on-person one-shilling and one-person-one-vote principles of governance due to its fractious nature.

Pius Kinuthia, who vied for Murang’a Senatorial seat on Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket, said: “Let us forget that we missed the point when it was brought to us by the Handshake brothers…We should not dwell on how we squandered our chances of winning the formula to apply and we would not be complaining today. We must salvage that moment”.

Mr Kinuthia said: “We are living in a situation where for instance, 18,000 voters in a certain constituency are allocated a similar amount of National Government Constituency Development Fund with another in Mount Kenya that has over 150,000 voters”.

He said the two MPs in those constituencies are deemed to have one vote in Parliament that carries equal weight “which is outright unfair and no longer tenable”.

Gatundu North MP Elijah Kururia said: “It is absurd for Mount Kenya pupils to be fighting to get Sh2,000 from the bursary kitty while others are getting enough allocation to send their children overseas for higher education.”

Mr Kururia added that “it does not matter that I am an independent Member in Parliament but this is one debate I am passionate about and it must simply sail through”.

Political alignments

Kigumo-based politician allied to Azimio, Zack Kinuthia, said “It is now do-or-die for our people as we discard our political alignments to gang up and demand from President Ruto resource and representation justice”.

He said during his tenure as Chief Administrative Secretary in the ministries of Education and Sports “I came across raw disparities where Mount Kenya region would get allocations that could hardly make a difference while some of the other regions could afford to assign all of their population’s salaries from the devolved funds”.

Mr Kinuthia added there are situations “when a pupil is allocated Sh50,000 when the education bill is less than Sh6,000, and we never heard of those constituency MPs surrendering balances to the exchequer, it raises serious questions about how fair and honest we have been about these kitties”.

Prof Njoroge, the political analyst, warned that “this is bound to bring about fireworks as President Ruto eyes a second term in 2027, knowing too well irking Mount Kenya is suicidal”.

He added: “In the same breath, there are many constituencies that will have resources reduced and constituencies lost and this will not be taken lightly and will be opposed hence presenting President Ruto with a problem too major to risk with,”