Excuse Sonko, Parliament is a dull, tie-and-die affair

File | NATION
Last week Makadara MP Mike Kioko Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ was ordered out of Parliament for ‘improper dressing,’ occasioning a short but lively debate. Our columnist thinks: “Dress codes instil deadened uniformity and should only be enforced in the disciplined forces and prisons.”

What you need to know:

  • Someone’s dressing has absolutely no bearing on the content of his arguments or his character. Parliament should claw its way into the 21st Century instead of remaining a second-rate debating club for third-rate, middle-aged, affluent golfers to go and while away the afternoons

Politicians must have a very hard job. Sit all day in and about the opulent offices of Government, then have artery-clogging lunches laced with enough fat to moisturise a whale.

After that, chauffeurs whisk away to exotic locales for discussions and workshops that require manual labour. It really is very hard.

But the hard work ends there. In Parliament, you can miss work for consecutive sessions and not get in trouble. They actually pay you for just showing up, and while there are a lot of things you could actually do at your job, there is nothing you must actually do.

Your travel is subsidised, the only qualification is proficiency in English and Kiswahili, and you can say whatever you want at work. They just make you walk out when they don’t like what you say. And, oh, there are no performance contracts.

You can be a blithering fool but still be qualified to conduct business in our Parliament. Conscience is a luxury most cannot afford, and admitting culpability is a currency they do not trade in. This is the one place to prefer abuse to argument, and promote balkanisation while flying the flag as a patriot.

All the while, the electorate is starting to dislike you. Perhaps it is because your greed disgusts, your mendacity appals, your voice invokes convulsions and your utterances invite contempt.

Whoever coined the phrase ‘the government never sleeps’ has never seen a session of the Kenyan Parliament as the budget is read.

The only catch is that when you are within the precincts of Parliament, you must be dressed up like an English Lord from 1930, an arcane manner of dressing increasingly relegated to the upper echelons of the corporate world.

The recent eviction of Mike Kioko Mbuvi Gideon Sonko for ‘improper dressing in Parliament’ shows how out of touch the institution has become.

Sonko has always made statements with his clothing. When he appeared in court concerning a fraud allegation, he cheekily went in a designer shirt from Singer Akon’s clothing line, Konvict. He has always used his clothing to cast the image of an iconoclastic figure who challenges the established order.

I hate suits. The really expensive ones have an air of extreme indulgence, evidence of vanity and a consuming foppishness with fripperies instead of settling down to actually do business at work. Suits are symbols of an old-fashioned elitism.

Clothes maketh the man, hence you are more cloth than man. Fastidious dressing in a man is a sign of misplaced priorities, taking an extreme stand on a subject that isn’t important.

You are not cut from the same cloth as the great men who are known for much more than their sartorial eccentricities. For a man to be known for his dress sense is on par with a model to be known for her robust political opinions.

The sad thing is that some ministers spend more time preening and prancing in their suits than implementing policy.

I haven’t worn a tie since secondary school, but Parliament requires, perhaps as part of its uniform, for one to have a tie round his neck.

Ties are not practical; they don’t have much utilitarian value, aside from perhaps only to hide shirt buttons — as though shirt buttons are offensive. The Mombasa Town Clerk who insisted his workers come to work in those vocational nooses condemns the workers to marinate in the stew of their own sweat.

Because of the heat in Mombasa and the possibility of sweating yourself into dehydration, could we say Mombasa Municipal Council workers are dressed to kill (themselves)?

Ties are tailored appendixes, useless and pointless marks of decorations. I am all for a tie-less dress code. I mean, why knot? For me, few occasions are knot-appropriate: weddings and funerals... and only if they are my own.

For Parliament to enforce a dress code more religiously than it does a code of ethics for members is clearly a case of misplaced priorities. To enforce a buttoned-up, starch-collared, double-cuffed officiousness across all and to all members stifles personal taste and kills individuality. That’s akin to tie-and-die.

To see an institution that represents the diverse interests of a nation being made to look like cut-outs of a Sir Henry mannequin is both unfortunate and worrying.

In the past, even African dress has been disallowed in a curtsy to our former colonial masters, in case they are watching via satellite in Westminster.

Dress codes instill deadened uniformity and should only be enforced in the disciplined forces and prisons. Some member made misogynistic remarks aimed at Sonko, while others made remarks that should be dismissed on account of their advanced age.

Me? I say someone’s dressing has absolutely no bearing on the content of his arguments or his character. Parliament should claw its way into the 21st Century instead of remaining a second-rate debating club for third-rate, middle-aged, affluent golfers to go and while away the afternoons.

Is he colourful enough? Send your comments to [email protected]

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