Kenya: Let Raila Sell Bbi in Mt Kenya

One of my favourite expressions in social media last year was “Hii Kenya yetu sihami” (loosely translated as ‘I am never migrating from this our Kenya’) after every uproariously ridiculous happenstance on social or political fronts, which is an expression of disbelief and a fatalistic acceptance of our collective folly.

A good example is the obsession with matters football so long as the teams involved are domiciled in a relatively small island kingdom known as Great Britain.

At certain seasons of the year, football lovers in Kenya become extremely animated about the English Premier League and the FA Cup.

I am no ardent football fan, but though I do enjoy a game or two, I can’t really understand the excitement about English teams. They are not the best in Europe or even in the rest of the world, yet Kenyans too frequently hate on each other when “their team” loses.

If Manchester United is beaten by Arsenal or Chelsea does a number on Liverpool, it should have no effect whatsoever on the fortunes of a poor Kenyan watching a game in a dingy club, but gruesome murders have occurred in those places after heated arguments.

Baffling regularity

The only people who should go berserk are the heavy bettors when their favourite teams are beaten, but that is not what happens.

Usually, when they lose their life savings, they quietly sneak a rope and slink off to a secluded tree where they end all their problems once and for all.

There is no attempt here to be frivolous, but the same thing seems to happen in our politics with baffling regularity. Why would anyone want to harm his neighbour for the sake of politicians who do not even know he exists except as a statistic during election years?

Why, indeed, should ethnic communities rise against each other because they want one of their own to become president as happened 13 years ago?

Right now, in the midst of a pandemic that should be occupying our leaders, there is so much turmoil on the political front it boggles the mind. Indeed, even as children are learning under trees because there is not enough space in classrooms for social distancing, we are besotted with next year’s elections and pay scant attention to the fact that we are so deep in debt nobody should be thinking about political firefights.

The other day, after a win in a remote constituency, there was so much rejoicing among some people that a visitor to this country would have thought a presidential inauguration was in the offing.

A wise man once coined a phrase about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread, and because I fear to be included among fools, I have refrained from commenting on the issue that seems to be consuming Kenyans the most at the moment -the Building Bridges Initiative.

Political waters

When the BBI was conceived after the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, it was a good thing, for it calmed the boiling political waters.

But some people took great exception to the high price it exacted – a referendum which they interpreted to be a naked attempt to thwart their ambitions. Two years down the line, this interpretation has not changed and instead of becoming a symbol of unity, the BBI has become an object of contention.

Today, the country is torn into two – those who support the BBI and those who don’t, with the presidency as the prize. In the middle are poor Kenyans who are only taking sides because they have been convinced through propaganda that the BBI is good or bad. In my view, many of the recommendations in the BBI are inspired, but only those meant to serve the people.

For instance, not too many people quarrel with the idea of having a prime minister and two deputies in addition to the president and a deputy, for on that count, many countries have sought ways to accommodate leaders of as many communities as possible in the Executive to ensure some form of inclusivity.

However, the idea of expanding legislative representation to a level that even the developed economies can’t afford seems rather strange.

There are a couple of other sticking points that should have been thrashed out earlier through more consultations, but as many BBI opponents claim, there were few attempts to persuade them of its good points.

This is probably what the current reigning BBI bogeyman, Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata, was referring to when he sent a letter to the President warning that it may be rejected by Central Kenya voters during the referendum.

However, the real culprit was not the senator or his message but our primitive brand of politics. What many Central Kenya voters have long been socialised to reject is the BBI champion, Mr Odinga, and not change per se. Perhaps, in the remaining time, he should strive to sell the message in the region personally instead of relying on the President to do it.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor;


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