Kenya suffers when rejects occupy public office

Friday, March 24th, 2023 02:50 | By
Kenyans queue to cast their votes at the Moi Avenue Primary School in Nairobi in the 2017 election. The winner of presidential election is likely to be determined by voter turnout. PD/file

After the Kofi Annan-led mediation, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in April 2008 gathered at Sagana to share power.

They had been forced into an arrangement demanding them to nominate an equal number of Cabinet ministers for a unity government after the 2007/8 post-election violence.

The wounds were still raw, suspicion among communities and politicians palpable. Given the chaos that affected Rift Valley, William Ruto became one of the most resented politicians.

The same voters would, five years later, troop to the polls to vote for him as deputy president. He became a beneficiary of a “protest vote” against Raila Odinga, who was vying for the presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta.

There is an argument that this time round, President Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua were beneficiaries of a revolt against their boss, the then President Uhuru Kenyatta, by the Mt Kenya voters. Again, Raila was the common denominator in both the 2013 and 2022 elections.

It is unfortunate that Kenya has a system of government that entrusts decision making with politicians. Take the case of management of parastatals, leadership of wards and composition of university councils.

What explains a situation where the President appoints political rejects to the boards of sensitive State corporations supposed to produce public goods?

Why should someone with a low level of education sit on the board of an agency that deals with complex matters such as security, maritime trade, space science, ICT or climate change?

It is sad that parastatal boards and even university councils have become dumping grounds for individuals whose leadership skills have been questioned by their peers.

Worse still, Gazette notices for such appointments are released in darkness to escape scrutiny.

At the grassroots level, ill-equipped candidates are elected to county assemblies to legislate on complex matters, such as domestication of global responses to the adverse effects of climate change.  Instead of rising to the challenge, they import cronyism and clannism to the vetting of professionals nominated by governors to serve as ministers.  As a result, competent nominees are rejected or impeached on considerations alien to merit.

Similarly, little attention goes to the selection of county public service boards, the human resource engines of devolved units which are routinely staffed with governors’ cronies.

Such boards are responsible for the ghost workers behind the mindboggling wage bills that are suffocating county governments.

There is a nexus between political choices, decision making and business growth - or mortality.

Some corporations collapsed because of the political choices of the Nyayo administration while Mwai Kibaki won accolades in some circles for inspiring policies that liberalised the financial markets and enabled millions of Kenyans to access credit and create wealth during his tenure as president.

 That is why we should be alarmed by the large number of political rejects being deployed to parastatal boards. 

Though not talented in the spaces they find themselves, the law arms them with powers to make decisions with far-reaching ramifications on the state bodies they supervise, including appointment of chief executives.

One other problem is that our governance structure allows too much government in our lives with fading layers of accountability.

A lot of decision-making is placed in the hands of politicians - from the cattle dip chairman, farmers’ sacco leader, all the way to the national level despite our eternally primordial considerations on choice of leadership.

Now that we have entrusted our lives and future in the hands of politicians, we must choose the most suited for the jobs we assign them.  We must shun such emotions as the “protest vote.”

—The writer is the political Editor, People Daily  —[email protected]

More on Opinion