A light touch: How efforts to seek public opinion on county shutdown flopped
It is common knowledge that my popularity levels are sky high. In fact, I am the object of envy among the leaders in my county and even beyond. This explains the shameless act over the weekend by my green-eyed rivals.
In the spirit of involving the public in all major decisions, I saw the need for a public participation forum to seek the people’s opinion on whether we should shut down the county assembly. We MCAs are restless over the low salaries, and being denied the Ward Development. We are thinking of paralysing operations in all the county assemblies in protest. But I thought of the people who elected us. Would they be happy if we made such a move? The only way of knowing this was through a public participation event.
I consulted with my sidekick Mokonyonyo aka Moks, on the logistics of organising the function. As expected, he did not see any problem with that. “That’s simple. Let’s hire a school hall,” he suggested.
“No, I am thinking big,” I enthused. “I don’t want it to be simply a ward affair. I want to involve people from all over our county.”
Moks gave me a tame-your-ambition look, but this did not stop me from asking him to hire the largest hall in the county.
“I am sure not everyone will turn up, but I want it to go on record that I organised a public participation forum for the whole county,” I said, my level of confidence now a notch higher. I ordered Moks to go ahead organise for the major event last Saturday.
The largest hall in our county was teeming with humanity by the time I arrived there. Kwani everybody came? I asked Moks, who looked equally puzzled.
“Mhesh, si you are the one who says the more the better? Remember, these are potential voters, Bwana.” I held my peace.
I called the meeting to order and informed them of the main agenda: to seek their opinion on whether we should shut down the county assembly or not. “This is your day, mine is just to listen and take notes,” I declared and then passed the microphone to Moks to run the show.
“Bwana MCA, thank you for organising such a forum. But where are your fellow MCAs?” asked a man with a familiar face. Well, I had not bothered to specifically invite them. As far as I was concerned, the event was publicly announced, and those ward reps are part of the public, alaaar! These words almost escaped my mouth, but Moks spoke before I could.
“It is your views we are seeking. So the presence of other MCAs is not necessary,” he said with impressive coolness. The familiar face looked satisfied with the answer.
“How much money do you MCAs earn in salaries and allowances?” Just tell us the total.” he glared at me.
“That is a good question. Answer it!” someone shouted. I was tongue-tied for I had not seen this coming. Thankfully, my sidekick looked at the heckler straight in the eye and told him I was not here to answer any questions. Mine was just to listen.
A lady took the mic. “I suggest that the MCAs shut down the assemblies from next week, then we use the savings as ward development funds.”
“Which savings?” I found myself asking.
“Of course when you shut down the assemblies, you won’t get paid! So it is your forfeited salaries we will use to develop our wards,” he said without batting an eyelid. I had never heard a more ridiculous idea, but surprisingly, her contribution was met with murmurs of approval.
I listened in agony as speaker after speaker lambasted us for being selfish and greedy. At one moment, I wondered whether I had made a wise decision to organise this forum.
If I thought the lady’s idea about our forfeited pay was outrageous, I was in for a shocker. One man, who introduced himself as ‘Maskini Jeuri’ was most absurd. Listen to him: “Bwana MCA, let us be real. We are here thirsty and hungry yet you are sitting on our money.”
“Which money?” I asked.
“Don’t joke with us,” said the man, wagging a finger at me. “We know this forum has been sponsored by an international organisation. You were given the money,” roared the verbal assailant.
There arose loud murmurs which graduated to chaos. Some people began moving menacingly towards me. It took the skill and effort of Moks to evacuate me from the scene. Obviously, I can see the hands of my political rivals in all this. Let them know bado mapambano.