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OWILLA: We need to frame BBI conversation lest we’re misled

By HESBON OWILLA
Friday, October 30th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) with ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) and BBI taskforce vice chair Adams Oloo during the handing over of the report at the Kisii State Lodge. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA
In summary

Sometimes it is important to be selfish as citizens and look at the dialectics of political contests from a point of what is in it for us.

Students of political communication know that sometimes selfish politicians look at issues to allocate and distribute resources from a fairly self-aggrandising point of view.

They frame the discussion of issues in a way that public discussion of those issues strengthens their political position.

In fact, Senator Samuel Poghisio was spot on when he talked of selective perception. One key issue that has been contested and is likely to assume an interpretation that will mislead Kenyans is the issue of the presidency and the power.

But Kenyans need to be selfish and ask what is in this BBI for us before the conversation is tilted to favour a discussion that will benefit the political class.

You see, an imperial or an all powerful president is an autocratic or totalitarian leader who enjoys monopoly of power and has the ultimate authority in the allocation and distribution of resources.

In fact, power today is about resources and maybe from a post Marxist perspective, information. Therefore, the imperial presidency narrative needs to be situated within the current realities of resources and information.

BBI is proposing a constitutional increase from 15 percent to 35 per cent allocation to the counties. How would a president be more powerful if more resources are going to the counties?

Let us put this in figures. Based on the 2019/2020 KRA revenue collection, there will be an increase of Sh192.45 billion going to our counties.

This translates to roughly four billion more to each county. Four billion is massive and with robust development agenda in our counties and efficient fiscal management like in Governor Wycliffe Oparanya’s Kakamega, socio-economic developments at the county level will be massive.

In fact, a critical reading of the BBI report speaks, not of an empowered presidency, but an empowered citizenry and the centre of power that will be less contested because resources are devolved.

Dambisa Moyo’s seminal book, Dead Aid, aptly captures how resource concentration, mostly donor aid, in the hands of top African leaders during the one party rule made the contest for power fierce and sometimes violent.

The devolution of more resources should therefore be looked at as a factor in dealing with divisive elections. In fact, the increase in resources to the counties coupled with the power structure.

It should not be lost on us that the president will not be appointing the PM from out of the blues, but from a Kenyan who will have immense popular mandate at two levels: the votes from the people and support from MPs as representative of the people.

In fact, to frame the issue with the current political arrangement of majority leader, who comes from the same party as the president as the PM is to miss the point.

With a powerful well-resourced office of opposition leader who also have popular mandate from the people as the runners-up in the presidential election parliament will be well poised to provide robust oversight.

Data shows that in the three years before the election, the year of the election and after; the losses occasioned by election related violence cost us 3% of the GDP. Currently our GDP is at $95503.09 million and the 3% loss translates to about Sh2.8 trillion for the each of three years.

You see, looking at what is in it for us means looking at loss of lives during these violent election times, the 2.8 trillion hit on our GDP vis a vis the cost of three additional leaders in our executive who technically come at zero cost.

Now if the entire framework takes a pre or post-election handshake and coalition building, three things for us are clear: we will not have violence; there will be no loss of life and the structure of governance will be a lot more inclusive. Let us shape the narrative.

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