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The media obsession with mundane politics lousy

By Levi Obonyo
Friday, October 11th, 2019
Media. Photo/Courtesy

On Tuesday night, Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju was a guest at a local TV station.

It is a big deal to host the secretary-general of a ruling party given he sits at the very apex of power and is privy to the policies the government is implementing.

If anybody is keeping stock and ticking the boxes of the platform on which the party campaigned, then it is the SG.

The Jubilee administration is in the middle of implementing the Big Four agenda that focuses on adequate housing, food security, manufacturing and healthcare.

While each pillar of the Big Four may fall under different ministerial dockets, the SG sits at the oversight table with a vantage view of their implementation. 

The role of the media is multi-faceted. It is not for nothing that the media is viewed as occupying the middle space between the government and the people, and, therefore, can ask the State and leaders the hard questions relating to accountability.

The citizens are often occupied with the everyday mundane business of living and trust the Fourth Estate to do sufficient interrogation on their behalf and providing the resultant report.

On Tuesday, in hosting the SG, the TV station went into interrogating the official on what was going on within the ruling party in light of the Kibra by-election.

It is debatable whether the result of elections in Kibra is really a big deal viewed from a national perspective. The seat was previously held by the opposition party.

The number of opposition MPs in Parliament is much less compared to that of MPs allied to the ruling party. So, whether the results of Kibra mini-poll will not change much.

However, it would be a big deal viewed from the perspective of our chest-thumping politics. It would lend itself to multiple interpretations should the Opposition, specifically ODM, loses the seat. But from a national point of view, it probably makes little difference who wins the seat.

As such, the opportunity to host the SG was reduced to the usual humdrum of Kenyan politics as to whether Jubilee party is divided and why some party members were campaigning for the opposition or not. This instead of interrogating the SG on social development.

 Watching the interview left one with a yawn particularly if one was expected to learn something from the encounter.

This is partly the problem with Kenyan media—the inability to rise above obsession with mundane political issues. The interview remained fixated on Kibra alone and the politics of Jubilee in the context of the Kibra contest.

Yet the SG general occasionally provided opportunities for the subject to rising above Kibra. For example, he let it out that the average Kenyan spends an inordinately large part of their income on food, even giving an example of the difference between the price of a bag of maize in Kenya and in Uganda. But the anchor went back to Kibra and Jubilee politics in his follow-up question.

The SG also mentioned that Kenya attracts less foreign direct investment compared to her neighbours.

At the heart of this phenomenon is the five-year cycle of violence around elections. This has a bearing on peoples’ lives. Sadly, the next question was on Kibra campaigns again.

The media continues to play a big role in the Balkanisation of the country and the focus on the mundane.

Today, it is safe to say that Kenya has hardly any national media because even regional editions of daily newspapers are so localised that they hardly paint a national picture.

That assignment is left to TV stations, majority of which are equally obsessed with crime and conflict. Journalists must step back and think again. —The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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