Instances where besieged institutions issue statements they later disown are gaining currency. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) early this year absolved former Cabinet Secretary for Devolution Anne Waiguru of wrongdoing in the Sh791 million heist at the National Youth Service.
Weeks later, EACC denied having cleared her. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) rejected some signatures the Opposition had acquired to support the Okoa Kenya referendum. Later, IEBC denied it had verified any signatures. These pathetic attempts at damage control won’t wash with the public.
Among the reasons IEBC gave for rejecting nearly half of the 1.6 million signatures submitted by the Opposition for verification was that in place of signatures, there were drawings and incomprehensible annotations.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a signature ‘as a handwritten (often stylised) depiction of someone’s name, nickname, or even a simple ‘X’ or other mark that a person writes on documents as proof of identity’.
If one goes further, a ‘mark’ is described, among other definitions, as ‘a symbol’. Wikipedia describes a symbol as ‘a person or concept that represents, stands for or suggests another idea, visual image, belief, action’ etcetera. If therefore someone chooses the depiction of a cat, cow or mouse as his or her signature, what authority has IEBC to question it?
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Now, if one considers Egyptology, deciphered hieroglyphics have been classified according to individual writers, simply because each of them had a unique drawing, say, of a hawk with a broken wing as their signature. Even on cars, Jaguar’s signature is an image of the feline itself. Peugeot has the king of the jungle as its signature.
That aside, can IEBC honchos stare us in the eye and aver there is a central data bank for specimen signatures from which they derived the authority to declare the discounted Okoa Kenya signatures fake? It is inconceivable that given the seriousness with which the Opposition and civil society approached the Okoa Kenya initiative, they would be so negligent.
Effective November 9, 2015, when the signatures were officially presented to it, IEBC had three months to verify them, but it did not. It is easy to conclude that the pressure and timelines the Opposition exerted on IEBC compelled it to seek an advisory opinion from its benefactor.
The most readily available exit was trashing the signatures. At the very least, the reasoning could have been that there is no provision for their recall hence; IEBC was under no obligation to defend itself on that score. There are pointers that tie the Government, however abstractly, to the final decision IEBC took.
Days before IEBC’s decision became public, nominated MP Johnson Sakaja and leader of majority in Parliament Aden Duale had made it known. We recall that cartons of Okoa Kenya referendum booklets were confiscated by the Nakuru county government at the start of the exercise. Isn’t it likely that some bright sparks could have mooted the idea of using the booklets to corrupt signatures and identification card numbers just to throw a spanner in the works for Cord?
Jubilee had every reason to fear the Okoa Kenya referendum. Nazi supremo Adolf Hitler used guile, including coercion to scuttle a referendum called by Austrian leader Kurt Schuschnigg in 1938 that would have asked Austrians whether they wished to remain part of Germany.
A ‘No’ vote would have messed Hitler’s plans of a military incursion into Austria. In 1964, fearing he would lose crucial votes because BBC was going to air an immensely popular comedy show ‘ Steptoe and Son’ that had a viewership of 26 million fans, most of whom were going to remain indoors on the election day, the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson guilelessly petitioned BBC Director-General Hugh Green to shelve the programme to get people to polling stations. From this, one gathers self-preservation is the name of the game, and you can give it to Jubilee that with the advantage of incumbency, it is trying to build an unassailable position.
A referendum in which the Opposition has the upper hand as was probable with Okoa Kenya is something Jubilee could not countenance; not after bragging the Opposition had to cool its heels until 2032. Deputy President William Ruto is not circumspect in his public utterances regarding 2017. The confidence he exudes tells us he is privy to some information other Kenyans don’t, yet every time I listen to him I recall a movie I once watched of two lions that painstakingly hunted and killed a gnu, unaware of a pack of hyenas stalking them. The hyenas crowded them, dismembered the carcass and ran away with the kill while the lions were preoccupied with snarling and trying to scare them away; the phenomenal tyranny of numbers had won.