Once upon a time, Members of Parliaments were the ‘kings’ in constituencies, the only ‘waheshimiwa’ in town and the ultimate authority before the ordinary man at the grassroots. The MP drove big cars, had a couple of armed bodyguards and had the final say on matters of government in their territories.
In latter years, they created the Constituency Development Fund, that gave them power to dish out favours to their supporters and determine development paradigms.
The new Constitution changed all that overnight. The MPs were no longer the only ‘honourable’ in the villages. Some folks called MCAs who roam the villages routinely and were increasingly being heard in the county shared it.
MCAs learnt from their peers and called themselves ‘waheshemiwa’ and even went ahead to create Ward Development Fund so as not to be outdone. If MPs strangle Cabinet Secretaries to exact a price, they did the same to the County Executive Officers too.
But that was not the only problem our dear MPs faced at home. There were new sheriffs in town called governors, who made them look like kindergarten kids. These folks forked out the title of ‘His Excellency’ early in their term, complete with the trappings of big power hitherto reserved for the prezzo.
They had executive motorcade even in the villages, complete with blaring sirens and flags. They built ‘palaces’ in no time and ran huge offices, with a retinue of advisors and a full-time cabinet to boot.
Unlike the paltry CDF that focused on small development projects, governors had billions to spend. They flashed money conspicuously at will, and lived large. They initiated large projects, recruited hundreds of employees and ran roughshod on the hitherto powerful MPs.
Governors made it known that they were a different class and were determined to let all and sundry know. In public meetings, they occupied the high table, complete with a ‘presidential’ seat and podium.
They gave out dazzling favours to the MCAs and friends alike. This week, it was the MPs’ chance to turn the tables on the sheriffs and have the last laugh. They passed a law that sets a new pecking order, placing the governor and the MP at the same level. It strips the governors of the powers to use ‘His Excellency’ title and equally bans their use of sirens and flags. The MCAs, too, can no longer use the waheshemiwa title. Both risk Sh2 million fine if the President signs the Bill into law. The governors are a litigious lot and are unlikely to take it lying down.
The MPs, too, had a pretty rude shock this week when the High Court declared their CDF kitty unconstitutional, and ruled that the funds should go to the county governments. For the governors, it was poetic justice.
The MPs may have taken away their symbol of power but they have also been left without the resources they usually hold dear to their hearts. It leaves them ‘poorer’ than the MCAs and makes their pecking order parity with governors untenable.
Unlike their senator colleagues, the MPs, too, are a litigious lot and unlikely to throw in the towel.
The immense powers and resources of the governors have eclipsed the MPs in the villages but will likely motivate the legislators to fight for their space. The battle of perks and pecking orders has just begun!