On Thursday, Adan Duale was trying to be clever. But if his parliamentary whipping skills were to be graded, he would score a strong D minus. The only reason he does not completely fail with a miserable ‘E’ is because the party position was upheld in the end. The ‘tricks’ Duale proudly claims to have employed in securing a ‘yes’ vote for the President’s memorandum were sloppy and lacked the finesse of an experienced whip. Politics, after all, is about appearance. If you intend to trick us, the public, do it smoothly. If you intend to blindside us, the voters, do it neatly. If you trick us properly, we will be disappointed, and will likely ‘accept and move on’. But if you trick us shoddily, as if we are brainless and gullible, we will be angry and bitter. To us, you are on the same level as the MPesa ‘tuma kwa hii number’ scammers, and ‘my paybill number is on your screen’ pastors.
Because I am not a preacher myself, I will not go down the morality road. I will confine the conversation to method, not intention.
The means, not the end. I concede that the whip is a creature of the political party rather than a beacon of democracy. His/her job includes arm-twisting MPs to follow the party leader on motions. More bluntly, their job is to remind the MPs that they should represent and prioritise the needs of their political party, ahead of those of their constituents. It is what it is.
So, Mr Duale, for future reference - here are two tips on how to put up an improved ‘parliamentary drama’ show next, and trick Kenyans better.
Tip number one: Employ foresight. If you anticipate the mood of the House, you will be proactive in avoiding chaos. Whipping is not limited to the floor of the House, it takes some homework. To avoid embarrassment, do what it takes before the session, to convince, through incentives and threats, both the opposition and wavering party members. If you intend to engineer a yes or no vote in Parliament, be like an army general who wins the war on the strategy table, before he even sets foot on the battlefield. Please trick us with some elegance next time.
Tip number two: Try not to make your party leader look bad. Although you looked extremely proud of yourself on Thursday, you made the President and the party look terrible. In law, it is said that the actions of the agent are the actions of the principal. If you do ‘jua-kali’ things like locking people up in toilets, it is the President who is locking people up in toilets. If you shepherd a crowd of members to Parliament’s lobby, and they stand there watching the proceedings on a screen like idle passersby, you negate democracy in the name of the President. Next time, on the actual day of tricking us, you should be like a duck in a pond, gliding on the surface but furiously paddling under water, or ‘chini ya maji’ as we say.
Duale aside, the Thursday voting exercise exposed flaws in parliamentary procedure, and ways in which technicalities can be brazenly manipulated to serve interests. First, the voting by acclamation procedure is in itself problematic.
Some people are endowed with natural megaphones and their ‘nay’ can represent five people- imagine Miguna Miguna vs Kindiki Kithure in a verbal vote.
Secondly, head counts should be done before the vote, not post-facto. An after-count only opens up room for shambolic results. Lastly, poor Roselinda Soipan Tuiya was clearly used to do the dirty work on behalf of the Speaker. But so long as we are being amoral, kudos to Justin Muturi for heeding the seventh law of the 48 laws of power: “Get others to do the dirty work for you, but always take the credit.”