‘Handshake’ cannot be yardstick for everything

Watching news on television can be exasperating. There are times when you watch and listen to some Communication Experts and Specialists and realise they actually need basic lessons in communication. Other times you listen to Security Experts and Specialists peddle such pedestrian arguments, you get convinced a village yokel could give a better analysis.

Early this week, for instance, there was discourse on whether licensing security guards to carry light arms was judicious. This was informed by the recent terrorist attack on the dusitD2 hotel in Nairobi. While two of the three security experts on a televised debate gave their objective views, the other expert was caustic.  In regard to security guards (read watchmen), he had this to say: ‘They are warm bodies in uniform, only slightly better than the dead’. Insolence, arrogance, do not come worse than that, yet these are some of the bright sparks the nation relies on for enlightening information.

Then in come Political Analysts and Specialists and your agony is compounded. Don’t get me wrong, I have benefitted a lot from the brilliance of individuals who belong to all the specialist categories, but as the saying goes; ‘one rotten egg spoils the pudding’. Just like there once was fascination with pyramid schemes and quail eggs, there is fascination with the ‘consultant’ ‘specialist’ and ‘expert’ tags.

That said, a few political consultants have taken an adverse view to Jubilee’s position on the upcoming Embakasi South and Ugenya constituencies by-elections. Wins by hitherto Members of Parliament for the two constituencies were nullified by the Supreme Court recently.

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My point of departure with those opposing Jubilee’s decision not to field candidates in the two constituencies is the attempt by some to make the March 9, 2018 ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga the reference point for everything they undertake.

Party euphoria

It is not the first time in Kenya that a political party has chosen not to field a candidate in a political contest, for it is not the mere act of fielding a candidate that counts. From where I sit, the growing tendency to juxtapose and view everything in the context of the handshake is parochial and subjective.

The quality of leaders this country has produced over time has been a subject of debate. Too often, Kenyans overwhelmingly voted for handicapped individuals; urged on and buoyed by party euphoria. In the past, and even now, unpopular candidates; opportunists with deep pockets, have bought party tickets and went on to win because the ‘correct’ party propelled them to positions of leadership for which they were completely unprepared and unsuitable.

In such cases, voters elected a party, not the individual, then rued their decision. There is no law that compels Jubilee, or any other party to participate in an election or by-election if, on its scale of probabilities, the return is nil. Individuals cannot force a party to participate in an activity it is not interested in, especially when such individuals merely want to use the party as a means to an end.

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To forgo

It is not political parties that offer service to the people, rather, elected individuals do. Any candidate who had wished to participate in the coming by-elections on a Jubilee ticket; those who believe in themselves, should not feel constrained by the party’s decision to forgo the by-elections.

They can go on as independent candidates, sell their ideologies to the electorate and proceed to win. Alternatively, they can join any of the myriad dormant parties out there and prove their worth.

While the handshake has been critical to diminishing political tension, melting the wax on the political wings of others, loosening the stranglehold an obscure memorandum of understanding had on President Uhuru Kenyatta; giving the economy and the tourism sector a breather, it would be fallacious to aver it has dismantled our cherished tribal enclaves called ‘party strongholds’. No, we have not travelled far on the road to national healing to forget where we were barely a year ago.

Indeed, with agitation, threats and incitement by pretenders to leadership that unless certain demands to which ordinary Kenyans were not party to are met there will be trouble, the chances that virulent tribalism could rear its ugly head again lurks just below the surface. 

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Kenyans cannot afford to use the handshake as a yardstick for everything. They cannot afford to escape reality by hiding behind the handshake to try and push hidden agendas.

In any case, the handshake is not even clearly defined. Why lay too much stock in something that is so fuzzy? How sure are we that the handshake was even about us, not just them and a protectionist mentality?

I will believe in the handshake’s efficacy when the police become humane, when youth get jobs based on competency and qualifications, not who they know; when putting food on the table won’t be so daunting and the cost of healthcare such a nightmare. 

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

uhuru-raila handshakePresident UhuruRaila