Patriotic or not? Senators who went against the grain

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.

A new crop of bold leaders is emerging out of the Senate, giving it a new lease following the bloody purge by the political parties.

If the displayed vigour during the debate on the proposed formula for counties allocation is sustained, the younger legislators could be up to something.

The senators’ bravado was on full show on Tuesday when they conspired and meticulously executed the spectacular defeat of a government sponsored motion on revenue sharing.

The motion was no ordinary one as it affects the 47 million Kenyans and had the blessings of their all powerful party leaders - President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka.

Special bond

The defeat of the motion paints a picture of young leaders out to carve a different political orbit and move from the shadows of their bosses.

It is not clear though if they are playing to the gallery to win the hearts of voters as they eye their governor seats, or looking for cheap political stardom.

Their political machismo is reminiscent of the seven bearded sisters who kept the Government on toes at the apex of their political careers in the 1970 and 1980s.

The seven then MPs included Abuya Abuya (Kitutu East), Onyango Midika (Nyando), Mwashengu wa Mwachofi (Wundanyi), James Orengo, Lawrence Sifuna (Bumula), Chibule wa Tsuma (Kaloleni) and Koigi wa Wamwere (Nakuru North). Others closely associated with the seven were George Anyona, Chelagat Mutai and Wasike Ndobi.

The name was coined in 1981 by the then Attorney General Charles Njonjo, who derived from the 1975 book The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World they Shaped by Anthony Sampson.

The book was about how seven of the biggest oil companies in the world conspired to overthrow governments. Njonjo used the word ‘bearded’ to draw a comparison with the MPs.

Now, seven senators have formed a special bond which may define their political future should they survive the wrath of their party supremos.

The seven - Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Ledama Ole Kina (Narok), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Anwar Oloititip (Lamu), Boniface Kabaka (Machakos) Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) - opposed the committee’s report despite their counties being standing to gain from the formula.

With their agility, and supported by experienced hands like Kisii’s Sam Ongeri, the senators have thrown all caution to the wind and risk the wrath of their superiors by going against the grain.

The fruit of their rebellion is still to bear, but some of them risk losing their plum Senate positions for singing a different hymn with a strange tune from that of their political masters.

And they are still breathing fire, daring their party leaders to bring it on as they prepare to pick up from where they left on.

“I challenge State House to apply the formula they are pushing in the Senate to distribute the national government budget for the next two years. If they do so, the marginalised areas will start feeling the impact of national government,” a resilient Murkomen told The Sunday Standard.

The Elgeyo Marakwet senator has dared Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata, who has warned that the party will crack the whip on those who were not in support of government business, to go bring it on.

“We now know who supports and who doesn’t support the ‘one man, one shilling, one vote’ idea…very soon, as a party, we will crack the whip,” Kang’ata warned.

Murkomen has an axe to grind with his adversaries having been ousted from his powerful seat of Majority Leader and is keen to take a new role as a lethal backbencher.

He has occasionally brought business in the house to a standstill and numerously chided Speaker Ken Lusaka. This time round, he was joined by one of those who supported his ouster, Nairobi’s Sakaja.

Sakaja’s case is interesting. As a young politician natured by Kenyatta and bestowed the huge function of chairing the TNA party, the Nairobi senator was the choirmaster in the band that led the senators into crucifying the Government’s preferred formula for allocations of funds.

Equitable share

The other cheerleader was Kilonzo Junior, who holds a key position on the senate as Minority Whip. The Makueni senator insists they will do all it takes to ensure the marginalised communities achieve their equitable share of resources.

“We have lined amendments and a motion for next week, we are not about to stop until we see fairness in the formula,” he said. 

Kalonzo, his party leader, had urged Wiper senators to support the formula but to his chagrin, the senator rattled the directive. And then there is Malala, a big beneficiary of the Handshake and who identifies more with ODM than ANC.

“For a united Kenya, we will continue to fight the skewed formula,” said Malala.