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Speaker Muturi blew his moment of glory to please legislators

COMMENTARY
By Henry Munene | December 19th 2015

Henrik Ibsen’s play, An Enemy of the People, is for me one of the best political plays. In the masterpiece, Dr Stockman loses his house, his job and even his popularity for standing up to corruption involving a ‘baths’ project in his town, which is headed by his mayor brother, Peter. In a matter of days, there is so much hatred for the man that he is alone in the profoundest sense of the term. And just when you thought the good doctor would beat a hasty about-face to regain his societal acceptance, the doctor famously quips: “The strongest man is the one who stands alone.”

And National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi reminded me of Dr Stockman when he invited Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission officers to investigate graft in the august House. Here was another great man – from my county, perhaps I would have added – with the interests of the country so much at heart he was willing to face the wrath of MPs to ensure the gangrene of corruption is stopped from spreading at one of the key pillars of our democracy – the National Assembly.

In my books, he was up there with the classical Greek Philosopher, Socrates, who was willing to die than renounce the bitter truth just to enjoy social acceptance. It is said Socrates was taken to the public square and given the option of renouncing what he had been teaching the youth, notably Plato, or be forced to take a portion of a potent concoction called Hemlock. So as the people expectantly huddled around Socrates, it is recorded he swept one last glance at them and said: “People I pity your little knowledge.” Then he took the Hemlock and collapsed, dead.

But Mr Muturi did not bask in the eminence league of Dr Stockman and Socrates for long. This week, he beat a hasty retreat and, surprisingly, apologised to MPs and had a few not-so-palatable things to say about EACC’s bid to probe Parliament.

Now, I’m not naïve to the point of not seeing that Muturi’s job was on the line, as furious parliamentarians, obsessive as they are with delusions of superiority, even talked of impeaching him. What makes me feel for the good Speaker is that in his bid to make peace with the lawmakers, he lost newfound public confidence that his bold anti-graft intentions portended. For if he had stayed the course and let the anti-graft spotlight be directed to every nook and crevice of Parliament – trotting out whatever mileage allowance and other skeletons there may be, he would probably have redeemed the image of the House.

For, much as MPs would love to blame the media for claims of corruption, with some proposing spurious laws to shield the House from public scrutiny, it is from the same members of the House that we know all is not well therein. It is from MPs that we learnt that some House teams were on the take. Again it was not from the media that we learnt there are fake sitting and mileage allowance claims in the national and county assemblies. By beating a retreat, Muturi effectively joined his charges in a face-saving effort that reminds one of closing the boma when the cattle are already in the neighbour’s maize fields. As the third senior-most man in the country, Muturi’s about-turn puts him at variance with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pledge that no institution will be spared in the ongoing graft purge.

What’s more, the disappointment wrought on the nation by the Speaker’s apology to MPs does not help the feeling that the 11th Parliament has not acquitted itself well in the push for expanded democratic space. Last year, incidentally in December, the House under the stewardship of Mr Muturi passed the controversial security laws under circumstances that will take long – if ever – to forget. In a word, a chance to redeem the image of Parliament and provide leadership was sacrificed at the altar of survival.

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