MPs are probably the most persecuted lot in Kenya by voters for very wrong reasons. But I do not mind seeing these MPs shed tears. Nor do I mind most of the voters wallowing in poverty and underdevelopment even when they deserve better. It is fine because we seem happy lamenting, apportioning blame and passing civic responsibility to others. Let me explain why I hold this seemingly sadistic position.
First, MPs are the architects of their own persecutions. As we read and are, unfortunately, rarely reminded by the few who care about the value of social systems in development, the mandate of MPs is very clear: represent, legislate and oversight. MPs are people’s representatives and so have the obligation to voice the interests of their constituencies.
Secondly, the work of the MP is to rationally debate and ensure just laws are implemented by the Executive and the Judiciary. Thirdly, it is the work of the MPs to oversight the executive and judiciary. This is why Parliament has several committees that scrutinize government functioning for transparency and accountability. In abstract, this is the essence and function of MPs.
Yet, research, for example by Jesuit Hakimani Centre, shows that the percentage of voters who know the functions of MPs is negligible. Conversely, there is no evidence to show that MPs themselves have worked hard to educate their constituencies on what the role of an MP constitutes.
For this reason, most voters, erroneously believe that the main work of an MP is first to enrich themselves (since voters believe MPs are greedy and self-seeking) and secondly to “develop our constituency”. The CDF fund reinforces this misadvised notion.
Thirdly, voters are either too ignorant of the role of MPs, are looking for scapegoats or are simply sadists. We chase around and cajole MPs for failing to develop schools, hospitals, construct roads and bridges, attend funerals, pay bills for us, fund raise, establish water taps, construct abattoirs, run thugs out of town, condemn our perceived enemies and so forth.
Here, we manifest a high degree of nurturing both legitimate and illegitimate expectations that the MPs “must attend to” to get our votes. Besides, we have not differentiated between what we deserve and what we ought to have. In other words, we appear to miss the boundary between what we sign for when we vote in MPs and our own vision. Partly, this is because we have no priority agenda to advance to the MPs that squarely falls within their mandate.
Moreover, for some reasons, many voters believe that MPs have solutions to all our social problems. Yes, if they perform their constitutional mandate: represent, legislate and oversight. No, MPs do not have to solve our problems by offering direct interventions to individuals as our voter behaviour suggests. Obviously, our needs are real and have to be attended to but not by MPs in their official capacity.
Fourth, there is, seemingly, an unconscious conspiracy between the Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature to run down Kenya’s development agenda. The question is: how can the three arms of government peacefully function with such glaring anomaly in public perception? Ordinarily, the Executive is the implementer of the development agenda but now seems to have found illegitimate solace in co-implementing with the Legislature. Really, on what basis do the MPs implement and claim credit for the work in their constituencies when it is not in their job description? Or, is that perhaps some of us have not been educated in this regard?
Yes, we are offshore deep into electioneering campaigns. But, what kind of knowledge are we basing ourselves on to elect candidates who have offered themselves for our consideration?
Elections cannot produce credible leaders if the purpose for which we elect them is evidently hazy. On paper, we expect MPs to represent, legislate and oversight. In practice we expect them to be social workers, government administrators, police commanders, financial controllers and, as research findings indicate, ATMs for us to draw from.
No wonder, the kind of political advertising we are exposed to in the ongoing campaigns is glaringly deceptive. Elected and nominated leaders, for example, who have not achieved much, are raising their stakes as credible candidates with all manner of promises. And we appear all too willing to dance along without asking the more critical development agenda questions.
Understandably, we cannot ask the questions unless we begin by informing ourselves the functions of each office we are electing candidates into.
In the August 8 General Election, let us vote in MPs who can stay away from other people’s job descriptions.