The clock ticked away and the night wore on. One more hour and our diligent labourers over at Bunge would have officially burnt the midnight oil. But the MPs had had enough of Tuesday’s lengthy sitting that lasted more than eight hours and quit before Wednesday set in. I was pleasantly surprised to learn the next day that wahesh were hard at work as I slept. I had been worried that they wouldn’t honour a revered tradition–rushing at the last minute.
My concerns were put to bed when Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya sought an extension of the afternoon sitting that MPs may process Bills retrieved from Bunge’s cellars, where, like wine, they had grown fine with age. In hindsight, it was silly to imagine they would let us down. Not when every mhesh knows Vanessa Williams’s Save the Best for Last by heart. The ‘best’ is euphemism for matters that are too critical to be left pending but not important enough for MPs to cut short their recess that began on Thursday, or to be discussed when there is time for debate.
Such matters are conflated into the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, and owing to the rush with which they are dispensed, carry a suspicious whiff of impropriety that rarely escapes perennial-litigant Okiya Omtatah’s nose. Generations of MPs have lived by the last-minute-rush mantra, and it's never more on display than at the tail-end of their terms when they return to the grassroots to hoodwink voters that campaign promises can still be kept at the eleventh hour.
It was no surprise that wahesh threw everything they had at the looming deadline that was due in two days, instead of reflecting on the torturous year that has been 2020, which would have made more sense given that their pay remained the same. Four urgent Bills were on their plate and veteran Kimunya took up the task of inspiring his colleagues into making that final dash.
“…this House can rise to the occasion and serve Kenyans in the hour of need. Such hour of need is today,” he said, on the need to stay up late, as the rest readied their lungs to chant the 'Aye!' that would keep them up well beyond their bedtime.
Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo almost became the killjoy when he suggested that amending 38 (later 24) statutes in hours was not the smartest move. "You cannot do justice to 38 statutes in the given period of time." In other words, Oundo tried to explain that whatever the MPs were doing was akin to a final-year student opening the books, for the first time, a few days to the exams.
Mhesh later dropped that line of thought after perhaps realising that it was more important to hold on to traditions, seeing as most other practices had fallen to Western civilisation. And besides, why make laws early when you could always do so on the last day?
But, just like the last-minute student who eventually flunks his exams, the wahesh did not achieve the miracle they had hoped for due to a quorum hitch. Many MPs had walked out of the chamber before they voted on one of the Bills, the Tea Bill, and it was deferred to Thursday.
The spirit had been willing to see the day’s business through, but the flesh was weak. And, sadly, voting spiritually – in the manner that members of the city's country assembly reportedly kicked out the wailing governor – is yet to be considered by Bunge.