Members of Parliament have become popular bashing targets by many Kenyans. Contrary to popular opinion, an MP’s life is far from comfortable. Many have no private life for a seemingly thankless job. Constituents will visit their homes and phone them any day of the week, time of day and night. If you put off your phone when in a meeting, Parliament or taking a rest, you are classified as proud and inaccessible.
Some MPs hardly use their rural houses; some go home as late as 3am and sneak out by 5am. Yet to serve effectively they also need some privacy and rest. If you complain, you are reminded of the sacrifices made to make you an MP and one who is highly paid. Mark you, the MP’s interview panel comprises of thousands of voters who never sit down to compare notes.
There are few jobs that cause more friction with supporters, friends, relatives and family than that of an MP. Many MPs lose the support of members of their families because they have little time for spouses and cannot provide enough emotional or educational support to their young families. Others are misunderstood by their spouses due to the responsibilities of their jobs. MPs will lose supporters because of doing a person who was in the opposite camp a favour. Few constituents appreciate that one is the MP for supporters and opponents alike.
By choosing to be MP, you have decided to be a professional beggar. You shamelessly beg from government ministers and bureaucrats, NGO representatives and individuals. Sometimes you are ridiculed, insulted and openly shunned as a potential thief. If you have much pride in yourself, you will get little for your constituents. In the process of begging for opportunities, you could easily lose self confidence.
Just imagine that a District Commissioner can totally ignore your views with regard to recruitment of staff such as chiefs or administration police. Likewise, a roads engineer will ignore you when awarding construction jobs, even to your underperforming opponents who grease their palms while your supporters get very angry for being overlooked.
Lack of efficient governance structures often means MPs spend too much time on mundane tasks rather than on legislation. They are marriage counselors, education advisors and intermediaries in location and family conflicts. They are ATM machines that have to cough out money for school fees, hospital bills, funeral expenses, land cases, fertiliser and capital for individual businesses. Some MPs carry no less than Sh200,000 to use with the public any weekend they head home in addition to what they spend in Nairobi.
In some constituencies, an MP who shows up in a local pub has to pay bills for all customers, including those who can afford to pay for themselves. Nor can an MP hope to have time and privacy for a meal in a public place in the constituency.
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Nationally, MPs have to contend with terribly compromised decisions regarding appointments and nominations for political office. You either toe the line of your party chief or you are gone. Outside politics you have to please hundreds of diverse interest groups. You would be stupid to openly ignore any opinion as every one of your constituents has valuable advice for you! You also have to contend with too many liars.
Even more tragic are MPs’ frustration at their inability to accomplish even a tenth of what is expected of them. Poverty remains endemic with not enough food, water, youth unemployment, poor educational standards, limited training opportunities for youth and insecurity.
On Election Day, many voters rarely take into account your development record especially if they personally got nothing from you. I wonder how many of you out there are prepared to go through trying abusive campaigns to be an MP, and to make the sacrifices needed to serve the public. For notwithstanding the pain MPs go through and however good your performance, some people will still blame you for "failures" you are not responsible for.