New normal will be life without an Opposition

MPs in a fistfight after Speaker Moses Wetangula ruled that Kenya Kwanza Alliance was the majority side in the chambers. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The poll season is done and dusted. The party is over and the hard part has started. The ball is on President William Ruto's court.

In some quarters, however, the poll celebration continues. Among the senior clergy, faces are lit up with impish glee because of better ties with the 'system.' In many sanctuaries, including my place of worship, there's a real feel-good moment.

After a mega thanksgiving church service at State House on September 25, the country's seat of power showcased a keen amity with the church. The men and women of cloth can now do their thing and build the nation. Ruto has established a communion with them.

Top prelates claim the President signed an MoU with them granting privileges. Kenyans online say in jest that the 'takeover' means wine taps at State House have dried up and their place taken up by anointing oils. No more aqua vitaes. It's a historic leap of faith.

This week, attention shifted to Parliament where the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio brigades faced off over which side would form the House majority. Speaker Moses Wetang'ula ruled that the Ruto-led alliance will. There were no two ways to it. The matter seems headed to the courts.

I join the list of Kenyans who doubt if a vanquished Azimio la Umoja will offer a dependable opposition. It is politically incapacitated. And the rate at which its MPs are crossing sides suggest only the Ruto-led Executive can keep itself in check.

And we've got a more frightening problem at hand. With the church taking up a new insider role at State House, it is now a near permanent addition to power. The faith sector will be denied the moral authority to speak against excesses.

In previous years, the church distinguished itself as an alternative opposition. And it worked. Recall the days of Ndingi Mwana a Nzeki, Henry Okullu, Timothy Njoya and Kipsang Muge? They had a brilliant version of Church-State cooperation. It had nothing to do with lavish lunches and candle-lit dinners at the House on the Hill. Yes, they had spine, lived by heavenly credo and operated like martyrs.

A limping opposition wing of the legislature, a wait-and-see civil society and a power-thrilled clergy! The public will be left to own devices. A fatal tragedy is when the religious community morphs into mere avenues by which some of us endear ourselves to the people. The led suffer.

Now, I am not sure how soon the church will even try to speak on behalf of Wanjiku, if at all it will. In some cultures, you only talk when out of comfort. It is bad manners, they say, to speak when you are straddling the comfort zone and merry-making in the corridors of power. Your conscience should speak to you.

It is bad enough to lack alternative voices - call them voices of reason or voices that heal and reconcile. It doesn't matter if it's in the industrialised world or struggling economies like ours. A devious attitude comes with the willingness to praise the leader and look the other way when ills are visited upon the meek. Even if freedom of choice and association are guaranteed, we could end up between a rock and hard place.

The clergy faltered during the 2010 referendum. In 2007 and 2017, they failed to preach peace, leading to fatal outcomes. And their efforts to reconcile Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto after 2017 flopped. They need retrospection to decide what to contribute to the nation between now and 2027. But the apparent cheerleading is a risky path.

The new administration should seize the moment and take Kenya forward notwithstanding the lack of a formidable opposition. Ruto is equal to the task. Let all the 53 million Kenyans be the so-called prayer warriors the new president needs to succeed.

The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: markoloo