There were no celebrations for the new Senate leadership that has in two months undergone what is essentially baptism of fire.
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Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio, Deputy Speaker Margaret Kamar and Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata got positions that not only gave them national platform, but trappings of power including a retinue of aides and State maintained fuel guzzlers.
But it has not been rosy for the Senate leadership, especially Kang’ata, who has faced the wrath of senators in an attempt to push through the new revenue sharing formula.
The divisive debate has seen the Chief Whip take on senators in a moment of rage that almost turned self-destructive.
Kang’ata said the Mt Kenya region led by President Uhuru Kenyatta would abandon the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative if ODM leader Raila Odinga’s allies in the Senate failed to support the population-driven counties revenue distribution formula.
He had to take back those words after the president reportedly reprimanded him.
“Former leadership of Senate had deliberately refused to remedy the unfairness of the formula. They had that opportunity during consideration of second generation formula but failed to do so,” Kang’ata said, adding that, “as Mt Kenya leaders we decided this time we have to face those forces head on and seek justice. But those forces are not asleep”.
National Assembly Deputy Chief Whip Maore Maoka said the new Jubilee Senate leadership cannot be blamed for the stalemate over revenue sharing formula.
“Those taking a contrary opinion from the party Senate leadership are doing it out of sheer defiance. The fact that, for example, a majority of Meru MPs are in Tangatanga does not mean the people are there. The MPs know why they are in that faction,” Maore said.
Unlike Kang’ata who is serving a second term, Poghisio and Kamar who have experienced a rocky political dispensation in the past, have largely been sober during the chaotic debate on the revenue formula.
The deputy speaker has presided over divisive debate in the House in the absence of Speaker Ken Lusaka while the Majority Leader has watched in consternation as youthful senators tear apart the proposed revenue formula that has all the hallmarks of the fallout between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
It is the fallout between the president and the DP that led to the purge on the Senate leadership that saw the ouster of Kipchumba Murkomen (Majority Leader), Kithure Kindiki (Deputy Speaker) and Susan Kihika (Chief Whip), who are now in the forefront of opposing the proposed formula.
After the last attempt to end the standoff over the revenue formula, Poghisio was quick to warn about election of a mediation team in haste in one of his rare public pronouncements on the circus.
For Kamar, her predicament has been worse. After she benefited from the removal of Murkomen as Majority Leader, her backyard has seen that as betrayal, affecting efforts to lobby Rift Valley senators to support the controversial cash sharing formula.
The fact that she comes from Uasin Gishu County that is set to receive additional funding if the new formula is adopted has further attracted suspicion from the camp opposed to the formula.
Interestingly, Speaker Lusaka has on several occasions left Kamar to chair sessions where her sympathies were bound to be humiliated.
Political analyst Gitile Naituli, who teaches Leadership and Management at the Multi-Media University, blamed the continued humiliation of the government side on trying to push an agenda that was not well thought out.
“We are having a debate that has no scientific basis. It has no legs and no hands,” said Naituli. “It is always very easy to whip emotions in a debate that involves dividing money even at the family level.”
Hesitant to rate
Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo, however, believes the majority leadership is sleeping on the job.
“It is so pathetic. In fact, Senator Orengo currently appears to be the de facto leader of the House, because he is attentive and ready to listen to both sides. I think the majority side needs to reorganise its leadership otherwise, I foresee every business stalling,” said Madzayo (ODM).
He also contrasted the current leadership to the ousted team, saying Murkomen, despite being a fierce hardliner and tough debater, was always willing to shift his thinking to the other side if adequately convinced.
“Murkomen could also easily whip the majority of the House behind him with the help of Senator Susan Kihika (Nakuru). This Kang’ata-Poghisio team needs to pick some lessons from their predecessors,” the Kilifi Senator added.
Murkomen said having been in leadership, he was hesitant to rate his successors.
“I would encourage them to consult widely, listen more and speak less. I also would like to encourage them to use persuasion, motivation and edification and totally avoid blackmail and intimidation of colleagues,” said the Elgeyo Marakwet Senator.
“For as long as Senate will remain the fulcrum of devolution at the national level, external interests will always be at play. Senate itself must act in national interest and must ensure that its leadership is strong enough to protect itself from external aggression. The collective integrity of the senators will define the stature of the Senate,” he said.
But Kang’ata said they had done well under difficult circumstances and criticised the likes of Murkomen for being hard on the new leadership while “facts showed they have consistently lost supporters and in fact in the last Parliament he was fighting his battles alone.”
“I started this (division of revenue) business with one supporter, Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi. Then we united eight Mt Kenya senators before we roped in other Jubilee colleagues. Finally we won over ODM, which originally was very reluctant bringing our number to 22,” said the Murang’a Senator adding that, “On Tuesday we were 24, a winning threshold.”
But as the new Senate leadership strategises on how best to serve their master and the party, their critics are wondering whether they will fail the president yet again for the 10th time on Tuesday.