The drama that characterised Thursday debate on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s memorandum accompanying the Finance Bill 2018, though not unexpected, went to confirm that, as a country, we are not out of the woods on official lack of etiquette yet.
We would have witnessed a more cultured debate but that, I guess, would be hoping for too much.
Some may, however, argue that, based on the nature of our democracy, the whole episode was a calculated waste of time. Our parliamentary democracy presupposes that once the leader of the Majority party in parliament and his minority counterpart hold the same views and position on a matter before the House, it is as good as settled. That is the theory.
The practice, however, is that the leaders of the majority and minority sides in Parliament- both houses- do not hold any positions on any matter. They simply convey the positions of their party owners who, in most part, are not members of the houses. And to be fair to the leaders in the Houses, it will be unrealistic to expect them to hold any contrary ideas when their positions in the house are a direct function of the party owners.
In the current case, the de-facto leaders in Parliament are the leaders of parliamentary parties. Jubilee, the majority party is led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM, the bonafide minority is a tool owned by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Wiper Party, the peripheral third force, is the property of one Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, a one-time Vice President of the country. These are the principals of Parliament.
So when it became clear, as early as Monday, that President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka were singing from the same script on the presidential memorandum, a more pragmatic nation could have simply summoned Aden Duale, the parliamentary majority, John Mbadi, the minority leader and Justine Muturi, the speaker of the National Assembly to append their signatures and we would be good to go. But that is not a practical approach. Our 349 representatives have to be given the opportunity to earn their pay. They must get a chance to debate even if their pontification does not add or subtract a comma from the document at hand.
That is what we ended up with on Thursday.
Our members of Parliament, the whole 290 of those elected constituency representatives, some 47 county woman representatives and another lot of those nominated to represent “special interests” were accorded a chance to showcase their verbal and dramatic abilities. And they did not disappoint. They shouted themselves hoarse; they danced on the floor and verandah of the House and ululated as they sought to outdo one another in pursuit of overnight fame.
They invoked the name of Wanjiku in obvious vanity as TV cameras rolled. In fact, they became particularly incensed when, at one point, they realized the cameras had been switched off and they were not getting the national attention they really craved. All along, they knew a comma will neither be removed nor added to the law they were shouting about. Because they knew they had not done what they needed to do to improve the President’s memorandum!
Sometimes, a country does well with officious comedy.
But all is well that ends well.
When the dust settles on the parliamentary drama, and one hopes it settles sooner rather than later, the country will realise and accept that the President’s action was in good faith.
In the circumstances such as we find ourselves in, where the need to invest for the future and live in relative comfort in the present, sacrifices become unavoidable. Investment in itself entails denying oneself immediate gratification and gambling for a better tomorrow. That is life.
Though there have been arguments about which areas and products the Government could target in its endeavour to raise money to run itself, there is near unanimity that the country needs to raise funds for both recurrent and development expenditure. Whichever way one looks at, one avenue is just as good as the other and all sectors of the economy are interdependent.
As we accept and move on, this time on a positive note, the country and its government should turn the focus back to where it was before it was distracted by the rise in petroleum prices. All energies should be trained on ensuring that whatever monies we painfully dedicate to public service are used for the purposes we have budgeted them for. There should be no wastage and no theft.
The fight against corruption should be resumed with all the zeal possible. The only way we will placate ourselves at the hands of the taxman is by getting value for our money.
Mr Mugolla is a high school teacher.
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