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Friday, August 18, 2017

Respect the presidency

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck at Statehouse Nairobi./FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck at Statehouse Nairobi./FILE

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is undoubtedly ODM’s pointman at the Coast. As the party’s deputy leader the blue-eyed boy of the opposition is often tasked with getting into the President’s hair, something that he does with relish. He is the ultimate Jubilee party pooper, and strategically shows up whenever they are launching projects, often ruining the celebrations. He is a man who loves the limelight, young, good-looking and photogenic he is thought to appeal to the youth as he impetuously speaks back to power. Jubilee, or the administration, has however read into the opposition’s game plan, and recently halted Joho’s antics in their tracks when he was barred from attending and disrupting a presidential function at the Mtongwe Ferry.

Psychology guru Sigmund Freud said, “No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore. ... a person's weakness — it is revealed by seemingly unimportant gestures and passing words.”

Jubilee spectacularly discovered Joho’s media weakness and dimmed the cameras whilst consistently and persistently raiding his Coast vote bank. In a lightning raid on Coast opposition strongholds, Governors Hussein Dado of Tana River and Salim Mvurya of Kwale defected to Jubilee, as did Senator Dan Mwazo and Woman representative Joyce Lay both of Taita Taveta. Talks are ongoing with ANC Governor Issa Timamy of Lamu. All in all, Jubilee now has half of the Coast governors right under Joho’s nose.

It must also be acknowledged that the current presidency is not the normal “run of the mill.” It is the first Presidency in Kenya without politicians (or relatively few) in Cabinet as the bulk is composed of technocrats. As a result, the current government has lacked political pointmen to market and sell its policies at the county level. The opposition has continuously exploited this anomaly and the office of the government spokesman has not effectively been able to fill the void. Past governments had garrulous political pointmen, usually in Cabinet, who jealously defended the President. The likes of Shariff Nassir, JJ Kamotho and Okiki Amayo (all deceased) spring to mind as fierce regime defenders. The current Presidency is perilously politically exposed and hence the unfortunate public exchanges between it and some individuals.

Whilst not condoning President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent outbursts where he has occasionally “flown off the handle” and issued some unprintable epithets, it hasn’t been without provocation. Joho recently returned from a triumphant sojourn in the United States viewed as a “thumb nosing” opportunity at a government that had allegedly associated him with drug-traffickers currently incarcerated in the US awaiting trial. Intelligence reports to the effect that Joho was hell-bent on a public confrontation with the President on this issue amongst others must have led to his being restrained from attending the meeting. The restraint was more out of security rather than political concerns.

Public confrontations between leaders are not to be encouraged or entertained. The older ones amongst us recall with horror an incident on October 25, 1969 when President Jomo Kenyatta drove into the lakeside town of Kisumu to open the Russian built New Nyanza Provincial Hospital. The political situation in the country was already tense as Jaramogi Odinga had formed his KPU party after being kicked out of Kanu and three months earlier Tom Mboya, the urbane popular Luo politician had been assassinated in Nairobi. After the official speech Odinga engaged Kenyatta in an open and heated altercation where some unkind words were exchanged. As tension heightened Kenyatta’s security detail ushered him into his vehicle whereupon Odinga supporters stoned the motorcade. His security men then opened fire on the crowd shooting people indiscriminately. At least 50 people were killed on that dark day. Kenyans must never allow a repeat of a similar situation. Discretion is the better part of valour.

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