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December 16, 2018

Chebukati’s poisoned chalice


Hair-raising is not the right adjective to describe well-paying and secure jobs in the public service. Yet, this is what some of these positions — the IEBC chairman, EACC chairman and Auditor General — have become in the era of ascendant impunity.

One of the holders of these positions is the kind of character Kenya needs to demolish impunity. Chief Justice David Maraga has the national responsibility, a divine duty, to mentor and counsel his colleagues.

The President of the Supreme Court can help his colleagues to tame impudent politicians. Some of these politicians behave as though there can be no Kenya without them.

Maraga has set the standards. There should be no turning back on this precedent for holders of constitutional and independent offices. They have secure mandates and a duty to serve the public interest.

The chairman of the IEBC swam into trouble with politicians. But Wafula Chebukati’s predicament is self-imposed. He is intimidated, but they still want to clip his wings.

Chebukati has been hovering between two ends of the stick — one marked right and another wrong. The man is stressed, with a disposition that pleads for public sympathy.

Chebukati’s dilemma — his indecision, his palpable nervousness and timidity — has intensified since August 11. That was the day Chebukati fell, headlong, into the trap the IEBC secretariat laid for him.

Chebukati was executing his mandate as national presidential election returning officer, but he was not fully in charge. He is leading a system as an insider, but he is functionally an outsider.

Chebukati declared presidential election results that the Supreme Court later established were not verified. If he did not know what he was doing at the time, he is yet to admit he is not in control of IEBC operations.

He is also yet to admit he was under pressure to compromise public interest. The man needs urgent counselling on fidelity to the Constitution and the sanctity of public interest. And he has a mentor in Justice Maraga.

Arriving to that office in January, the chairman found a revving secretariat and a system. Insiders created for him a password without his say-so. This password was used about 10,000 times to access the IEBC server, from different parts of the country, without his consent.

Chebukati does not seem to like the job anymore. He also lacks the courage to stick to the constitutional expectations of the office. But he cannot quit now, no matter how hot the kitchen is.

Worse, they still want to clip his wings, which were shorter before the August 8 General Election. His deputy Connie Maina can stand in for him if the heat in the kitchen continues to rise.

He is being told any of the six commissioners can stand in for the chairman if he is fatigued — or if expediency demands. And the chairman does not have to be the only one to call and chair IEBC meetings. Any three of seven commissioners can constitute a forum to transact IEBC business.

Chebukati should smell the coffee: The ‘owners’ of the IEBC cannot trust this Bungoma county man to do the bidding of the rapacious power clique. But Chebukati has no reason to be stressed. He volunteered himself for this office.

Before he took up the IEBC job, Chebukati knew what he was getting into. Before you take up a job, you need to know its history. You need to know the fortunes of your predecessors.

Chebukati’s predecessors, the late Samuel Kivuitu and Issack Hassan, were ejected from this tempestuous position when they fell afoul of power intrigues. Both were sacrificed for democracy to grow.

The IEBC imbroglio, though, is not the end of the road for Chebukati. Maraga can lend him a shoulder to cry on. Auditor General Edward Ouko, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Eliud Wabukala, all holders of offices of interest to lords of impunity, need to bond.

They need solidarity and to slay the dragon of impunity. They need the courage of Maraga to serve the national interest.

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