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January 19, 2019

Forget defectors, look for merit


Partisans, apologists, and sycophants are hovering around State House and the Office of the Deputy President looking for their pound of flesh. The lobbying for political appointments has hit a seasonal high.

The debt collectors are anxious; they are irritable; they are agitated; and they are running out of time, and perhaps luck as well. They realise political debt collection is not easy, especially when the promise was not a binding contract. Worse, if the defector was given an inducement fee to decamp.

Sometimes phone calls go unanswered. Brokers of some defection deals have also disappeared. An ODM defector who lost an elective seat in Busia county captures the frustrations of his colleagues. “These people no longer answer our telephone calls. Before the election, they were coming to our houses to ask for our support.”

Some of the defectors are broke. Some are on the verge of bankruptcy, after spending millions of shillings in campaigns for positions, which they lost. Some have demand letters from banks, recalling bad debts. Auctioneers may be on the way unless help comes soon.

Some are losing friends pretty first, which further heightens their desperation and loneliness. They are looking for opportunities to make money and to rebuild their broken political careers.

Now the vultures of opportunity are hoping the promised appointments shall come to pass. They missed elective positions, but they are clinging on to the hope that the President and Deputy President shall consider them for a piece of the beef.

The defectors are going for political debt collection with a possible sense of betrayal. Some of them believe they lost in the gubernatorial, MP, and senatorial races because they jumped into the wrong party. This wrong party is in power, with appetising positions to dish out.

The defectors are many, even from the same regions and counties, but the positions are limited. Worse, some of the juicy Cabinet and parastatals positions have been booked for rank insiders. The Western counties of Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia and Bungoma have six senior defectors, who are eyeing Cabinet appointments. The party hoppers also squabble among themselves about who defected first, or who has a direct link to the kitchen.

The Nyanza counties of Homa Bay and Siaya have three top hawkish defectors who are also eyeing appointments as Cabinet Secretaries. Not that the defectors brought any substantial numbers to the Jubilee vote basket. But they have demonstrated they can criticise and threaten National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga.

The Coast, Lower Eastern counties and Nairobi also have defectors who are eyeing appointments as Cabinet Secretaries and other presidential postings.

Some of the defectors have been in the Cabinet before and will feel slighted if their expectations are lowered to Principal Secretaries. Even this next preference, for some, is already booked, with about 2,000 applicants.

The lobbying for these positions presents a dilemma for the Executive: Will the appointments be about rewarding hawkish defectors or ‘ethnic inclusion’? The other question is where is the place of merit and value addition in all this?

The challenge for the Jubilee regime is the soaring disenchantment with what is viewed as its capricious despotism. About 70 per cent of Kenyans feel excluded from the centre. The feeling is taking a secessional trajectory.

Appointing ODM defectors to the Cabinet will not address the mass feeling of exclusion among some communities. Appointing defectors will harden the feelings of exclusion. It is not about where the appointees come from. It is about whether the appointees have a clout in their communities.

The presidency has a chance to hunt for men and women who have a distinguished record of performance from the excluded areas.

There are known public administrators and managers, without political baggage, who can help bridge ethnic relations. This regime needs this more than rewarding divisive, hawkish sycophants.

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