DILEMMA

If I were in Uhuru's shoes...

Kenya’s problems won't be solved by creating new projects to add to pile of unfinished ones.

In Summary

• I’d take a deep breath, swallow my pride and announce that I am discontinuing my pursuit of the Big Four.

• And make overhauling the Constitution my one legacy project.

My son and I were watching news on TV recently, and he asked me a question that stumped me. “Dad, what would you do if you were in the President’s shoes today?”

The question was provoked by a comment I had made in reaction to a news report on one of the President’s Big Four legacy projects.

My mind wandered for a moment through the many challenges the country was facing – rampant corruption, debt crisis, education disorder, youth unemployment, floundering healthcare, declining agriculture – the list seemed endless.

I wanted to give my son a reasoned answer, but the more I thought, the more I realised the folly of project-based solutions that ignore the fundamental causes of those problems. Kenya’s problems will not be solved by creating new projects to add to the already heaped pile of unfinished projects.

But I am not the President. Uhuru Kenyatta is the President. I am just one of the millions of Kenyans who feel the weight of an overbaked, expensive and cumbersome Constitution that is strangling the economy and killing our hopes and dreams.

What would I do if I were in the President’s shoes today?

First, I would take a deep breath, swallow my pride and announce that I am discontinuing my pursuit of the Big Four agenda. In a televised address, I would humbly acknowledge that channelling billions of shillings toward those ambitious and unrealistic projects under current circumstances does not make sense.

I would reiterate my commitment to fight graft and confess that, in all likelihood, the Big Four projects would fail because of mismanagement or the funds would be stolen by shadowy cartels whose tentacles seem to have permeated the entire government system.

I would announce that, for the remainder of my term, I would be focusing my attention on overhauling the Constitution. I would make this my one legacy project. Contrary to the advice that I would likely get from many quarters, I would stand my ground and set my mind on laying a proper foundation for Kenya's future.

I would invoke the spirit of the March 9, 2018, handshake that dramatically restored calm after the divisive 2017 elections. I would call on all politicians to put aside their differences and to join me in a faith venture that would change the course of our nation.

The 2010 Constitution was celebrated as a major achievement that was supposed to usher in a new era of good governance and a better life for all Kenyans. In spite of some very positive features, the Constitution introduced an expensive and unnecessarily complex gridlock of overlapping structures, positions and laws that are draining resources and pushing the country to the edge of bankruptcy.

The introduction of devolution, for example, was a great idea. But carving the country up into 47 counties was a big mistake that needs to be corrected. There are several other elements of the Constitution that were well intended but have proven to be untenable.

It would be the landmark speech of my entire presidency:

My fellow Kenyans, we are confronted with a serious structural problem that is proving to be unwieldy, unsustainable and immensely corrupted. Contrary to recent calls for a referendum to effect minimal amendments related to how the Executive is structured, I am calling on all of us to embark on a comprehensive review of the entire Constitution.

I am calling on my elder brother and my deputy to close ranks and put the nation’s interest above their own ambitions. Let us pull together and not allow our political differences to overshadow our obligations to the people of Kenya.

I would speak slowly, methodically and appeal to the hearts and minds of Kenyans.

Fellow Kenyans, given the distrust that permeates our society and the history of instigated ethnic division, this may sound like a tall order, but, I believe we have no alternative. If you believe, as I do, that the current Constitution is unworkable in the long run, then let us not bury our heads in the sand and rest on the false hope that somehow things will just work out in the end. God bless you, and God bless the great nation of Kenya.

That is where I would begin if I were in the President’s shoes today. But I am not the President. Uhuru Kenyatta is the President. I am just one of the millions of Kenyans who feel the weight of an overbaked, expensive and cumbersome Constitution that is strangling the economy and killing our hopes and dreams. Even my young son would tell me that only an insane person keeps doing the same thing and expects to yield different results.

Economic development practitioner and strategist. [email protected]