REVENUE BILL STANDOFF

Senators arrests: Justified or wagging the dog?

This week, the nation woke up to the news of the arrests of three Senators, Cleophas Malala of Kakamega, Steve Lelegwe of Samburu, and Christopher Lang’at of Bomet.

In Summary

• In politico-speak, wag the dog is the act of deliberately creating a diversion from a politically damaging scandal, often through military action.

• It is a political spin where the public’s attention is drawn away from an issue of greater importance, to something else of a lesser significance.

Senators outside the chambers after the Senate was adjourned on Monday, August 17, 2020
Senators outside the chambers after the Senate was adjourned on Monday, August 17, 2020
Image: EZEKIEL AMINGA

“What’s the crisis?”

The crisis was a scandal at the White House where the President of the US was accused of fondling a young girl scout visiting the Oval Office.

This incident happened just a few weeks before Election Day. To secure the President’s re-election, his top adviser realised that immediate and substantial damage control was paramount. He promptly enlisted one of the top notorious political spin doctors to engineer a way and means to divert the public’s attention away from the scandal.

 

The spin doctor, with the help of a Hollywood movie producer, fabricated a non-existent war with Albania. The artificial war scenes were prominently broadcasted in the evening as breaking news. Instantly, stories about the war dominated public discourse. The President’s scandal was forgotten. Election Day came and the President was re-elected. This summarizes the plot of the 1997 movie called ‘Wag the Dog’.  

In politico-speak, wag the dog is the act of deliberately creating a diversion from a politically damaging scandal, often through military action. It is a political spin where the public’s attention is drawn away from an issue of greater importance, to something else of a lesser significance. By so doing, the lesser significant event is catapulted into the limelight, thus drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue.  

This week, the nation woke up to the news of the arrests of three Senators, Cleophas Malala of Kakamega, Steve Lelegwe Samburu, and Christopher Lang’at of Bomet. Their arrests barred their participation in the Senate’s special sitting to continue deliberations on the controversial third generation county revenue sharing formula, which has reached a deadlock for the ninth time.

At the time of their arrests, no reasons of the offence they had committed were given. However, speculations were rife that their arrests were motivated by the fact that they were opposed to the revenue sharing formula that is favored by the executive.

In solidarity, when the House convened in the morning, all the Senators resolved that no business of the House would continue until their colleagues were presented to the chambers, terming their arrests as an issue of national importance.

They went ahead to unapologetically demand that the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai appear before the House within one hour to explain why their colleagues were arrested, and their whereabouts. Their summons were not honoured. However, the arrested senators were all later released without any charges preferred against them.

Curiously enough, earlier on the same night as their arrests were underway, there had been an exposé of faceless, nameless and formless entities that had indefensibly and unashamedly profiteered from monies, consumables and supplies donated to the country by well-wishers to manage and prevent Covid-19. This exposé has since been dismissed and labeled as innuendos, rumors and a work of fiction, by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, when he appeared before the Health Parliamentary Committee. 

 

Begs the question, was the senators arrests meant to divert the public’s attention from the Covid-19 millionaires exposé, or was it meant to manipulate the vote of the counties revenue sharing formula on the floor of the Senate?

I submit that the political spin doctors wagged the dog to divert our attention from the unjustifiable Covid-19 millionaires exposé. They are alive to the fact that Kenyans have a short term memory span like that of a chimpanzee. And that before long, all we would be talking about is the senators arrest, the ensuing rescue spectacles at their residences by their colleagues, and the dramatic displays of indignation at the floor of the house. And sure enough, after they wagged the dog, we all forgot about the Covid-19 millionaires exposé.

Begs another question, where is the Senate’s zeal, wrath and indignation in demanding that no House business will be transacted until the Covid-19 millionaires are revealed, arrested, prosecuted and convicted? Is the arrest of three senators of a higher national importance than the lives of 50 million Kenyans whose vulnerability to coronavirus infection has been increased multiple fold through this  money heist?

What the solidarity of the senators in securing the release of their colleagues underscores is that the political elite always hunts in packs, and it’s always about guarding their interests, regardless of their political affiliations.

Conversely, as the selectorate interchangeables, we are solitary pawns, attacking each other on social media and in some cases, physically, on wag the dog issues of a lesser national significance, rather than channeling our unified energy towards substantial issues that catalyze positive change nationally.

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to the senators. Searching for a win-win revenue sharing formula is akin to looking for a hen’s teeth. The best deal in life is one where neither side is happy.

Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it – Lysander Spoone