OPEN LETTER TO BABA

Open letter to Baba: Raila, ditch BBI to save your legacy

The proposed referendum is estimated to cost Sh40 billion. That's money we don't have, people don't want it, don't be insensitive

In Summary

• Raila, you should abandon the push for a referendum given the insensitive tone attached to it, expanding the Executive and the wage bill, awarding ethnic kingpins.

• How then will we observe social (physical) distancing during voting? Won’t that interaction further exacerbate the pandemic?

ODM leader Raila Odinga during the BBI forum in Narok on Saturday, February 22.
GIVE IT UP: ODM leader Raila Odinga during the BBI forum in Narok on Saturday, February 22.
Image: COURTESY

Dear Rt Hon Raila Odinga,

Greetings! I hope this letter finds you swell. Kindly allow me to register my admiration for you as a family man, pan Africanist and avidly consistent reformer who’s been at the forefront of the expansion of rights and freedoms in Kenya.

You are continentally associated with the agitation of change since your youthful years and your tremendous sacrifice for the posterity of our nation for almost four decades. For that, as a young man, I say thank you!

 
 

I am authoring this letter because of your accessibility and amiable persona despite your statesman status.

You have even aptly earned the sobriquet, “Baba” because of your fatherly disposition and aura. Your titanic figure and dominance in Kenyan politics also lends credence to the fact that you are a father figure to millions of Kenyans, especially the youth.

With that, allow me to convey my concern of your rather aggressive push for a plebiscite amidst a pandemic.

The surprise reconciliation between you and President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9, 2018, opened the way for the Building Bridges Initiative.

A myriad of issues was fronted, ranging from negative ethnicity to electoral fraud to national disunity, amongst others. They were noble and needed an urgent address for sure.

However, since March, when the first Covid-19 case was reported in Kenya, we have had very many problems. Many have died, institutions and businesses have been shut down, unemployment has soared in a global recession.

The World Bank estimates the global economy will shrink by 5.2 per cent this year and that, according to global economic history, will be the deepest recession since the Second World War.

Human capital, too, has been slowed and economic forecasts show Africa will be the hardest hit economically due to, among other factors, the existing high poverty levels.

The proposed referendum is estimated to cost about Sh2 billion. That is money the country does not have, given the attendant issues pervasive in the country.

Among these are the rising unemployment rates, weak healthcare infrastructure overwhelmed by the pandemic, the corruption-laden government suspected of misappropriating Covid-19 funds and rising poverty levels.

Many have lost their livelihoods. For instance, the luxurious Intercontinental Hotel became the third posh hotel to shut down as a result of the pandemic.

This was attributed to the almost gargantuan Sh100 billion loss the tourism sector has suffered since the pandemic struck,

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics projects that over five million Kenyans will lose jobs or have their revenue streams disrupted by the pandemic.

 
 

Close to 25 million Kenyans live in abject poverty, according to the Kenya Population and Housing Census, which is expected to rise as the pandemic worsens.

Raila, methinks you should abandon the push for a referendum given the insensitive tone attached to it.

How then will we observe social (physical) distancing during voting? Won’t that interaction further exacerbate the pandemic?

The referendum is solely meant to expand the government. But we are an already over-represented nation and Kenyans see no sense of certain luxuries through perks, salaries and allowances accorded to the leaders from the Executive and Parliament. With an unemployment rate of 62 per cent, surely campaigning for a referendum, a multibillion shilling exercise, will communicate detachment from the reality in the country.

Raila, you have fashioned your political life as a champion of the proletariat, an empathetic figure who thrives amongst the people, hence another moniker every five years, 'The People’s President'.

Further, Kenyans have always run to you with their grievances. Do you remember “Baba while you away…” in 2014 on your return from a three-month trip to the US?

A litany of issues was raised. Kenyans were relaying to you the misdeeds of the Jubilee government for you to address.

Given you are the most conspicuous ambassador of the plebiscite, which is meant to expand the government, kindly rethink it as I believe it will be pernicious to your legacy.

Now, the focus should be how to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and employ austerity in government and not how to go to a referendum to expand the government to apportion seats to various ethnic kingpins, under the guise of equal representation and national cohesion.

Also, the idea of extending Uhuru’s rule as a premier in the next government envisaged by BBI is definitely not prudent. His popularity has waned given how he has run the country. Save your legacy, ditch BBI.

Yours humbly,

James Antony Kabugi