October 10 was World Mental Health Day, so a fitting time to discuss matters of the mind, important for us as Kenyans. We have (not-so-warm) memories of another ‘M’ around this day, but that is a matter for another day.
A story in the Standard newspaper that day announcing ‘Kibaki rejects MPs’ hefty exit package’ demands a deeper look, way beyond the headline. Sample this ‘sub story’ in the last para:
In the meantime, the Head of State has assented to the amendment in the electoral laws extending the period to January 4, 2013 during which Members of Parliament should have chosen the political party on which to seek nomination and contest a political seat in the forthcoming general elections.”
Isn’t it curious that we’re now not making too much noise about this totally immoral and illegal party-hopping – in stark contrast to the furore the proposed amendment caused when it was first revealed? So was the intention all along in fact to detract our attention from this important matter of political discipline and principle by raising a different matter? A matter so heinous and provocative which our wily politicians knew the citizenry would be up in arms against – abandoning all else? Was the plan then to deliver a deft masterstroke by appearing to appease us having successfully diverted our attention from pursuing the antelope to chasing the squirrel? Apologies to the sensitive, but the reasons cited by Kibaki are dubious to say the least, even hilarious!
The President objected to the amendment on the grounds that it was first unconstitutional and that in the prevailing economic circumstances in the country, it is unaffordable.”
The Honourable Mwai Kibaki is not famed for studiously observing the rule of law, nor the Constitution, nor even recent lawful orders of courts of law! So why this ‘sudden learning’ so late in the day as his term nears the end and he really does not have to please anybody but himself?
And here’s more of that fluffy wool over our eyes, that we may absolutely overlook this sleight of hand, and instead celebrate the government’s ‘wisdom’, magnanimity and solomonic judgement:
The President said that coming shortly after the increment of salaries for teachers and doctors, the severance pay for Parliamentarians would lead to an unsustainable wage bill at a time when the country requires massive resources to implement the new Constitution and meet other competing demands in the economy.”
Really? Is reading this supposed to leave us with much gratitude for the great benevolence, stirring compassion and munificence of our dear and loving government for having defused the recent strikes by teachers and doctors? Are we to immediately forget weeks of academic time lost and the needless suffering of thousands of patients, even deaths?
But let us get back to respect for the rule of law and the Constitution, both of which this Government regards as inconvenient objects of contempt and has already flagrantly flouted numerously (and let’s not even go into gentlemen’s agreements, MoUs, or even the constitutionally protected National Accord). Isn’t the party-hopping extension the President assented to by the same ‘breath’ an illegality, a travesty of the spirit and letter of the Constitution? Aren’t the 100 existing party-hoppers in Parliament already an illegality, a throbbing malodorous sore on the back our national quest for moral politics? Hasn’t our President, by putting pen to paper in this matter, then not commended and endorsed a perversion of our supreme law, given fresh life to the politics of expediency and personal survival that have so damaged the nation? For how long shall we continue to wallow in these shallow and narrow politics that spite the law, opting ‘in’ or ‘out’ depending on the opportunistic political expediencies of the day?
OK, let’s give the devil his due, and we gotta hand it to them: our parliamentarians truly are Leaders of the Fee [not a typo!] world, and with our exorbitant taxes (from which they have exempted themselves, and even had the audacity to have us pay for their back-taxes), we pay the fees for their membership to this exclusive club, where they sit right at the top of the dung pile by a huge margin…WORLDWIDE. This is not an allegation, nor an anecdote, but supported by statistics. Mark you, the data in this Economist article at the link above are two years old, so the MPs’ package is even heftier, and its gap with our GDP even wider (yet the Speaker of the National Assembly recently described parliamentarians’ earnings as peanuts!).
Let me bring it right home: our annual national nominal per capita income is US$ 85o according to the IMF as at April 2012. Our MPs earn US$121,429 per year in salaries and allowances, excluding non-monetary benefits – that is 143 times the annual national per capita income! It gets worse. The President earns US$285,714 per year, again without including non-monetary benefits – that is 336 times the annual national per capita income! Now, remember the salaries and non-monetary benefits for the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Deputy Prime Ministers (whose permanent job is politicking now that they have no ministerial portfolios), Cabinet Ministers and Assistant Ministers show equally shocking disparities with the average income of the citizens whose country they are running! Now consider the cumulative effect of this gross injustice!
Mind you, the party is not yet over for our gluttonous and totally insatiable politicians. The circus shall continue, going by headlines such as this: MPs prepare for war with Kibaki over send-off pay and Salaries team wants to chop MPs’ wages. We’ll be so busy playing the game as the #MPigs wish us to play it, that not a murmur will there be now on party-hoppers.
The politicians, with our acquiescence, have magically managed to reduce that flaming issue into a a non-issue… and who knows, the insatiable gluttons may yet get their golden handshake … you know, a sort of parting ‘up yours’ to the people before they disappear into the oblivion of the dustbin of history! (it is ‘up yours’ alright: one of them is quoted here as saying “We do not fear [read ‘care’] what Kenyans say so long as we keep the Sh9.3 million send-off package”)
And to confirm our worst fears, observe this statement from a story in the Daily Nation:
Wajir West MP Adan Keynan disowned the contentious amendment to the Finance Act that would have seen each one of them take home about Sh10 million as a send-off package at the end of their term. The MP said it came from government and had the blessings of the President. ‘I was only asked to do it on behalf of the minister of Finance and the amendment was there, it wasn’t my own amendment,’ he said.”
Fellow citizens, we have been had – had real good!