Senators are now voting with their feet in the rush to defend devolution

Friday April 21 2017

Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro leads senate proceedings

Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro leads senate proceedings on February 4, 2014. Most senators want to be governors come August 2017. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KWAMCHETSI MAKOKHA
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Like rats scurrying off a sinking ship, senators are scrambling for cover in governors’ mansions across the country.

Over half of all sitting senators do not want their old jobs come August 8, 2017, when the next election is held.

Another 20-something of them, all nominated women, are barging on the doors of the National Assembly for refuge.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

They do not want to look back lest they turn into a pillar of salt.

They are marching on to the party where there are 349 interesting people writing the budget, vetting presidential appointees and auditing public finances.

Senators are walking away from the satisfying responsibility of representing counties, protecting their interests and those of their governments safe in the knowledge that their mission has been accomplished.

It is better to take a governor’s job with a 10-year term limit on it than to dodder around aimlessly in the so-called Upper House, serving out one’s last years.

BUDGET DEBATES

Besides, the Sh1 billion they collect as salary each year can be turned into a kitty for wetting the throat.

Browbeaten into irrelevance, ignored by the President and emasculated by the tyranny of numbers in the National Assembly, the erstwhile defenders of devolution are receiving a primer on politics from their betters.

Imagine scouring a whole county for thousands of votes only to be left debating coconuts, teenage pregnancy and animal husbandry without a shilling to splash on the electorate.

There is no pork barrel to dig from. Budgets are passed without your say-so; law made and repealed against your loudest protestations.

LEARNED INDIVIDUALS
Attempts to bury a governor in impeachment charges end in the fellow resurrecting on the fourth day to serve out his full term.

Having tasted the insolence of governors firsthand, senators now want to set an example of how to support the oversight role of the Parliament by taking civic education right inside the inner sanctum of the Council of Governors.

Senate has earned the reputation of being a forester in the thicket of the law, populated as it is by eminent lawyers, senior counsel and law scholars.

Despite senators being the better educated, more articulate and experienced crop of leaders, it is the merchants in the National Assembly that cut the deals and collect the payoffs.

Having overfed the National Assembly on a diet of intellectual humiliation, the foremost protector of devolution has itself had to seek refuge in court to evade the mindless anger of the lower house — evident in denial of resources, habitual petulance and petty jealousy.

BILLS ASSENTED TO
Of the 136 Bills considered and passed by Senate in the past four years, only 42 have received presidential assent.

Many of the proposed laws, which compete with the output from county assemblies to regulate livestock micturition, are still on an extended nap in the National Assembly.

This situation has necessitated some sleepers going deep into enemy territory to light a fire under the backsides of those National Assembly people.

It is not the first time Kenya has had a Senate, and it is not the first time it is realising its redundancy.

There was one at independence before it voluntarily dissolved and its members absorbed into the National Assembly.

Devolution is a big boy now. He can take care of himself.

NEW BLOOD
Never-say-die veterans will continue to hang in there, giving credence to the moniker of Senate as the House of Oldies.

Foxy old lawyers, senior counsel, as well as younger scholars will still be around to maintain the quality of debate in Senate.

And the Deputy Speaker, who has proposed a Bill to scrap Nairobi County and place it under a presidential appointee, will stay behind to switch off the lights when everybody else has left.