alexa Fifteen years after Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo, has corruption beaten us? - Daily Nation

Fifteen years after Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo, has corruption beaten us?

Wednesday October 26 2016

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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In 2001, Eric Wainaina sang 'Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo', in which he referred to bribes that were, and in many cases still are, the grease that moved government machinery in the Judiciary, police, the then CID, immigration and registration of persons, and almost any other service that was essential for Kenyans.

The nation had sunk so low that this song was an instant national hit that resonated well with the experiences of the general public. Almost without exception, Kenyans were affected by corruption at the time.  

Has Kenya regressed 15 years in the fight against corruption? During the first coalition government, traffic police were not allowed by the public to take bribes. Guess why? The political environment was enabling for a Kenyan to resist oppression.

It's interesting that some of the specific corruption issues in the song have been resolved, such as bribes to the then Kenya Postal and Telecommunications Corporation, since the public relies on mobile telephones nowadays. But many others remain as they were or have got worse. 

Grand corruption was not reported to the public on a daily basis. Kenyans were still naïve, maybe even innocent, of Anglo Leasing, Chickengate, the National Youth Service, private developers or land grabbers and many other grand corruption schemes.

Our national consciousness at the time was desolate and austere. The only thing we held on to was our hope and our voter’s cards, with the latter not being very useful.

Then there was the agitation for a new Constitution and Kenyans were very optimistic that things would change.

Recently, the President, knowingly or unknowingly, tried to kill our enthusiasm for a better country when he addressed a summit on corruption and governance at State House.

His body language was one of helplessness, while his words were cheeky, goofy and almost cute.

BUYING A PENCIL

But those are not words any member of the public ever hoped to use to describe their President and Commander-in-chief of the Defence Forces. If the president is helpless and desperate, what is the general public supposed to do?

We all know that the Constitution created many independent offices that have turned out to be lame ducks. Why?

These offices were supposed to operate in an environment where the entire Constitution is in motion, especially Chapter Six, which deals with leadership and integrity.

The President was in direct contravention of this section as it demands that authority assigned to a state officer "brings honour to the nation and dignity to the office" and "promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office".

Agreed, we all have different ways to implementing our responsibilities but the President's speech was one of the most peculiar Kenyans have experienced among efforts to promote public confidence.

Kenya's legal and law enforcement institutions may have failed, as may have the offices created as oversight authorities, but thinking that they should be the first port of call in the fight against corruption is injudicious. It is a stretch between justice and justice for sale.

What is needed is the political will to change.

We have too much government. Constitutional offices, MCAs, MPs, chiefs, commissioners, governors and senators are elected politically and can be mobilised politically.

Expecting wananchi to provide the solutions is indolent and annoying. The public is expected to provide guidance to the President, even as they are taxed when buying a pencil at the kiosk.

WRONG AUDIENCE

As for the President, asking constitutional officers what they want was just appalling. They want the status quo to be retained.

They are earning megabucks legally and probably illegally from so-called "deals". Any distress caused by corruption remains an anecdote to them.

They are happy as it were and their joy is multiplied when they are asked what they would like. Right question, wrong audience!  

Meanwhile, any public officer who has been named in grand corruption is on a beeline to the 2017 election, and both the ruling coalition and the opposition will nominate these people for election.

So what exactly does the President think we elected him to do, if not fight our battles any way he can or may, be it politically, socially, economically or culturally?

When all else fails, the firing squad at Uhuru Park is an ingenious idea, thank you very much

Twitter: @muthonithangwa