This is one worth repeating. A thoroughly inebriated man sidled up to an extravagantly coutured and bejewelled beauty at the bar counter. “Would you sleep with me for a hundred shillings?” he asked.
“How dare you … you think I’m that cheap?” Her Haughtiness asked in shock and outrage. The drunk looked at her knowingly with a wicked smirk. “No. But now that the principle is established, how much will you charge?”
I recall this old story precisely because of the reaction to news that Kenyan MPs were bribed to kill a National Assembly Committee report on contraband and poisonous sugar.
Many MPs who expressed anger and shock at the actions of their colleagues, as well as many citizens who expressed their views, were not so much concerned about the immorality of MPs selling their votes but that legislators who earn upwards of Sh1 million a month could be bought so cheaply. It was not about the principle but the amount.
The incident reminds us that, as long as immorality reigns supreme in Kenyan leadership, the war against corruption will remain in mortal danger.
And corruption fights back. Those desperate to protect ill-gotten billions can easily procure a critical mass of parliamentarians to launch counter-offensives.
Apart from rigged parliamentary probes, the tactics often employed by county assemblies to hold governors by the gonads through impeachment threats can easily be replicated at the national level.
Right now, demolition of buildings that have encroached on Nairobi’s wetlands provides a high-visibility demonstration that the campaign against institutionalised corruption and the culture of impunity is continuing unabated.
If President Uhuru Kenyatta is to stay the course on what can now be regarded as his flagship project and only chance of building a legacy, he needs the firm support of all people of goodwill.
With opposition chieftain Raila Odinga firmly backing the new initiative against corruption as part of the Building Bridges compact launched with the President, and his deputy William Ruto — often seen as a holdout — also declaring his support, the drive should be unstoppable.
But then, one wonders on whose behalf MPs from both the ruling Jubilee Party and the opposition Nasa coalition were working when allegedly spreading dirty money in the hallowed precincts of Parliament.
That itself is positive proof that whatever the key politicians may be saying in public, some of them are engineering underground opposition to the anti-corruption war.
Lack of political will has often been the weakest point in a series of aborted anti-graft drives over the years.
Corruption in Kenya is directed and fuelled by those in positions of power and authority, who also tend to be the biggest beneficiaries.
HIGH RISK GAMBLE
It is, therefore, mind-boggling that President Kenyatta, himself a beneficiary of official corruption, has launched a crusade that is bound to hit those closest to him in terms of family, friends, business associates and political partners who all helped to propel him to the top.
This high-risk gamble could torpedo badly if those closest to the President desperately fund political counter-offensives, especially if the 2022 State House succession race is thrown into the mix.
The President must have launched this war knowing that on it he stakes his political survival in the remainder of his second and final term.
There can be no retreat, no surrender, if he wants to ride home triumphant. The alternative would be abject capitulation which reduces him to a pitiable accident of history.
The demolitions must continue unabated but within the confines of the law.
Land grabbers have been put on notice but the President’s vow to also go after the public officers who abetted the crimes in the first place must be pursued as vigorously.
One can feel for third parties who unknowingly bought irregularly acquired land but the government can help the innocent to secure compensation from the original sinners.
We heard Governor Mike Sonko pledge to reclaim public playgrounds in the capital city that have fallen to grabbers. I can point him to just three where I scrapped many a knee in younger days.
There was one near the old South ‘C’ shopping centre, which used to be well equipped with slides, merry-go-grounds and swings but now houses a Sikh temple.
Another off Rhatpta Road, Westlands, is occupied by the Baptist Church. Then the one on Gandhi Avenue near the Nairobi West Hospital is set for construction of a mosque.
Mr Odinga can direct him, having led an operation to reclaim it from grabbers in the mid-1990s.
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