A video clip has been doing rounds on social media for about a week. It is a few seconds long and it depicts an angry President Uhuru Kenyatta talking at his Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. It looks and sounds like the President is telling the minister never to repeat the act or he will face near mortal consequences. Those who understand the language of discourse between the two, like the colleague sitting opposite me at the office, tell me the President says “try paying them and you will see”.
If one views the short clip without understanding its context, one may make a lot of assumptions. So let me put it in its immediate context so we can be on the same page. The clip is a clever edit of a concluding part of a dress down the President was giving the minister, in public, for failing to pay farmers who delivered their maize produce to government.
The occasion was the day of the official opening of this year’s annual Agricultural Society of Kenya show in Nairobi on October 4, 2018 and the President was addressing the plight of the farmers who had not been paid for the maize they delivered over a year ago.
The President was incensed because there has been a lot of talk of corruption surrounding the way the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), the parastatal under the Agriculture ministry whose mandate it is to buy and store cereals from farmers across the country to ensure that we always have enough food reserves.
The allegations have it that NCPB irregularly purchased maize and paid over Sh11 billion to suppliers whose identities are shrouded in mystery. This at the expense of genuine farmers who toiled, laboured, and also supplied the public cereals’ custodian. For this, some seven NCPB managers and a former principal secretary are in court on corruption charges.
Lately the President has embarked on a rather vicious and public war against graft. And this war has, and continues to ensnare both medium and high profile casualties. We have seen managing directors of parastatals, principal secretaries in ministries, directors of departments and even judges dragged to court on allegations of engaging in corruption. We have also witnessed private citizens hitherto unknown but who have accumulated millions of shillings suspected to have been stolen from the public coffers also hauled before the law for their involvement in alleged impropriety.
But it seems the corrupt are not giving up!
It is this stubborn and rather persistent spirit of looters of public property that seemed to irk the President so much that he had to make it known to Mr Kiunjuri and all those holding State offices that it cannot be business as usual if such wanton robbery is allowed to continue. Before the epithet delivered in vernacular, and which was obviously not meant for public consumption, the President had given a furious warning to those with the habit of reaping where they have not sown that the price will be a little higher than they are used to.
“I promise you and I swear before God. You try that again and see what will happen to you, sisi hatutaki mchezo tena (We are not in the mood of theatrics any more).” The President was lamenting after receiving information that the money that was supposed to be used to pay farmers had been diverted and given to unscrupulous traders in collusion with ministry mandarins.
The Head of State was angry and his “try paying them” remark was meant to warn Mr Kiunjuri that there would be consequences if he allowed further misappropriation of funds for the benefit of profiteering cartels pausing as traders.
This "presidential anger" is good for the country.
It is the kind of anger that a nation would wish that its head exhibits against any form of impropriety and laziness. It is the anger that should be directed at the Inspector General of Police when his officers are accused of extortion. It is the anger that should face the Kenya Revenue Authority commissioner general whenever KRA misses its target and employees are involved in games that aid tax evasion.
The President should be this angry every time money is stolen at the Ministry of Health and children in Busia County are paralysed because they could not get the right medication. The executive anger should come to play whenever managers at Kenya Power company allocate and pay millions for substandard transformers that lead to poor power supply.
Most importantly, this presidential anger should translate into many big heads at the chopping board. The country should see heads rolling after such exhibition so that the solemn promise is actualized and the country sees what happens to those who defy common good!
Mr Cherambos comments on social and political issues; [email protected]