NGWIRI: Should governors wish to stay in power, let them run for president - Daily Nation

Should governors wish to stay in power, let them run for president

Saturday February 9 2019

Council of Governors

Former Council of Governors Chairman Josphat Nanok and other county chiefs during the State of Devolution address at the council’s offices in Nairobi, on June 4, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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Governors play a very important role in devolving political and economic power from the centre to the counties. If they fail, they become a heavy yoke on the necks of the electorate.

Indeed, one can say with near certainty that many are either clueless about their role, or their motive for seeking office was suspect from the word go.

Many voters have, as a result, become so disenchanted with their choices they wish the next elections were held tomorrow so they could chuck out the non-performers — and they are legion.

A governor in Kenya has specific roles he or she should play according to the Constitution. He is at once the chief executive of the county government whose job is to co-ordinate the activities of his or her chief officers in the county government, and is also in charge of formulating county laws, policies and plans, and implementing them through his Cabinet.

In other words, in a lot of ways, the governor has powers equivalent to those of the presidency, the only difference being that they do not have the means to enforce their will.

DEVOLVED FUNCTIONS

A casual observation of the devolved functions they do control indicates that they have a vital say in the area of agriculture, health services, early education, sanitation and trade.

Most important, in my view, they are supposed to facilitate public participation in identifying priority development projects, but too many seem to mistake their drinking pals and sidekicks for the public.

There are a number of reasons why Kenyans believe their governors have failed them. These county heads may not be to blame in some instances, especially as they have never really received the kind of allocations they have always salivated for — 45 per cent of government revenues — but even then, the money they do receive is rarely ever used prudently.

First, they are supposed to set aside a specific percentage for development projects. Few do it. Secondly, most counties have too many employees doing unproductive work, making the wage bill the most serious drain on their coffers.

CORRUPTION

Also, the national disease, corruption, was long ago devolved to the county level as many feared. That some governors preside over extremely leaky procurement processes to benefit themselves, their families and cronies is a badly kept secret, which is why many people don’t sympathise with them when they claim Treasury is too mean with allocations.

Many Kenyans were, therefore, astonished when a venerable select committee of governors recommended that gubernatorial term limits be done away with.

Constitutionally, governors and their deputies are supposed to hold office for two five-year terms if they win successive elections. This is a very curious demand. If in their wisdom, the constitution-makers mandated term limits for the presidency, why should governors, who are the top county executives, be exempted?

To many people, even those with progressive governors, this recommendation is an outrage.

PROPOSED REFERENDUM

Although this is merely a recommendation among many more important ones meant to be part of the proposed referendum, they should realise one thing.

Longevity nearly always breeds stagnation of thought and atrophy of ideas. If governors want to serve their people longer, let them run for the presidency. Indeed, some who have proved to be servant-leaders could make excellent presidents.

***

I am no misogynist, nor do I consider myself a male chauvinist. In fact, I am a total believer in women’s rights in society, though I oftentimes disagree with some tenets of militant feminism.

However, Tuesday’s ruling by Justice Lucy Waithaka of the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri to the effect that women are entitled to inherit land from their fathers left many men mystified.

There is nothing inherently wrong with women inheriting property from their fathers. Indeed, many fathers, if they had the resources, would not even think twice about it, for no one would like to leave any of his children indigent once he dies. This is even more so when a woman is either unmarried or divorced.

But such a sweeping precedent-setting verdict, without taking into account other factors, will definitely lead to endless litigation and family wars.

CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS

This is because it flies in the face of customs and traditions in many societies which regard a woman, once married, as being a part of her husband’s family. But that, in itself, should not bar women from enjoying their inheritance rights.

Nevertheless, ours being a patriarchal society, we shall have a very hard time changing the mindsets of people who live in the past. That is why this issue requires deeper interpretation to avoid resistance or rejection.

Such situations persist on other issues that have conflicted with age-bound customs. For a long time, polygamy was considered illegal, but that never stopped people marrying second or even third wives.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor ([email protected])

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