By Gabriel Oguda.
The viral photo of Likoni MP, Mwalimu Masoud Mwahima, leaving State House Mombasa with a brown envelope bulging with, what they say, is ill-gotten cash, has just landed on my WhatsApp. It is the first photo I have clicked on since I returned to Nairobi this morning.
That photo has, gravely, disturbed my conscience.
Mwalimu Mwahima is one man I have utmost respect for; he is not your ordinary Member of Parliament. This guy, born in, some say, 1939, is the dictionary definition of a grassroots politician. I was in Likoni, for not less than two months, early last year. This man lives among his people. His house is not those highly-fortified fortresses with well-manicured lawns and a star-studded car park. If you meet this guy in the ferry, you wouldn’t even notice him. He’s the most down-to-earth MP this side of the Sahara. My grass-thatched Simba in Jimo is a million times more opulent than his ant-infested-makuti-patch up in Likoni.
But the people of Likoni love him to a fault.
Every morning, when he is not in Nairobi on parliamentary duty, he hosts his constituents in his house. He has an open door policy. They see him as the solution to all their problems. He is Mwalimu Mwahima – the medicine man, the cobbler, the blacksmith, the fortune-teller, the teacher, God’s chosen prophet, et al. He freely mingles with his people. He shares his food with them, he speaks their language. They see him not as a politician but as a concerned friend. In 2000, when Parliament attempted to pass a new law requiring MPs to have, at least, a High School certificate, he sat for his KCSE and got a D- (minus). He might not be the sharpest tool in the box – many of those MPs you see in parliament are to intelligensia as water is to oil – but Mwalimu Mwahima does what took him to Parliament – putting the interest of his people first, and his, last. Any Mombasa politician with ambitions to contest for a parliamentary seat thinks ten times before pointing at Likoni. Just ask Suleiman Shakombo.
Which begs the million-dollar question: Why would a politician with such an unmatched grassroots appeal choose to embarrass himself with ill-gotten State House money not enough to buy 10 Bungoma County wheelbarrows?
In 1974, the current United States Vice President, Joe Biden, made a very passionate speech on public financing of federal election campaigns. Part of it read, and I quote: â€œPolitics is a damn expensive business. I had one hell of a time trying to raise money as a candidate.
I had to put a second mortgage on our house to get that campaign started, and I ended up spending over $300,000 to get elected. I believe that public financing of federal election campaigns is the only thing that will insure good candidates and save the two-party system. It is the most degrading thing in the world to go out with your hat in your hand and beg for money, but thatâ€™s what you have to do if you havenâ€™t got your own resources.â€
Mwalimu Mwahima is not a wealthy guy, by NYS or Eurobond standards. If Eurobond money is brought closer for the people of Coast to feast on, I find it against the rules of natural justice to pass on the opportunity – especially if you have hungry mouths to feed and poor children to school.
There is no scientific evidence that if I refuse to accept a gift from State House today that gift will go back to the Treasury and Mr. Henry Rotich will, instead, use it to sink, the desperately needed, borehole in Jimo village. I would make more impact, as a politician, if I snatched that gift then redirected it to the hitherto marginalised places it is needed the most.
Gift-giving in the Jubilee government has been, traditionally, concentrated on two major tribes; the economic-haves and the politically-connected. They have harvested public money like a major famine is about to hit their granaries (and it is about to). Hitherto opposition strongholds have been left to scramble for crumbs (President Moi used to buy boiled maize by the roadside, President Uhuru was introduced to a roadside kiosk by Alfred Mutua and, typical of cerellac babies, he never liked the taste of soda in there.
Hawkers will never see him lowering his windows again.) The only way to ‘taste the hands’ of this Jubilee government, therefore, is to hurt them where they are weak – in popular support.
The Jubilee government have realised they will never, even in their dreams, win the confidence of the Mombasa County people. So what do they do? They decide to play panic politics. It’s exactly 580 days left to the next general elections and, of the six parliamentary seats in Mombasa County, Jubilee have zero.
They decide to spare some little change left from the loot to throw at the Likoni people, through their MP. It is what losers do best – throwing good money after bad. Insanity is doing the same thing all the time while expecting different results.
The people of Mombasa are already chanting: Kula Kwa Uhuru, Kura Kwa Raila.
The buffoonery has come full circle.