By Dikembe via Facebook
Yesterday I went to Wajir County with CORD leaders. I was at first not so interested in going till my workmate Abdullahi Musa pulled his own strings.
To be honest, it is understandable if President Uhuru is yet to visit the region despite Mandera I & II and Garissa. It takes courage to make that decision. I texted a number of folks ‘just in case’.
This was the second adrenaline consuming decision, the first being national dialogue rally sometime last year in Eldoret. Back then, government had ‘banned’ the rally citing insecurity and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago followed with his own fiat that CORD will not hold any meeting in his county.
Then Raila Odinga said we are going to Eldoret ‘wapende wasipende’ and now it was up to you to decide whether to go or not. Many people I know chose not to go, belching their own excuses.
In the end, only senators James Orengo, Hon. Muthama, the late Kajwang’ and Suna East MP. Junet Mohammed joined Odinga. And while my collection of non-ODM stalwarts is fuzzy, I think Hon. Wetangula too joined.
To end the story, we arrived in Eldoret to the site of over 20 lorries filled to the brim, buttons and bullets at the ready, but the sheer sea of humanity humbled the police. Mandago was ashamed.
In Wajir, much of the story has now been told in pictures save for this. I met Ahmed. He was a year ahead of me at Moi and now working at Wajir County Press Service.
In the other Kenya, his journalism degree, with a major in graphics, would only be relevant for and in Nairobi. He would pitch camp here, waiting for a vacancy at Daily Nation or Citizen or Standard or Star; to write about Wajir how Nairobi wants Wajir to appear to the rest of Kenya: to tell stories of hunger and famine and radicalism.
But Ahmed is now in Wajir, writing stories of the first tarmac road, first fresh produce market, a new hospital, new ICT centre, new hopes and new aspirations. When you go to places like Wajir, and learn that they’ve been paying their taxes to Nairobi for the last 50 years, that’s when you realize this word ‘devolution’ is magical.
To someone born in Kiambu or Nairobi who’s lived with tap water all his life, and know a factory building from a residential one, devolution mean nothing. No wonder many of them ask why the hullabaloo about Okoa Kenya. But when you see the first water pipes being laid down, the first bitumen being spread, the first high light mast in that darkest street corner you’ve feared all your life, the first large scale irrigation to boost food security,a new complex to house a ‘government’, that is when devolution does not just become a CORD issue but a life issue.
When you see the town taking shape and a county assembly passing laws; a governor standing on a red carpet delivering a ‘state of the county’ address, prepared right there at the county, by people who live right there in the county, who share the same local concerns, devoid of the belligerence and the dressing down by Nairobi, that is when devolution becomes an expression of local sentiments.
When you can visit the county assembly and sit – like those in Nairobi do – in the public gallery or speaker’s gallery; and see bills proposed and opposed, the idea of sovereignty becomes real right there, not 800km away!
And so it is true. There are winners and losers in the current power arrangement. There are devolution winners and devolution losers. Nairobi is the biggest loser.
See, in another 50 years, Nairobi will be like Washington DC, a place you go to see museums and monuments. With counties taking shape and new ‘cities’ emerging from once neglected towns, Nairobi will be that place we come to see the relics of the old order, tucked in its one family themed highways, with roads linking wives to husbands; sisters to brothers; cousins to nephews, as if the whole struggle for independence was a one family affair (I’ve not mentioned names!).
Wajir is a winner in this new arrangement, and they are conscious about it. That’s why the county has been ranked among the most prudently managed.
But what I liked most is the new inter-ethnic relations popping up. These relationships are stitched together by shared histories, culture and geography. These relationships are held together on mutual respect, not the ‘mta do nini’ rants of our nation’s historical rulers – they of Nairobi!
They will not say it openly but devolution, should it pick up as its founders wanted it to; will humble some regions. It will force some regions to be kind, to be accommodative, to be mindful, that we are 42 here. Not just two and not only ONE!
Whichever way you look at it, inter-county commerce, shared history, shared culture and mutual respect will be more powerful tools for political mobilization than the current scenario, where an old order still feel it is owed explanations or apologies.
You’ve seen coast forming its own alliances. Western Kenya the same, Northern Kenya too, Eastern too. Central already formed its GEMA long ago, Kalenjins too.
Indeed, ‘the ground beneath has fundamentally shifted’. He was not wrong when he said ‘something good and refreshing is coming’.
Sadly, you can’t feel it when seated in Nairobi, watching NTV or Citizen or KTN. You can’t know it when you read Daily Nation or Star or Standard or People Daily (which people?). That’s because the journalists assembling it are in county press services, like Ahmed, armed to the teeth with first hand experiencing -eye-witnessing for history!
I am lucky I felt it, for a moment, because I dared to go Wajir!