By G Oguda via FB
There used to be something in cabinet called ‘collective responsibility’.
That thing died with Daniel Moi. Collective responsibility simply meant that when a cabinet minister presented a policy paper at the cabinet level, and it was passed, everyone around that table was duty bound to defend that policy paper outside here, whether it was meant to kill Kenyans, or impoverish them.
If the Minister for Internal Security, for example, presented a paper to justify the killing of Somalis in Wagalla, regardless of what the Minister of Water said to the contrary, everyone was to go out there and defend that government position. Whether you kithni or ndekni. Otherwise you would be stripped of your cabinet post, and summoned to meet Okiki Amayo, chair of the KANU disciplinary committee. And boy Okiki Amayo used to whip grown powerful men like kids.
Mwai Kibaki came in with a different style of leadership. He approached government like the technocrat he was. He apportioned cabinet slots based (almost entirely) on merit. Kiraitu Murungi in Justice. Prof. Nyong’o in Planning. Raila Odinga in Roads. Kalonzo Musyoka in Foreign Affairs. Mukhisa Kituyi in Trade. Raphael Tuju in Information. Prof. George Saitoti in Education. John Michuki in Transport. The works. These appointments needed no vetting. They fitted like hand in glove.
The message was clear. That you have been given the cabinet job because you deserved it and that you were fully responsible for the policy decisions that went on in your Ministry. You tripped on the job and you wouldn’t expect to be defended by your cabinet colleague out here. The KANU disciplinary committee was no longer there to reign in on those who did not toe the cabinet line. Every cabinet minister would, from then onwards, rise and fall on their own sword.
Which meant that those ministers who did they job well really thrived out here and were congratulated on their own merit. Prof. Nyong’o came in with the Economic Recovery Strategy that gave you the Economic Stimulus Programme. Mukhisa Kituyi’s stellar job at the Ministry of Trade landed him a plum job as the UNCTAD boss. No one will forget John Michuki in Transport. Those who did not do their jobs well, like Christopher Murungaru in Internal Security, found themselves out of favor with public perception. No one knows where Murungaru is right now, no one really cares whether he is dead or alive; and certainly no one wants him back in any position of public service.
And this is the quagmire Dr. Fred Matiang’i finds himself in.
Mention Dr. Matiang’i anywhere and everyone remembers the reforms he brought forth at his helm as Secretary for Education. He has a perfect fit for the job. His three years as the buck-stopper saw him crack down on exam cheating to (almost) zero. He made it his personal goal to kill exam cartels, busted lazy school headteachers with impromptu quality checks. The day you sneaked out of school to weed your cassava farm is the day Dr. Matiang’i checked into your school. This guy was bad news to bad people in the education ministry. We celebrated his reforms like Kenya had won the world cup.
Look at Secretary Amina Mohammed. Does she strike you as a public official interested in sustaining the gains Dr. Matiang’i left at the education ministry? Your answer is an overweight no. This is the first national examinations Amina Mohammed is presiding over and you can already see the exam papers leaking like a sieve all over the country. Raise your hand if you miss Dr. Matiang’i at the education ministry. You can now put your hands down.
The current rules governing the public transport sector, what you guys call Michuki rules, came into force when John Michuki, peace be upon him, was Transport Minister. John Michuki knew, like Dr. Matiang’i knows, that his success or failure as a minister rested on his passion for his job, and nothing else. John Michuki woke up one day and sent a paper to cabinet telling his colleagues that he wanted to reign in on the crooks in the transport sector and they told him to go ahead and kick ass. If he failed, he would carry his own cross to Golgotha. If he succeeded, John Michuki’s name, as a public service reformer, would be etched in our memory forever and ever. he succeeded. And that’s why you still call his name in death.
Dr. Fred Matiang’i is not the Secretary for Transport. That role belongs to the aloof can-never-kill-a-cockroach James Macharia. You will look for the greatest responsibility skiver North of Tabora South of Takaba and you will come a cropper. James Macharia is a cross breed of Phyllis Kandie and Mwangi Kiunjuri. He is as inspirational as a mortuary signpost.
Which makes Dr. Matiang’i’s job as a key partner in this transport policy matter very dicey. Dr. Matiang’i knows that is he makes this transport thingy his personal business, the way he did with exam cartels during his time at education, he risks alienating his Transport counterpart who should be the one leading this fight from the front. Dr. Matiang’i also knows that if he keeps running policy decisions through his Transport colleague the pace of these reforms will be sensuously hampered and the reform steam will be lost.
I will bet my village grass house that Dr. Matiang’i would never want to antagonize his cabinet colleague. This matatu crackdown will rise and fall on the passion, or lack thereof, of James Macharia. And you do not need to be told how this story ends.