Former United States President Franklin Roosevelt once said that no political party has exclusive patent rights to prosperity. I find no better comparison to draw from these words of Roosevelt — an astute Democrat who served as the 32nd President of the United States — than this reflective moment that my Jubilee Party finds itself engrossed in, eight years since its inception.
Reeling from a victory in the Muguga Member of County Assembly by-election, and a sterling performance in the Kiambaa Parliamentary mini-poll, it’s mandatory that we as a party take stock of our performance, re-evaluate our strategies, and prepare better for future contests.
I must congratulate the Jubilee candidates in these by-elections, as well as key leaders, for their sheer determination and dedication under rather difficult circumstances during the campaign. In my personal reflections, though, I believe we could have done better, and can perform excellently in future contests if we resolve a few tactical mishaps and constant errors that have lately dogged our party.
History has granted us the moment to act and we must not lose sight of this chance that fate has granted us to correct a lot that has gone wrong in the party and the Jubilee regime, lest this comedy of errors takes down the legacy we’ve so resiliently worked for.
For starters, the time has come for none other than the President to act, and decisively so by shaking up his inner political circle. This is the time to dissolve this government, and have the President vet afresh not just his advisers, but the technocrats he has entrusted with the task of delivering on his legacy projects and his succession game plan.
In so doing, the President must settle for nothing less than loyalty and competence, and above all the appreciation of the strategic role politics and politicians play in actualisation of policy decisions and dissemination of the same to the government’s main stakeholders, who are the people.
The individuals the President picks after that shake up must build synergy and a conducive environment between the party, the political class and the national Executive, up to the presidency. This has been seriously lacking for a while now.
This is the most critical phase of this administration, which demands that those the President entrusts with leadership must have the capacity to interrogate politics and disseminate government policies in a manner comprehensible by the masses.
President’s inner circle
I am stressing on the politicians’ role in this discourse because, sadly, most technocrats currently around Mr Uhuru Kenyatta do not seem to appreciate the central sway politicians wield on the masses.
You will see the president out and about launching development projects, but with minimal or zero attendance by elected leaders. This is not just roadside coincidence; it is instigated by incompetent technocrats around the presidency.
I will give the example of the President’s recent launch of the refurbished Kenya Meat Commission, currently under the control of the military. Despite the critical role that communities in the arid live-stock keeping regions play in the supply of livestock to KMC, leaders from these regions were locked out of the launch, despite putting out a request to attend the function.
The net effect of this isolation of politicians from strategy meetings with the President’s inner circle has been devastating politically for our party. Recently, in the violence that dominated the Juja and Bonchari by-elections — both of which we lost — there was a public outcry of the state’s high-handedness, complaints of deployment of security forces to the polls, and talk of an elevated role of the civil servants in political campaigns.
This is not a new outcry. Campaigns for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) had at some point almost come to a halt as our members protested what appeared to be deliberate isolation from the BBI popularisation drive; a role that civil servants have seemingly taken over.
While I appreciate the President’s honest call for deflation of the high-octane 2022 succession politics, there is a feeling within the party that technocrats have displaced politicians from the strategy table on policy, and are now increasingly running the political affairs of the President — some overzealously so — to the detriment of our party.
We must not proceed to BBI campaigns — if we get a favourable court ruling — with this political confusion in Jubilee. The President has national intelligence at his disposal, and should overhaul his government by weeding out internal saboteurs who are camouflaging themselves as technocrats, and who have been setting him up for failure, ridicule, and embarrassment.
Our party secretary-general already sits in the Cabinet, co-opted on a need basis, but that, I feel, is not enough. We need to revive our Jubilee Parliamentary Group too, and have it regularly sit with the President,and actively advise on policy and implementation strategy. It is such a synergy that will shield our party from the routine of embarrassment we’ve experienced in recent by-elections.
Secondly, there is no better time than at present to rejuvenate our internal structures, which have previously been the backbone of the party’s prosperity, and this must begin at the grassroots.
Besides our National Management Committee, which, to its credit, has been routinely meeting to review party strategies, all our other party organs are, for lack of a better word, non-functional.
The once vibrant regional caucuses, parliamentary groups and even the National Executive Committee where I sit are equally moribund — a rather unfortunate state for a ruling party staking a major claim in a general election that is only 13 months away.
The recent losses in Juja and Kiambaa, both nowhere else than in our party leader Uhuru Kenyatta’s home county, could have been avoided had these party organs been extensively involved in strategy and facilitated the campaigns.
Reflecting back to 2017, when our strength as a party was pushed to the limit with the Supreme Court nullification of the presidential election result, I felt extremely concerned. Heading to the October 26, 2017 repeat presidential polls, if I recall, there was so much zeal and determination among our members that individual leaders dedicated their own resources to campaigns and voter mobilization, even though most had already won their individual elective contests.
This energy and political psyche is lacking among our members because party loyalists feel excluded from planning and execution of strategy leading up to key party activities, including by-elections.
It was no surprise that only a small number of elected leaders have been taking part in active political campaigns in the concluded by-elections.
The net-effect of the poor performance in campaigns has been a feeling of disconnect even among loyal supporters, poor turn out at the polls and a dismal performance by the party in the elections.
Lastly, it is just 13 months until next year’s General Election and we need a clear political roadmap to the polls. We’ve in the past three years enjoyed the cooperation of our lead 2017 competitor, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and his ODM party in Parliament. Jubilee needs to begin steering its strategy towards conversation about this co-operation into a long-term political partnership.
This is a discussion which we can only kick-start if we, as Jubilee, put our house in order and initiate a robust and honest internal debate on the correction of tactical mishaps bedevilling our party. Going forward, the mantra must be: let politics remain politics and not bureaucratic management.
The writer is a Member of Parliament for Eldas Constituency and the Secretary of the Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group. email@example.com
December 22, 2019
November 4, 2019