Kenyans Need the Billions Politicians Flash during Electioneering Period to Fight Coronavirus

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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is largely a failed organisation. But there is no bigger failure on their part than the implementation of the Elections Campaign Financing Act. Here, they failed by 100 percent. 

The bill was put in place to control politicians’ extravagant spending. After IEBC’s failure to stop them in 2013, a conservative estimate of Ksh. 200 billion was splashed in campaigns, with top two presidential candidates spending over a quarter of that amount in 2017. This amount is just 15 percent of the Ksh 30 billion Safaricom and KCB MPesa set aside to loan distressed Kenyans.

If there is time Kenyans need politician’s money, then it should be now.

In Kakamenga County’s Governor Oparanya’s spent Ksh 5 million in each constituency. in 2013 to deliver his seat. Considering Kakamega has 12 constituencies, the total estimate was Ksh 60 million . This value, based on economists and political analysts grew tenfold in 2017. That puts an average governor aspirant at Ksh 600 million.

In 2017, there was money everywhere.

A number of politicians agreed that the 2017 lections were the most expensive in our history. Notably, Kericho County’s Paul Chepkwony, Senate Speaker, Ken Lusak and Nakuru gubernatorial candidate John Mututho who lost to Lee Kinyanjui.

A Coast based sitting governor bragged of having in excess of Ksh 3 billion in campaign funds, and Nairobi based Evans Kidero had been running a blue-chip like secretariat whose expenditure did not have any cap. Governor aspirants alone splashed in excess of Ksh 100 billion in campaign funds. If you count senators, MPs, Women Reps, you can easily see the Ksh 200 billion estimate by economic experts is still horribly understated.

Now the major concern is that all these people are no longer active to assist their constituents respond to the Covid-19 crisis. Maybe to understand what they money can do, we need some figures. An average person working in industrial area, or a Jua Cali artisan, makes an estimated Ksh. 1000 a day. Out of this, the person needs around Ksh 500 to sustain a family of four. According to the last Census report, Kenya has around 12 million households. If we subtract the overrated middle class from these households, and possibly some households in upcountry that may not need food stamps, we’d have around 5 million households who need ‘handouts’ from politicians or the government.

Five million households with each requiring 500 will just cost a paltry Ksh. 2.5 billion, or 1.25 percent of the money politicians splashed in 2017.  IEBC might have had an obligation to stop these people from spending this money, but it failed. I think now they have a chance to spend the money without any form of hindrance. It should not be that when they are seeking elections, is when they break their banks. It should be as early as now.

One of the prevailing criticisms over the potential lockdown, or even the ongoing curfew is that a good number of Kenyans cannot afford meals. That is absolutely true. A substantial number of Kenyans survive from wage to wage, usually paid on a daily basis. For most people in urban setup, a lockdown will mean they will have to sleep hungry. We surely do not need to lose people out of hunger as they escape Covid-19. 

I sometimes feel the most insensitive class and people who have money, or as I usually view them, think they have money. While calling out politicians to demonstrate their philanthropy at this time, those people should equally demonstrate their generosity. A lockdown will only work if we think how these people will get food to remain indoors. While Kenyans continue to criticise each other about observing curfew hours, and staring at possible full lockdown, a substantial online energy should be directed to politicians and their millionaire friends to unlock the billions they brag with during campaigns. Considering how they spend with impunity, Kenyans should feel quite entitled to demand those funds right away, as a matter of urgency.

A curfew will be successful, at least Kenyans have some 12 hours to fend for food. It is a lockdown, if done without appropriate measures including delivering food and basic to the most common mwananchi, that will remind those who have chosen to remain insensitive about the hustles of a common man that they are not special.  It will take people in Kibera two days of hunger to start consuming police officers, and as they complete that, they will be in Karen. It will be an easiest route to deliver Covid-19 to those who have refused to heed to their calls before a complete lockdown.

Politicians and their friends should break their banks as a moral and ethical obligation before things turn against them.  

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