Ababu Namwamba: There is no reason for PSC to fall flat

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." — Galileo Galilei

Kenya's chequered odyssey in search of a new constitutional dispensation enters a critical phase today when the 27-member Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review begins its efforts to build consensus on the revised draft released by the Committee of Experts a week ago.

The PSC's retreat at Naivasha's Great Rift Valley Lodge comes against a backdrop of heightened public apprehension on the fate of this process, on which the very essence of our national stability hinges.

This apprehension is justifiably informed by the continuing political grandstanding and sectarian jingoism that have severally torpedoed similar efforts in the past. Indeed the litany of historical hiccups and the apparent reluctance by the current political class to compromise have combined to ferment a cocktail of putrid pessimism, with a considerable swathe of Kenyans convinced that Naivasha will only serve up one expensive deadlock!

While I empathise with Kenyans whose confidence in the constitution review process has hit ground zero, I believe it is prudent to be a good student of history without being enslaved by the past.

Agony over skeletons of the toxic 2005 plebiscite and other botched constitution making attempts should be tempered by the illuminating lessons gleaned from those missteps; while memories of failure by the Ninth Parliament and the Narc administration to strike a political compromise, leading to that ill-fated referendum, could be soothed by the reality that the Tenth Parliament and the coalition government are wholly different political configurations that present entirely new permutations.

Winston Churchill often quipped that a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, while an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. I am optimistic that we have an excellent window to beat our long running jinx and bequeath our motherland a new constitutional dispensation.

And so, I have chosen to focus on the unique opportunities presented by the dicey political scenario we find ourselves in as we settle down in Naivasha to keep the hope of our nation alive.

My optimism rides on three basic factors:

One, I am convinced that this time round Kenyans are firmly focused on the ultimate prize and will not entertain any side shows.

The air is pregnant with public expectation. Forty million eyes are trained on the political class, with an ominous warning: Botch it again and risk a social tsunami that could scatter you all to the four winds!

This public "eye" is the insurance for the process, and must not be compromised by anyone or anything. But for it to succeed, Kenyans must firmly refuse to be herded into any political, ethnic, religious or regional pigeon holes.

The second reason for my optimism is the collective awareness within the political class that it may quite be now or never, with never promising dire consequences!

This awareness, coupled with the reality that Kenyans will not put up with any more political hanky-panky, will hopefully arouse the PSC to make Naivasha a land-mark in our long-running constitutional odyssey; may it similarly propel the Tenth Parliament to strike a blow for transformational reforms; and inspire President Kibaki and Premier Raila Odinga to bequeath Kenya a legacy of national stability.

Finally, I take with me a strong dose of optimism to Naivasha simply because the consequences of failure are too grim to contemplate! I will settle down to this great national task with the full consciousness that the best way to fail is to presume it.

Guided by the Galilean wisdom that "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use", I will proceed to play my role with honour and humility, deploying with measured precision every ounce of my sense, reason and intellect.

And Kenyans may be pleased to note that this inspiration is something, I believe, I do share with the rest of the membership of the PSC. Indeed this spirit is precisely what the committee has ridden to steer the Agenda Four reforms this far.

Wouldn't it be a nice thing, sometime in 3010, to be written: "Behold, there lived a generation of Kenyans in 20..." Nelson Mandela would have simply said: "Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation". C'mon, let us get this constitution!

Namwamba is the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review. He is the MP for Budalang'i.

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