Wycliffe Muga: Why Ongeri and his PS have to go - The Star

In a recent letter to the editor which was prominently published in this paper, a reader took great exception to the kind of views I have been expressing recently.

He had valid arguments to back up his discontent, and after going into details of why some of my writings did not really make sense to him, he compared me in his concluding lines to a student who goes into the exam room to set his own questions.

In this remark by the reader, Moses Wasamu, lies the essence of what it takes to understand politics or anything else for that matter.

Political philosopher Isaiah Berlin once commented that solving life's problems is rarely about finding answers to questions. He believed that what really matters is to learn how to ask the right question, because if you figure out the right question, the answer would at once be self-evident.

Take for example my column of last week, in which I tried to explain how the current fashion for taking out two simultaneous five-year mortgages among first-time MPs (who are always a majority in any Parliament) tends to leave these MPs terribly broke most of the time.

The point of departure for this column was that our MPs are yet again hoping for a salary increase when livelihoods of millions of Kenyans have been destroyed by either post-election violence, or famine, or floods.

If you ask (as many did): Why do we always seem to vote in such greedy MPs? Or, don't these MPs see what is happening in the rest of the country? You are not likely to get a conclusive answer.

So I sought to ask and then to answer a totally different question, which I would phrase as follows: What is it that would make an elected leader already earning Sh850,000 in salary and allowances struggle to earn yet more when they know very well the country is against it? What exactly is it that makes our MPs so desperate?

And the answer to that, of course, is that they are mostly up to their necks in property loans, and have very little money left for the kind of discretionary spending which is unavoidable in a country full of poor people such as ours.

Then consider what most readers were obsessed with at the time when the massive thefts of the Free Primary Education project funds first came to light. That money intended to enable children from poor families to get a quality education should have ended up in private bank accounts was a national disgrace that inflamed passions even among those who easily afford private schools for their children.

As I recall, what many kept asking were things like: Why is it that our ministers and Permanent Secretaries never take moral responsibility for scandals which occur in their ministries? Or, why does the President not dismiss the PS and the minister, if they refuse to resign?

But again, I asked and answered a very different question rather long and convoluted though this question was.

My question could be framed something like this: It has been clear for some time that this question of who will survive a major scandal, and who will be forced to resign, is not really a matter entirely at the President's discretion anymore.

The recent case of Justice Aaron Ringera is illuminating: the President had already given Ringera a fresh term in office, and the Vice President was eloquent in his conviction that Ringera would remain in office. But in the end, there was no option but for Ringera to make a quiet exit.

In general then, if the combined voices of Parliament, the donor community, and above all the ordinary Kenyan, all say that your time is up, then in the end the President will have to get rid of you one way or another.

In such a context, it is obvious that Education minister Prof Sam Ongeri and his PS Prof Karega Mutahi will have to go whatever brave face they may put on for now. And the real question here is: Why is it taking the President so long to sack them?

And the answer, of course, is that Parliament is not in session at the moment, and this has given the two professors some breathing room in which to try and manoeuvre their way out.

These two examples, I hope, will illustrate to Wasamu and others who validly criticize me, that there is much to be said for posing your own questions before seeking answers. And often, it is the only way that you will get answers at all.

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