David Makali - Political careers bound to suffer - The Star

I have been wondering what sometimes drives people into politics? Whether it is the craving for social status and prestige or the opportunity to make a quick buck through political connections and shady deals. Or may be it is the hefty pay that MPs are wont to award themselves. But still there are those who claim that they are responding to a leadership call "due to popular demand".

Whatever it is that drives them, it is obvious that holders of elective public office, almost always never seem to achieve their mission regardless of how long they stay on, making politics the most addictive social habit. The longer one stays in office the more ambitious and greedier you become. And that addiction comes with a heavy price; soon, five years are gone and many are knocked out. The result is almost always uniform. I am yet to meet a prosperous former MP one year after losing an election.

Yet, that has not deterred legions of others from chasing after the wind. Since the passage of the new constitution, literally everyone who is anyone I know has been wagging their tongues and salivating at the myriad positions to be contested, oblivious of the humbling lessons from the past.

For starters, as soon as the new constitution is promulgated this Friday, the MPs in the current Parliament will lose four months of their term because elections will have to be held in August and not December 2012.

But that is small matter in the heartthrob of a politician. The fatal attraction to tense, racy competition, the risk of heart attacks and the threat of financial strain is nothing to a politician's stumbling egos. It is what separates wily politicians from us nondescript humans.

And as the referendum paves the way for the election, the ecstasy is trebling too, setting the stage for the most complicated and exciting period in Kenya political history. You are spoilt for choice in the devolved new structure of government: you are eligible for countless positions from county representative, Speaker of the country government, mayor of your town, County Governor, Senator, MP, Vice President and President.

But therein lies the catch again — many careers are about to meet their end. Devolution has effectively rendered the hitherto glorified position of MP hollow and lowly setting off a scramble out among incumbent. The fact that Cabinet will be appointed from outside parliament has relegated MPs to the current status of councillors. It is more glamorous to be a Senator or Governor, both of which now pack more prestige.

Now, some MPs are gasping for anything that will raise their egos and feasibility at the local and national level from the forest of positions.

My sympathies go to some outspoken MPs who will not find vacancies at the national level either as presidential candidates or running mates, which they have long coveted. In the new era where political coalitions will no longer hold because a President must be elected by a clear majority, some careers pegged on ethnic and regional leverage are destined to the political dustbin.

There can be no telling whether a political pact or alliance formed will be honoured because the President may not be able to reward even his most trusted lieutenants with Cabinet appointments or foist them on the parastatals. They will be vetted by Parliament, which may rubbish them.

So the Big Boys Club that has always banked its hopes on coalitions has to go back to the drawing board. A stab at the presidency is now a do-or-die affair; if you lose, chances are high you will be vanguished from politics forever without the previous soft landing. Political debts will need to be written off and some targets will have to be lowered. Senator or Governor positions may still be too low for some political honchos, but that is about the best that is available.

Last week, sympathisers of a well-known regional kingpin were consulting how their man will be compelled to vie for Governor or Senator of a tiny county even though his clout is much bigger.

Well, the unhappy situation is that he will be no more powerful than other governors in the same region with similar ethnic composition so it will not be futile to purport to be more powerful than others in the new dispensation.

Which is just as well. The new constitution will eliminate jokers who attend our ballot papers every election year as contestants for the presidency. It will reduce the race to a three-horse affair with the prospect that it will gradually lessen ethnicity and fire up the stakes in our country's national leader.

If the new constitution can achieve that, it will have served Kenyans well.

Makali is the director- of The Media Institute. Email dmakali@yahoo.com

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