FIDEL ODINGA ROAD: JOHO SHOVED IT DOWN HIS PEOPLE’S THROATS

FIDEL ODINGA ROAD: JOHO SHOVED IT DOWN HIS PEOPLE’S THROATS

Last September, Dwaine Caraway, a member of the Dallas County Council in the United States tabled a proposal to change the name of a six-mile road from Lancaster Road to Mandela Boulevard.

His reason was that the area through which the road passes has not changed for years; that the name change would not only be an honour to one of the greatest human beings – the late former South African President Nelson Mandela –  but it would also bring hope and prosperity to that part of the city.

The Council sessions were stormy and tense. The majority of Councillors were opposed to the re-naming of the street after a foreigner. Area businessmen weighed in by saying they did not want to incur expenses of printing new stationery to reflect the new address.

“It is not fair,” one furious Councillor told Caraway, “that you just come up with an idea and throw it down our throats.”

Caraway was eventually forced to withdraw the proposal.

What happened in Dallas is exactly what should have happened in Mombasa before Governor Ali Hassan Joho unblushingly announced to mourners that a street would be named after Fidel Odinga, the late son of opposition leader Raila Odinga as a mark of recognition for “his outstanding achievements in life.”

Three things worry me about this roadside declaration.

One, the Mombasa County Assembly did not, as far as I know, pass any resolution authorising change of name prior to Joho’s announcement. That should have been the proper procedure to follow in a matter with such heavy political connotations as this. The County Assembly should have been given the opportunity to discuss and either approve or disapprove it.

Two, what outstanding achievements was Joho talking about?

Fidel was a private citizen. From media reports it seems he did a lot for himself and for others elsewhere, but there is nothing to show that he did anything for the Mombasa people to deserve an honour.

In any case, the opportunity of naming anything after Fidel – if that is the desire of Kenyans – should  first have been given to his home region. Up to now, I have not heard anyone from Nyanza making a similar proposal.

And finally, why the haste? What was the reason the announcement had to be made at the burial ceremony instead of coming from the Governor’s parlour?

It is for these reasons that I feel the decision was ill-conceived, enigmatic, and a grotesque abuse of power. It smells of partisan sycophancy and political opportunism. Joho is the deputy leader in the Raila-led Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), and it’s possible he went through this charade to ingratiate himself with the party and the Odinga clan. That may have succeeded but the decision surely assaulted the sensibilities of the Mombasa people.

To paraphrase the Dallas Councillor, Joho came up with an idea and shoved it down the throats of his people.

Only last year, Kenyans saw an almost similar attempt to name a street in the Kenyan capital after Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero. That attempt flopped.

Finally, it appears some of our leaders are suffering from the ‘big man syndrome’ forgetting that they were elected to lead people out of their miseries and propel our country to greater heights of development and prosperity. Naming or renaming streets should not be a priority.

To Governor Joho I want to say this: there are so many Coastals – dead and alive – who played significant historical roles in making Mombasa the way it is – culturally, politically, and economically. These have not been recognised.  In fact, they have been completely forgotten.

Joho has an opportunity to leave a legacy that will allow our forgotten heroes to be brought back to life, for posterity’s sake.

Charity begins at home, they say, and the place to look for heroes is within and not without.

And that is my say.

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2015 IS LIKELY TO BE AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT AND DIVISIVE YEAR FOR KENYANS

2015 IS LIKELY TO BE AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT AND DIVISIVE YEAR FOR KENYANS

Until December 31, 2014, my spirits were high that 2015 would be a year of notable political tolerance, a year in which Kenyan people would scale down their ethnic exchanges, enjoy the fullness of the constitution and work collectively to deal with increased insecurity and other challenges.

I expected in the new year labour strikes would end; tribal suspicions and mistrust would stop and Kenyans would focus energies on positive thinking and actions.

But events of the first week of the year yield no indications life will be any easier this year. I see 2015 as an extremely divisive year, a year of political turmoil fueled by entrenched power struggles and ethnic polarisation; a year of diminished hopes for many Kenyans who thought devolved governments were a panacea for their many troubles.

Despite setbacks caused by the sudden deaths of Otieno Kajwang, the opposition’s most fiery defender, and Raila Odinga’s heir apparent, Fidel, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) appears set to show its muscle this year.

If 2014 was a year of confusion, wasted opportunities and disorganisation in the opposition ranks, 2015 is likely to see a conflation of open defiance and more court battles against government-backed laws; all this intended to disorient the government and make the country as ungovernable as possible ahead of the general elections.

Currently, tribal tensions are at their highest peak with both sides of the political divide bumbling away in social media with messages saturated with hate and rage. Some of the posts are nothing but gossipy scooplets meant to irritate, while others are distasteful pokes, issued at a time when Kenyans are mourning an important death. All this shows the level of lingering tribal animosity; and displays a dizzying decline in morals and uprightness among some of us.

If Kenya burns as it did in 2007/2008, it is not just the government or the opposition that will suffer. It is all of us.

But that is not the only reason why I fear for Kenya in 2015. The decline in tourism is likely to prevail in the new year. With hotels showing record low turn-outs especially at the Coast, people will continue to be unemployed, and related trades will suffer. The Treasury will be handicapped in fulfilling its obligation of funding the country’s development, and the goals of both the Jubilee Coalition manifesto and Vision 2030 could be in jeopardy.

This week’s teachers’ strike, even if resolved amicably, will not be the only one expected this year. Since not all grievances have been resolved in the health and higher education sectors, Kenyans should expect doctors and nurses as well as lecturers and professors to down their tools before the end of the 352 days.

We all know that industrial disorder is inimical to the economy.

Kenyans will also wait anxiously to see whether the new Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security, Joseph Nkaissery, will inject any new ideas into a docket whose performance rating is among the lowest in the country. If he fails to stop terrorist attacks from happening by stamping out corruption, boosting morale in his officers and building capacity to allow a more efficient response and overall service delivery, the security situation in the country will most likely to go back to where it was during the tenure of his predecessor, Joseph Ole Lenku.

One other big challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta will face this year will be how to rationalise public sector expenditure vis a vis development needs of the country. 2014 saw a complete failure on the part of the government to curb wastage in the two-tier government, the result being Treasury could not balance its books. In order for the government to reduce fiscal deficits and cut down on recurrent expenditure, it must be willing to take far more drastic action than it did unsuccessfully in 2014.

Corruption is another issue. Kenyans are still waiting to see how the President will deal with this matter. We are yet to see anyone within the presidency – said to be a den of corruption – punished. The same applies to Ministries and departments. If there is a time to slay this dragon it is now. Failure to do so will only give the opposition ammunition with which to pummel the government come election time in 2017.

And that is my say.