President Kibaki should have gone on strike with public servantsBy MACHARIA GAITHO | Tuesday, December 13 2011 at 09:57
President Mwai Kibaki really disappointed me on Monday. I expected a pronouncement to cheer all Kenyans celebrating 48 years of nationhood.
My moles at State House had informed me that the President was going to abandon his usual caution and aloofness to declare a strike in solidarity with other public servants.
The big question was whether he would beat Prime Minister Raila Odinga to the strike announcement.
The PM had got wind of what was afoot, and the President’s handlers were worried that the Number Two equal in the coalition government might try to steal the thunder by taking advantage of his earlier turn at the microphone to announce first that he was striking in solidarity with doctors, university lecturers, airport workers and others downing their stethoscopes, scalpels, chalk, brooms, microphones and whatever else, over low wages.
Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka was also keenly watching developments and trying to figure out which way to go, as it appeared that the entire Cabinet, MPs, permanent secretaries and other senior government officials were preparing to go on strike.
What the potentates would strike about, however, was not clear. Certainly not wages because they are about the highest-paid public servants in the world.
The President, perhaps, could go on strike alleging that his frayed seat in the Cabinet room does not match in opulence the magical turbo-charged seats being ordered for MPs.
The Health and Medical Services twins, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o and Mrs Beth Mugo, have grounds to strike about the criminal conditions of public hospitals that forces them to seek medical treatment overseas.
The twins of the Education ministries, Prof Sam Ongeri and Prof Margaret Kamar, also have good grounds to down their chalk. The scandalous state of the public education system forces them to send their children and grandchildren to pricey schools, locally and abroad.
Just about every other minister will have something to justify withholding labour. Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, obviously, will be very unhappy about inflation, depression, stagflation and the poor getting poorer.
Mrs Charity Ngilu will recall an old “water for all by the year 2000” slogan and down her pipes.
At Agriculture, Dr Sally Kosgei has good reason in the dire state of the rural economy to down her jembe, as it does for Dr Mohammed Elmi over at the Ministry for the Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands.
Prof George Saitoti at Internal Security and Provincial Administration should also have plenty of grouses, particularly against a new Constitution that threatens to disarm the colonial command and control structure called the Provincial Administration.
His Defence counterpart, Yusuf Haji, will be demanding more tanks, planes and ships to throw against Al-Shabaab.
All ministers will, for obvious reasons, be joined on strike by their assistant ministers and permanent secretaries.
All MPs, of course, have good reason to go on strike. They wanted chairs in the National Assembly chambers that were priced at Sh400,000 ($4,500) each, but some spoilsport is forcing them to make do with locally-made seats, from the prisons workshops of all places, at half that price.
Methinks chairs coming at a Nasa-like price tag should come with built-in WC, bidet, exhaust pipe, PlayStation, video screen with personal movie selection, electronic voting button, bum and back massage machine, ejector mechanism and, of course, a “banknote counter”.
Our political leaders and senior public servants should be like City Council of Nairobi workers; they go on strike and no one notices.
So I urge them Godspeed towards industrial action. In fact, they should go the whole hog and resign.
Meanwhile, we can be trying to work out ways of providing our professionals in public service with a living wage if that is what it will take to improve services.
Perhaps a good start would be a law restricting ministers, MPs, permanent secretaries and other government potentates seeking medical treatment and education — for themselves and dependents — to exclusively attend public hospitals and schools.
This should apply even if they are not (mis)using public funds.
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