No cake... How night allowance-seeking MPs are busy stoking a revolution in Kenya

Friday July 19 2019

Every now and then Kenyan Members of Parliament

Every now and then Kenyan Members of Parliament award themselves salary increments and benefits that are today the highest in the world. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG 

NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
By NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
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Are our Members of Parliament intent on sparking a revolution? It is about time we came to realise that the people who sit in positions of power to represent us have no idea what their role is.

In the span of a week a housing allowance and night allowance have been proposed just to make sure that their salaries are increased.

While MPs are speaking about increasing allowances, most citizens are struggling to make ends meet.

We are no longer forming WhatsApp groups to raise money just for funerals and hospital bills, people are now asking for help to pay school fees and others just to get them through the week as we watch youth gamble to pay rent.

The commercials of betting companies reveal so much: Every time a winner is asked about what they will do with their money, it is never about taking a vacation.

One would think they would say something like, “I would like to see the world, you know my dream has always been to travel to other countries.”
They talk about paying school fees or building a home.

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People are dreaming about these things, placing their hopes and praying about it every time they make a bet hoping that it will give them access to a decent standard of life. People are literally gambling with their lives.

Do our MPs know just where this money will come from? The thing about this job, like many others, is that we all have to retire, and of course there is no telling when the angel of death will come and swoop on us.

As for politics, it is difficult to remain an elected member for very long. The turnover rate is quite high.

The argument could be made that they are only looking to stay one term, make all the money that they can, invest it, then when they are out of the political business they can become settled.

We have seen one-term politicians enter the game with no vehicle or assets to their name but owning shopping complexes and mansions in the span of five years.

So yes, granted, they leave not living too badly. But the fact remains, they will not be an MP forever...There comes a day they will return from the plush clouds of celebrity living and back to reality alongside the rest of us.

They want to make sure that transition is not too dramatic and that they can survive without the perks they were used to.

That means decisions made on the spur of the moment, such as increasing public wages, will not be enjoyed by them at that moment but paid for by them: Taxes will have to be raised because revenue collection has to increase to sustain these.

For Members of Parliament to insinuate that they are being targeted, and there are public servants who receive allowances that are similar and there is no public outrage is plain ridiculous.

If you witnessed someone doing something wrong, would you join them just because they are getting away with it? I believe MPs would answer yes – because that is their current trend of behaviour.

The reasoning behind needing higher allowances because the demands from the public are too much is shortsighted and missing the point.

What it means is that the public do not have access to services that are their constitutional right.

Why not use those same united energies to push for policies that would make the citizens’ lives more liveable?

If it was any other job, when if one felt that their pay was not enough, they would look for employment elsewhere and resign, not bully the company into paying more.

As a lover of history, I believe it goes to show us that there is nothing new under the sun. What do you think happens when the people you lead continue to suffer and struggle in poverty as your life continues to flourish?

People get angrier and angrier, like a pressure cooker on a stove that when the heat gets too much will explode just to release the steam.

So learn from history and do not be like Marie Antoinette, flaunting her wealth as her people were struggling to find a meal to eat. That story ended up in a revolution that saw her head cut off.

Nerima Wako- Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW

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