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Let’s pamper our MPs even more…

Jun 21, 2009 Leadership, Sunday Nation

There seems to be a bit of noise in the country about the proposal to build a walkway connecting Parliament Building, Continental House and County Hall at a proposed cost of Sh 61 million. This is to allow our members of parliament to cross the road with ease as they walk between their primary workplaces.

Kenyans seem a bit miffed by this, regarding it as an unnecessary extravagance at a time when the country as a whole is experiencing a recession and many Kenyans are starving for a living. But I find this reaction misplaced and misguided. I think we should be doing more for the comfort and ease of our MPs and leaders, not less.

For one thing, this thing should not be a ‘walkway’ at all. Let us double the cost and make it an escalator. Why do we want our leaders to be covered in sweat as they arrive in the hallowed house? Most of them are carrying a great deal of excess weight due to their status as it is; please let them cross the road in comfort.

Can Kenyans please realise that these are the top dogs of society that we are talking about? Let us not drag them down to our level, having to dodge crazed matatus, insistent beggars and other unpleasant irritants on the road. We must understand: great societies are structured for the pleasure and uplift of leaders, not the unwashed masses. I think this point is not being made often enough. Many over-educated mischief-makers are indeed making the opposite point: that we must worry unnecessarily about the common people. As many MPs can confirm, education beyond age fifteen is a waste of time anyway.

Indeed, there are many valid reasons why the almost-holy feet of MPs should never have to touch the street at all. As we know, these people have many enemies due to the weight of responsibilities that they carry on our behalf. There are many wastrels and ne’er-do-wells who are looking for every opportunity to accost parliamentarians in the street. It’s a long list: political enemies; creditors; angry spouses; mistresses; former lovers; frustrated constituents; relatives seeking handouts; old schoolfriends; partners in failed ventures; barmaids; former campaign managers; future campaign managers; unpaid workers; gang leaders; auctioneers.

Given that list, can we please spare our elected representatives any unnecessary embarrassments and complications? Let them walk around in peace, aloof from the pollution, noise and disturbance created by the likes of you and me.

Some of you seem offended by the amount in question. But what is sixty million shillings, really? If it was instead divided equally between every Kenyan, what would we all get? Two shillings! What are you going to do with two bob? Let us be enlightened about these matters and put money where it really makes a difference. If our leaders can walk around in comfort, they will have more time to think about development and uplift for the rest of us.

There are some noisemakers who have been busy listing what else we could do with sixty million shillings. They point out, for example, that we could build a brand-new two-kilometre road in Nairobi which would ease the traffic problem. Or that we could feed two hundred thousand starving Kenyans for a month, or resettle a few thousand internally displaced persons, blah blah blah.

Again, we are missing the point. If Nairobians are given another road, they will just rush there with their cars and jam it up in a week. If we feed starving Kenyans, they will be starving again as soon as the rains fail to come. If we resettle IDPs, they will simply offend their new neighbours again. If we educate children, they will just burn their schools down. These are not productive uses of scarce funds. Building a walkway (or rather a ‘glideway’) clearly is.

In fact, we should apply the same reasoning to other items of proposed expenditure such a Sh 100 million house for the Speaker, a Sh 500 million house for the vice-president, a Sh 1 billion refurbishment of parliament chambers, etc. These are the investments we must make for the future of our children. Let us invest in the comfort, status, convenience and luxury of our leaders. When these people are freed of the stresses of daily life, they will apply their large brains to the problem of how to look after wananchi.

Look, we’re never going to be world-beating in anything but running. We might as well forget about the welfare of the 35 million, and instead focus on the 350. Even if we grow our economy at a phenomenal rate for the next twenty years, the income of the average Kenyan might only match that of the average South African or Egyptian. So what?

Far better to ensure that a few hundred people in the country earn world-beating salaries, enjoy the best perks and rub shoulders with the world’s best. That way, Kenya can take its rightful place in the world. Ama?

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