Does Wajir Deserve a Better Alternative?
By NFD Team,
Few weeks ago, I shared with you my thoughts on what I thought were 3 politically deadly blows that could throw Shuluq’s chances of a reelection into the dead sea if fresh elections are called. Now that the likelihood of a by-election is more certain than it was few weeks ago and every politician worth his salt is girding his loin to throw their hat in the ring, I would like to take more of your time to give a brief purview of what I think about those selling themselves as the alternative. I will begin with the former governor H.E. Ahmed Abdullahi who is busy selling himself as the only alternative to the current administration. Hon Ahmed Abdullahi is a study of propaganda and marketing. He has not only mastered the art he is the art itself. He likes to be seen as not only the architect but the quality surveyor and finish designer of every single act of commission or omission in the county affairs. Many people often fall for this but some understand it as gimmicks. All over the country he sold himself as the definition of development and whether he bought his way to this or people magnified some signature projects his administration initiated the fact is that many people appear to have bought his description of himself. There is no question that the former governor has some mega projects to his name. What is in question is whether these projects were a priority for the county, the integrity of the execution of the projects and whether they went through the correct channel of consultation and public participation. Admittedly public participation is not every leader’s piece of cake if you look round the counties across the country but Ahmed liked to be seen as different. However, it is the same difference.
The people of Wajir county are of the consensus that the former governor was a man of his own in the running of his administration. This was a legitimate and laudable trait that not only the voters applauded but encouraged. However, the same people are of the same consensus that the man has perfected the art and science of arrogance. This arrogance was and still is his albatross in the expected electoral fight even many of his supporters admit. It is because of this exaggerated air of bravado and bombastic behavior he is denied the humility to consult the electorate, at least those in the know, and more often than not dims his chances of a win when the elections are called despite what some people claim to be the development milestones to his name. Leadership is not only about development. Good infrastructure, improved health care provision, decent examination grades or any of the development indicators are not enough to lead a people to prosperity. Leadership is humility. He clearly lacks this which has the great potential of sounding the death kneel to his comeback.
Let us take what many people call his biggest signature project for a study; the tarmac. This was a mega project that consumed considerable amount of money. The few car owners, tuk-tuk drivers and boda boda riders have economically improved a notch when his administration tarmacked the few inner city pass-ways. There is no denying that this was development for an important section of the population that have recorded some improvement in income owing to the reduced maintenance cost for example. However, unfortunately, the marketing that marked the tarmac and what it was made to be by his administration was not commensurate with what the project achieved for great majority of the people of the county. The hundreds of millions that was poured into the project unfortunately had little contribution other than what can be called cosmetic economics. At this point in time cosmetic economics is not what Wajir county could afford. It will take another decade to realize a return on this investment if any and most economist will dismiss the tarmac as not only missing the prioritization mark but a misappropriation of badly needed resources. The tarmac as much as it pleased the moneyed who drove cars and left millions in the pockets of those who were awarded the contracts, has not helped the great majority of the denizens of this county. There are less than 1000 motorcars in Wajir county including tuk-tuks and boda bodas and pouring hundreds of millions of tax payers money into a project that only helps less than 1% of the population is a misappropriation. This therefore renders Hon Abdullahi’s much hyped project and development record as null and void. If he only consulted economists, analyst and the great people of Wajir county the hundreds of millions of shillings would not have gone to waste and his chances of a reelection may have improved a notch. In 2017 many voters saw through the tricks and dismissed the tarmac as nothing but a gimmick that was not only a drain on their collective resources but a considerable waste and have therefore voted him out.
There is a consensus that Hon Abdullahi has kept destructive politicians and their pranks at bay and this is applauded by the majority of the denizens of Wajir people. However, there is also near consensus that the former governor has killed the micro economies of all the sub-counties, some more than the others. This has played havoc on the lives of hundreds of micro and medium enterprise owners across the county and has affected the livelihoods of hundreds of families. It will take a decade if not more to revive what was once a booming business environment of some sub-counties like Habaswein, Giriftu and Bute that his economic policy of centralization has destroyed. Devolution was about decentralization of power and resources and bringing services closer to the people. Hon. Abdullahi has done the opposite and while resources and powers were being devolved to the counties by the central government, he concentrated the resources and centralized the power to the headquarters. I stand corrected, but I cannot find one simple mega project other than the hyped tarmac that is not even value for money that his administration has initiated and completed. If anything he was taking away projects from one sub-county and giving it to another just to create a wedge between populations of different sub-counties. For example, he withdrew the level 4 hospital project earmarked for Habaswein Sub-county by force and without consultation and moved it to another sub-county. This would have been a little less bitter for the affected if he built the level 4 hospital in his preferred sub-county but he did not. Now electorates wonder where the money has gone as the important and essential project falls between two stools. It was like H.E. Abdullahi was waging a war against his own county whose resources he was mandated to manage between 2013-2017.
Another pork-barrel project that will go into the annals of his political history as the man who contributed to the already disastrous maternal mortality rate and leaving a disease ravaged county is the Medical Leasing Contract. He was the first governor to sign this con treat masquerading as a contract. 80 million shillings of Wajir county’s devolved funds goes to service this contract and goes back to the national government at least according to official records. The contract was to provide equipment ranging from dialysis machines, oncology equipment and theater services. This would have been value for money were the equipment functioning and thoughts put into how to make the whole thing work. As I said at the time, this contract was not value for money. It was just one of the many contracts that lobbyist and influential people used to fatten their pockets. Until today the dozens of Wajir county kidney patients go to other counties such as Garissa for dialysis or travel even further to Nairobi and India with the associated extreme financial and emotional hardships. How H.E. Abdullahi will again face the kidney patients and their families or those diagnosed or misdiagnosed with cancers and the oncology section ought to have been helping beggar belief.
The more H.E. Ahmed Abdullahi pours money into campaigns after a successful nullification of the incumbent’s election, forms and breaks alliances and orders what he allegedly likes to be seen as his minions to do political acrobatics at whim the more ordinary voters of Wajir county leave him in droves.
Were he to seriously mount a reelection campaign and improve his chances of a comeback, I would advise him to do 3 things: Change the tune and tone and stop lampooning and lambasting the education qualification or lack thereof of his septuagenarian former rival. Go back to the Degodia and apologize remorsefully for what he did to the incumbent. It behooves of arrogance and does not do anything to improve his chances. Two, ditch all baggage with no constituencies to carry with them and go straight to the people of the south and apologize profusely without any excuses. Hon Abdullahi has been in politics for some time but unfortunately he appears to be a man who believes that politics is all about money. No it is not. All politics is local and electorates are getting wiser or dejected by the day whichever way one looks at. If he were to be given a political graveyard epitaph it would read ‘’The South have consigned him to the political dustbin, were he to be a little bit more politically fair and done justice to the South it may have turned a lot different for him in Wajir politics’’. While politics has no rules, if your only hope of winning is by dividing voters then there is little hope of winning. If the former governor expects few moneyed individuals will bring him the southern votes, he needs few more political lessons. What he may regard as the Southern voice may not have a constituency behind them.
The former governor needs the North and the West Constituencies votes like nothing before in this fresh elections. The tag that he needs to shade most is the warmonger tag his political rivals feel pleasure labelling him. The voters from the North-West backyard are buying the alleged propaganda that he is behind the fires raging between these clans. This is partly the backyard he hails from and would make him constituency-less if he does not act quickly to stop this tag finding a permanent place in the minds of these voters. Whether his trademark personality will allow him do the above is hard to tell but his ship is sinking past redemption.