By KWENDO OPANGA
Posted Saturday, October 29 2011 at 12:32
Posted Saturday, October 29 2011 at 12:32
Vice-Presidential spokesman Kaplich Barsito deliberately, and with intent, introduced yet more controversy to the very public and unedifying spat between his boss, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, and Public Health minister Anyang’ Nyong’o.
In his robust defence of Mr Musyoka’s visit to Eldoret’s Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Mr Barsito said the vice-presidency is an extension, an adjunct part, of the presidency.
And, Mr Barsito also said, Mr Musyoka is Prof Nyong’o’s boss. Deciphered, Mr Barsito was also saying that the people in whose locale the hospital falls, unlike Prof Nyong’o, know about the vice-presidency which is why they invited Mr Musyoka to visit, see and feel their tribulations for himself and take action.
Mr Barsito’s position is important because of five reasons. One, it casts Prof Nyong’o as one who does not understand the structure of government.
Two, it brings the National Accord into fresh focus. Three, it suggests the emergence of a more aggressive VP.
Four, the position publicly puts the President in a quandary. Mr Barsito is asking the President to make it plain the Veep is Prof Nyong’o’s boss.
And the latter is quite clear in his letter to the President that the VP is meddling in his docket. There must be better work to do – in public.
Five, this matter should cause us to stop and reflect on the argument by former and sitting VPs that because they have held this office, they have been prepared for the presidency. In other words, is being vice-president rather like understudying the President?
So, is it, in fact, the case that the vice-presidency is an extension of the presidency? I doubt it.
The Vice-President is, according to the old Constitution, the principal assistant or, according to the new Constitution, the principal deputy, of the President.
Both documents are clear that the Vice- President shall perform such duties as are assigned by the President.
Neither describes the VP the way the current office would want us to believe. In practice here and around the world, VPs serve at the mercy of the President.
When, for some strange reason and in a too familiar Kanu-style manoeuvre then VP Josephat Karanja was accused of behaving like an acting President, President Moi let it be known that he was Head of State even when in the air.
Towards the 2002 General Election President Moi preferred Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, a political greenhorn, to Prof George Saitoti, his VP of 13 years, to be his successor.
Can Prof Saitoti then convincingly claim he was under-studying the Head of State for the period?
Mr Moi himself may have spent the greater part of his 12-year tenure as VP representing Jomo Kenyatta in many international functions, but it was others, among them the late Mbiyu Koinange, who played President, not he.
When he was VP, Mr Kibaki was more or less confined to his Othaya constituency by the ubiquitous Kanu machine but this was again used against him as proof that he did not think much of the rest of Kenya.
Now, his VP endures a more complex situation. The way I understand it is that in this coalition government, the PM has his ministers and the President has his and that matters affecting ministers are agreed in consultation between the principals.
The VP does not feature in this arrangement. How about the PM? That office is neither in the old nor new Constitution.
But, according to the National Accord signed between the principals in the wake of the post-poll violence of 2007 and 2008, the PM is the supervisor of government ministries.
It is why the PM – and not the VP – has been allocated time in Parliament on Wednesday to make statements about government and to field MPs’ questions about government.
The Vice-President is Leader of Government Business in the House, a position which the PM wanted for himself.
So, who does the VP supervise? Is Mr Barsito making the point that as the President’s assistant Mr Musyoka is the first among his Cabinet equals? If the Accord is forgotten, yes. Yes, if the President says so.
Mr Musyoka has enjoyed a good relationship with the President. And the President has turned to the VP to outflank the Cabinet and PM to avoid the shackles of the Accord or coalition politics. He deserves more and better.
Back to the beginning: Prof Nyong’o overreacted to the VP’s hospital visit. The visit and reactions to it are all about the next General Election, not meddling or pecking order.
Kwendo Opanga is a media consultant firstname.lastname@example.org