PNU needs surgery, not window dressing

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BY MOSES KURIA

The worst kept secret in Kenya’s politics today is that the Party of National Unity (PNU) has managed, miraculously; to place itself in what at best can only be described as the High Dependency Unity.

To many, that may seem even flattering. For if one looks at the dismal performance where the party has won only the Matuga, Embakasi and Kilgoris by-elections and lost in Bomachoge, South Mugirango, Emuhaya, Wajir North, Ainamoi, Juja, Makadara, Starehe and lately Wajir South, harsher critics will pronounce that PNU is somewhere between Intensive Care Unit and the death-bed.

Others still believe that PNU is long dead and what we are jostling for is who will win the mantle of “The Pall-bearer-In-Chief”.

If one recalls that this is a party whose Presidential candidate garnered over 4.5 million votes in the last General Elections, it is tempting to pin a medal on the jackets of the leaders of this once veritable political juggernaut, for they have surely managed to extract defeat from the vicious, menacing jaws of victory.

When I raised the red flag after the Juja, Makadara and Starehe by-elections, Secretary General Kiraitu Murungi dismissed me with nothing but utter contempt. That would be forgivable and of no consequence.

Unfortunately, this is the same treatment and abandon with which the PNU leadership treats the millions of PNU members in particular and the common Mwananchi in general.

The response to the massive by-elections losses in the September 20 “Black Monday” was characteristic of PNU leadership’s approach to weighty matters of national importance-it was simple, direct and wrong.

To wade off the disquiet among party faithful, the five PNU Coalition principals, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, Prof George Saitoti and Kiraitu Murungi and Musikari Kombo met in a rush and declared that since they are still in talking terms, all is well within the party and the coalition.

The “Big Five” of the PNU Coalition may want to believe that what ails the coalition is their failure to meet. Nothing could be further from the truth. After all, they do meet regularly in Parliament. The reality is different. PNU is suffering from four key ailments.

Firstly, PNU is suffering from a crisis of identity. There is the wider PNU Coalition that originally brought together KANU, NARC-Kenya, DP, Ford Kenya, Safina, Ford-People and other parties. This is the coalition that was joined by Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-K to form the half-Cabinet in early 2008.

When political parties were forced to hold elections in December 2008 in compliance with the Political Parties Act, another party also sought registration but unfortunately usurped the name, symbol and emblem of the PNU Coalition.

That party is the one which has George Saitoti as the Chairman and Kiraitu Murungi as the Secretary General. In my view, that was a terrible mistake as it has the effect of down-sizing the wider PNU Coalition movement, ideology and philosophy into a single, sectarian party affair. That is where the rains started beating us indeed.

Secondly, there is a misconception that PNU problems can be solved at the leadership level. Alas, that is not the case. PNU’s major problem is that we have drifted dangerously from the realities of our people. We have become oblivious of the poverty that ravages the common man and woman at the grass-roots, not least our core supporters. When our people cry, that part of the anatomy that is called the ear turns defective as far as our leadership is concerned.

Thirdly, the public display of affection and camaraderie notwithstanding, PNU leaders are pulling in different directions, mostly in pursuit of advantage as far as the 2012 General Elections is concerned. The level of hypocrisy, hide-and-seek games, cleverly-by-a-half and deceit among the constituent parties can only be compared with Julius Caesar’s Roman court.

Finally, the PNU leadership continues to sneer with contempt at any attempts by emerging, youthful leaders to participate in the affairs of the party. The only relationship that would suffice between the coalition leaders and the youthful and energetic members of parliament and other party leaders is that of a master and a servant.

This is at a time when parties all over the world are being handed over to the younger generation of leaders. This is really the bane for Africa. A basket of 11 African leaders have an average age of 76 years :- Wade, 83, Mubarak,82, Mugabe, 86, Pohamba, 74, Banda, 73, Kibaki, 71, Sirleaf, 75, Gaddafi, 68,  Santos, 68, Mutharika, 76. 

Compare with a basket of 10 Western leaders with an average of 51 years:- Obama, 48, Cameron, 43, Medvedev, 45, Harper, 51, Gillard, 49, Sarkozy, 55, Zapatero, 49, Socrates, 53, Merkel, 56, and Van Rompuy, 62.

The 25 years in the average age difference is exhibited succinctly in the 25 years Africa is generally behind the West.

With the foregoing in consideration, it is clear that what PNU needs are not public relations gimmicks like the “Big Five” meeting over a cup of tea. It is radical surgery that will give back the party to the rightful owners-the people of Kenya. The only remedy that will save the party is for every leader who has 2012 ambitions to vacate party leadership so we can organise an efficient machine that will oversee the most transparent, democratic, free and fair nominations and primaries for 2012 in a scale never witnessed in this country.

The other option, naturally, is to willingly liquidate the party so that we as members come up with alternatives in good time for 2012

(Moses Kuria is a member of the Party of National Unity [email protected])

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