Why Covid is stumbling block to BBI drive

Friday, November 20th, 2020 00:00 |

Raila Odinga is a single purpose self-driven individual whose singularity of mind has seen him scale many heights.

This time, Raila seems focussed on one thing and one thing only: the success of the Building Bridges Initiative.

This is the product of his Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta. That surprise act nearly two years ago, is credited with many positives including reducing political temperatures in the country, thus providing the President with the political space to operate.

Raila’s constituency, often despondent and on the receiving end of the victorious party at the last election, was initially confounded even if later, that constituency moved with caution to embrace the faith of their leader.

The substance of the Handshake is in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) document, a labour-intensive script that has taken a tam of experts more than two years, to put together. 

Both Uhuru and Raila the president and his team, and  Raila and his team, have embraced the document seeing it as a panacea for the country’s myriad experiments with fate every election.

Both at the  Gusii Stadium and later at the Bomas of Kenya, the document has been unveiled to the public steadily, its virtues being extolled, its implementation seemingly assured, with what appears to be government goodwill attending it.

But the public is distracted. A nation, often consumed with politics, for now looks inward and has no appetite for politics. The cause of that rare solipsism is Covid-19.

When the virus struck here, nearly ten months ago, it was first perceived as a problem for the nation’s elite; those who travel in planes and get exposed to strange places.

But that was just the beginning. Then it was seen as the problem for those in Nairobi.

The government set in with measures including locking up the city and the urban areas seen as hot spots. Initially the public went for it, then later, beginning to feel the bite of the lock down, and seeming hypocrisy of those in power, started demanding to be left alone to deal with their circumstances. 

The government relented and now nobody appears to have a hand on the matter. The Ministry of Health still issues their regular updates though.

The scandals associated with the pandemic, particularly the perception that those in positions of power saw the pandemic as an opportunity to enrich themselves, provided fertile ground for scepticism to set in.

First was how the Ministry of Health managed the funds procured to deal with the pandemic.

That a big chunk of the money went to what the public perceived as non-essential expenses including refreshment for the officials, was hugely disappointing.

The scandal at Kemsa, the State’s medical supplies procurement agency, whose procurement of the supplies has come under scrutiny, is depressing to the public.

The government has promised to bring those involved in the scandal to account. But this is familiar tune to the public ears.

In the meantime, politicians have preached water and drunk wine. They have undercut their own message by telling the public to wash hands, wear masks, keep social distance and yet they have not lived to that dictum.

Both sides of the political divide have held massive rallies that violated these lessons.

In the middle of all these , the pandemic is now picking out one person after another, driving fear in nearly everybody.

The single focus of attention for everybody is then fear – fear for self and loved ones in case they are exposed.

In the middle of this fear, it will take great determination, to focus attention of the public on anything else but the pandemic.

And it is not that the public may be opposed to the BBI message, but simply because their minds are not on the message right now.

This is the danger. If only BBI had a message on Covid 19 then the challenge would be less. — The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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