Sunday, July 13, 2008


Wajir North might have made history as the first constituency to have candidates tie in a General Election. However, the subsequent runoff financially drained the only two candidates for the seat.

At the end of it all, Dr Abdullahi Ali (Kanu) and the eventual winner, Mohammed Gabow, spent about Sh55million between them.

"Neither of us had budgeted for another financial sapping campaign after we tied. There was a time I actually considered whether it was worth spending such an amount in the campaigns," Gabow says.

"I must have spent about Sh28million for the General Election and the run off campaigns. In the end I think it was worth because I won." He says a huge chunk of the money came from friends and supporters.

Ali estimates that he also spent more than Sh25 million for both campaigns.

"Part of the money went to logistics, including hiring of vehicles to traverse the vast constituency and transporting some of the voters. But a huge amount, about Sh15 million, was spent on handouts," the former MP says.

There were no harambees reported in North Eastern Province in the lead up to the elections. Several contestants said campaigning in the region requires a lot of money as it involves reaching out to sparsely populated electorate in the vast constituencies.

Imagine what does someone who runs for the presidency will spend.No wonder our dear Nazlin Omar just was not seen outside Kamunkunji as she had no money Like Kibaki and Raila odinga.

In NEP, Some of the constituencies are bigger than several provinces combined. A prominent former MP, who sought anonymity, said although money is a driving force for ascendancy to Parliament, it is not the ultimate guarantee.

The leader, who lost despite his enormous wealth, said some of the candidates who won did so on euphoria platform. Some had little money to flush around but they won anyway, he says. To run for a parliamentary seat one requires to be prepared to spend huge amounts of money despite high risks of losing.

"Kenyan politics has transformed a lot. Despite some of us bragging of our tangible development records and financial might, it was not enough," the former MP said.

Mr Ibrahim Rashid Ahmed, (Ibrahim Somo) a former ODM presidential coordinator in the province, said the politics of money is not about to end in the poverty-striken province weaned on handouts.

"The culture of handouts is entrenched in the region that doing away with it will require eradicating poverty first," Ibrahim, who dropped his bid in the lead up to the elections in favour of Wajir West parliamentary loser, Mohammed Khalif, says.

He proposes that the Government funds contestants who should then account for the money. Ali says most of the money he spent was his own.

"Friends and family chipped in with at least 40 per cent of the campaign costs", he says. "Although some took loans to finance their campaigns, I ran mine from personal savings I had accrued during my term. Funding a campaign from a loan is a gamble."

The leaders agree that without funds there is no movement, a situation that led some to place their assets as security for loans and when they fail to capture the seats, they are ruined. Ali says it can be devastating to spend much and lose in a campaign but he will give it another try come 2012.

Campaigning in North Eastern Province is a costly, gruelling affair. The topography, poor infrastructure and the lifestyle of some of the residents demand that candidates must be loaded with cash for handouts and overhead costs that run into million of shillings.

In North Horr, the largest constituency in the country measuring about 35,000sqkm, vying for the parliamentary seat requires millions of shillings. Mr Elema Isako Fila, who contested in 1997, says one requires more than Sh30 million for campaign only.

In an interview with The Sunday Standard in Isiolo, Fila, who is a businessman, says a candidate requires a minimum of 20 four-wheel vehicles for campaigns.

"After a trip of 100km to 200km on the rough terrain, the vehicle needs repairs which would not be the case if the roads were good," says Fila.

Due to the nomadic lifestyle of the voters, a candidate is forced to provide transport to the polling station a day to the elections.

‘‘The last week to the General Election, we got about 20 trucks to ferry voters, some from as far as Moyale, Isiolo and even parts of southern Ethiopia. To do this one requires millions of shillings,’’ says the businessman.

Fila, who ran against Dr Godana Bonaya twice, said he spent about Sh5 million in 1997. Godana died in a plane crash two years ago. Then working with the Catholic Diocese of Marsabit, he says his rival spent about Sh30 million.

‘‘It’s very difficult to run against an incumbent MP who has more sources of funding than you. The question of leadership quality does not arise in our region,’’ says Fila. Even after winning, it’s not possible for the North Horr MP to visit all his constituents in one term, which results in voter apathy and bribery during elections.

‘‘Voters do not see why they should participate in elections if they do not see the MP for five years,’’ he says.

Fila, now the ODM linkman in North Horr, proposes that the constituency be spilt into two. He says candidates give handouts because voters view the electioneering period as a source of income..

In Isiolo North, Mr Joseph Samal, who contested but lost to Livestock Development Minister Mohamed Abdi Kuti, says he spent about Sh6.5 million in three years on campaign.

‘‘My main rival spent about Sh25 million in the last three months to the election. This is very unfair and we need rules to be set like in the developed world,’’ said Samal.

He says political leadership would be a preserve of the rich if the implementation of the law on political parties and funding is not expedited. There were claims that some sitting MPs used CDF, Local Authority Transfer Fund and donor funds for development to campaign.