UNIVERSITY DEGREES REQUIREMENT IN ELECTIONS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
I am a firm believer in the view that human beings have been created differently and their abilities differ from person to person. Some are gifted craftsmen, others make good teachers, others are entertainers and others are best suited as rulers.
The ideal state as expressed by the philosopher Plato in his book, Republic is very appealing. Plato proposed an Aristocracy where men of reason and wisdom would be rulers (men of gold), the physically fit would be soldiers with their primary objective being to force on the majority the order created by the rulers and at the bottom of the pyramid would be men of bronze who were artisans and other producers.
Though education and training play a key role in such an ideal state, the emphasis is on the natural aptitudes of each individual. Such a system would work well in a situation where citizens and all children have equal opportunities in all sectors.
There is no doubt that our Kenyan society is very unequal. The majorities are born into poverty and to place them in the same scale with the privileged is to do them an injustice.
Perhaps borrowing from Plato’s reasoning, our legislators introduced into our law the provisions of Section 22 of the Elections Act. This particular provision requires that anyone seeking to be elected into an office under the Constitution must be in possession of a University Degree recognized in Kenya. The particular section is so poorly drafted that it is doubtful whether that same applies to the position of Member of Parliament (MP) and Member of County Assembly (MCA) in the 2017 elections. Subsection 1A states that the requirement shall only apply in the general elections to be held AFTER the 2017 general elections.
The immediate impact of this restrictive legislation is that the right and entitlement of being a citizen, which is recognized by the Constitution, has been taken away. In this regard, the right to vote in the elections for an official of one’s choice is stifled. Also stifled is the right of every citizen to run for an elected office.
This provision has made certain individuals go to great and mischievous lengths to acquire the cherished degree papers. Some have crossed to Uganda and mysteriously obtained degrees; others are claimed not to have stepped in India but have papers from Punjab University; some have lobbied their cronies to issue them with Honorary Degrees since the Act is not clear on what kind of a Degree is envisaged.
There are certain gifted people who have natural abilities to be rulers and leaders but have no academic papers. In the Western world, we have the likes of Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, Steve Jobs the brain behind Apple brand, Bill Gates the wealthiest man alive, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Michael Dell of Dell Computers, Abraham Lincoln the most popular United States of America President, Andrew Carnegie a steel magnate and the world famous Walt Disney.
In Kenya too we have such gifted men and women who though not having an education are prolific leaders in their sectors.
What we have done with this Law is lock out such potential from ever holding elected office.
If one may ask, does a mere Degree translate into good leadership? Of course not. One wonders for instance why a holder of a Degree say in Veterinary Medicine may be considered a suitable leader and not an individual running a multi-million shillings industry employing and leading thousands of people. In fact if an assessment is done on the performance of elected officials with degrees and those with none, there is no guarantee that the PHD holders are faring better.
Besides, this provision is clearly unconstitutional and will be declared as such when public spirited people like Okiya Omtatah apply to have the same declared as such. The provision creates discrimination on Kenyans based on their educational level yet Kenyans are supposed to have equal benefits of the law. In addition, Article 38 (3) of the Constitution is very clear that every Adult Citizen has the right without unreasonable restriction to be a candidate for public office and if elected to hold the office.
For the Elections Act to hold that more than three quarters of the Kenyans without degrees have no right to govern their own country is such a claw back and express violation of a citizen’s right. This restriction is not even present in the developed nations and one wonders what bench marking was done before the provision was enacted.
Just like Kenneth Matiba kept on remarking, we must “Let the People Decide”. If the people want an illiterate but visionary leader, let them have him.
I would only urge that Parliament realizes that it’s folly on this issue and deletes this offending provision.