Tuesday, June 8, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

June 6, 2010

In my school days, the marks I scored in a class test or national examination were very important to me. Our teachers then could grade us in two ways; either mark our results out of ten or a hundred depending on the number of questions. Alternatively, the teacher would convert the scores into percentages.

In this arrangement, the person who consistently scored between 50% and 60% was a good and average student with nothing to write home about. Those that scored between 70% and 80% were considered promising and were likely to go far in their academic pursuits. However, those rare ones that scored between 85% and 100% were the darlings of hard working teachers and were guaranteed places either in high school or at university, depending on the national examination they were sitting.

Conversely, those that were not intellectually endowed and constantly fell between 0% and 30% in their score sheets were considered unable to proceed beyond that segment of education system. They were encouraged to start considering other vocations such as subsistence farming, wood work, masonry, tailoring or metal work.

The numbers that have been coming out of opinion polls regarding the impending referendum have been following the same patterns we were used to in our days at school.

In my village, we had two boys and one girl that always came last in our class. They would always score the lowest marks, sometimes 0% in all subjects but they would soldier on until the national exams would weed them out.

Of late the Green campaign team has been consistent in the latter category, scoring above 50% but hardly soaring to the 70% mark. On the other hand, in the last three opinion polls it was only in the last Synovate results that the Red corner marginally increased its ratings by a humble 3% to hit the 20% mark. This marginal gain for the Reds has also see the Greens steadily declining from an all time high of at one point 64% to 57%. If this decline continues in the next two months, the possibility of the referendum results being too close to call is real. What this scenario brings to mind is the ugly memory of 2007 when pollsters equally predicted that the elections would be too close to call. And just like in 2007, the usual suspects have started claiming that the Green corner is planning to rig the referendum, a claim which if they persist with will most likely pollute the political atmosphere with the possibility of losers pouring into the streets to riot.

So far this poor showing of the Red corner should be a cause for concern among the clergy that are hell bent on denying Kenyans a new constitution. Right now they may delude themselves that all the polls that have been conducted by different firms have been doctored in favour of the Greens. However, those were the same messages we kept hearing from our presidential candidates, some of them top clergy in 2007. They never changed the results.

Kenyans may recall that before these campaigns started a few months ago, some leading clergy were thumbing their chests that they would mobilize 20 million Christians to scuttle the new constitution.

At that time I argued on these pages that there are no 20 million Christian voters registered anywhere in Kenya to derail this process. And as it turned out a few weeks later when voter registration closed, all the voters that the IIECK could manage to register in 50 days were 14 million, 6 million short of the Christian number but 4 million more than the total number of registered voters in 2007. What is even more significant is that this 14 million number includes Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Hare Krishna, animists, traditional healers and people of no known faith.

If one looks at the Christian megaphones shouting themselves horse, the loudest of them all are the usual suspects that deafen our eardrums at every corner of the city, village and on our TV screens. Their congregations look impressive indeed with all manner of miracles being performed.

It will remain to be seen if indeed these miracles will turn the tables and deny Kenyans their hard earned constitution come August 4 2010. And this time, let my Christian clergy brothers and sisters not blame the media or even cash for their losses because they decided a long time ago to use our tithes for their campaigns.

Another reason they should not blame the media is obvious. Three media houses, two of them very influential have subtly thrown their weight behind The Red corner with one consistently conducting polls every night at prime time in which the Reds are always winning every night. Another equally popular TV station is blatantly championing the Red cause because its owners are in the Red corner. The smaller local language radio station has not even bothered to hide its preference for the No team.

With the stage set for a titanic battle in the coming weeks, whoever plans to take the coveted prize must know that it will not come on a silver platter.