By Prof Dr Halimu Shauri
Kenya conducted its general election on 8th August 2017, whose presidential results was contested in the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, by the opposition. The country was treated to a lot of drama and humour by lawyers. Quite a number of us became students of law and we indeed learned new concepts such as petitioner, first respondent, second respondent, Amicus Curiae, Praxis, Axims, and those who are familiar with high school mathematics, were reminded of some formulas such as Pythagoras Theorem. Those who have not seen Supreme Court judges in their robes had an opportunity to see them and some of the regalia worn on the heads of the lawyers looked to some of us like sheep skin. Some of those lawyers wearing the sheep skin on their heads spitted venom to present their arguments for or against the petition. One interesting thing though was the fact that some of the lawyers forgot, this case could cut both ways and hence work on their own visibility and attractiveness. You could be wondering how?
The answer is simple. In any contestation; there is a winner and a loser. When your client wins the case you suddenly enjoy the benefits of a win, visibility and attractiveness and hence your brand is either enhanced, if you have one, or is introduced into the market with vigour. More precisely, little known names and law firms participating in the presidential petitions have today become more visible and attractive, locally and globally. Literary some of the little known lawyers have moved from grass to grace, while some well-known, lawyers who were on the losing end, are now wallowing in reversed grace. One may be asking who are these lawyers? I leave the answer to you to do your own research. What do I then want to arrive at you may be asking yourself?
Immediately, the Supreme Court made its ruling, it was obvious that the battle of wisdom, wits and legal innuendos had favored the petitioner. The Supreme Court bells had rang and the noise reverberated in the courtroom, outside, in Nairobi County, Kenya, Africa and the world, what a surprise!!! The Supreme Court delivered, what has now been hailed as one of the most fearless, and progressive ruling in the world, coming third globally. The manner in which the ruling was made was also well orchestrated and possibly rehearsed. I must confess, I have never seen such an organised and well conducted case from begging where each party was given time to argue and present evidence to the climax land mark ruling that was out of the imagination of many. Indeed, the ruling caught Kenya, Africa and the world by surprise. You may be wondering why I praise the Supreme Court and the leadership of its presidency. Yes, I have sat in many local courts and I have observed for the time I have been blessed to be alive, nothing impressive close to this one so far. The presidential petition aroused for the first time the Aha!! Feeling and my affinity with the legal proceedings that I never had before nor did I pay much attention to. You may be wondering what is the focus in my article?
When the judgment was made, my mind flustered. Because am an academician, my mind rolled and the first thing I remembered was the national examinations. The figure of sixty (60) days declared by the Supreme Court threw into misbalance the school calendar for both, primary and secondary schools, especially affecting the examination dates. As a masquerading educationist, albeit at the university level, because of my professional training bias, I had all the reason to think so? You may be wondering why? This is because our raw materials at the university are the students at the lower levels of education echelons. The question to answer then becomes, do we allow students to do their exams after years of preparation or do we do presidential elections? The question provides two options for us to choose as a nation, one to do the examinations as scheduled or two shift the examination dates before or after the elections. Given that life is about making choices, we have therefore to make one at this difficult and historic choice in an alien moment of repeat presidential elections in Kenya. Let me remind you that choosing is not easy, especially under such circumstances given the weightiness of the two matters at hand, examinations (education) and elections (politics). You may be asking what will you choose if you were asked to do so for Kenya?
My answer for those who have interacted with me in my write ups and public forums is simple and I know some of you have already gotten it right. Those who have not interacted with me or my work before are wondering what this answer could be? I choose to reveal my response to them by saying that I would honorably choose education first, and if given a second chance, I would choose education and third slot, will be education too, only then that I will choose elections (politics). This will mean therefore that I will go for the examinations first and presidential elections “baadaye” (later). Choosing elections (politics) before examination (education) in Africa is akin to choosing a fishhook without bait in a fishing expedition. This is because the greatest pillar in development is knowledge which is tested through examinations. What would be the merits of my choice of examination over the presidential elections?
There are many benefits and points to justify this choice. First, schools had already their own set calendar to do their examinations before this political conundrum came into the social space. It will be unfair to change the examinations for the students who have prepared for it for eight and four years in primary and secondary schools respectively. Let me speak as a teacher now that examination periods are very sensitive and delicate times. Very small disturbances causing stress and anxiety may affect the candidates during their examinations. While examinations define the entre future of the candidates, at least in Kenya and Africa, whether primary or secondary, presidential elections define only five years of the future of the contenders!! Worse is the fact that the presidential candidates already did their exams without such interferences in the past. It may be prudent therefore not to interfere with the examinations and find a formula to solve this impasse. You may be wondering why am calling it impasse?
If you are a parent of a standard eight or form four students currently you will understand what is being presented here with relative easy. This is because many parents with children in the examination classes are expectant and full of anxiety now, just like their children in the candidates’ classes and forms. Anything that is deemed to distort the examination dates or equilibrium is unwanted, be it sickness of the candidates or changing the examination dates for any reason, backward or forward. This is akin to eating a stale salad after a sumptuous meal; it will definitely lead to stomach-ache or possible diarrhoea. Why you may ask? because parents are expectant and want their babies to be born alive, healthy and kicking. Change of the examination dates is a stressor and is likely to maim, strangle (not as used during the Supreme Court proceedings) or kill the baby. Candidly speaking, parents have invested millions of shillings and billions of emotions measured by the emotion of billion meter and trillion of time in preparing their children for this big day of their lives. Any misnomer in the examination is a misnomer for life for the candidate. Let us be kind and considerate by letting the candidates do their examinations as planned to secure their unwavering future, defined by the grades they score. Why? you may be wondering. This is because Kenya is an examination oriented country where success is solely dependent on the grades one gets. Nothing mattes and limited and lip service consideration is given to those who fail their examinations regardless of their age, ethnic matrix or gender. They will be labeled failures, with limited opportunities in socio-economic spheres of life. Why do we want to frustrate a whole generation for life in fidelity of a Supreme Court presidential election ruling, which has a life span of only five years? I live you with this question to ponder!!! When you have the answer lets engage.