By Ali Sheikh – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
Wajir South is one of the oldest constituencies not only in Wajir but also in the entire North Eastern counties. Electoral politics in Wajir South – with the largest swathe of land – took some shape and form right from independence.
It’s believed that Wajir South held the first parliamentary election on the basis of one man one vote in 1963. The first elected Member of Parliament from the constituency was a die – hard KANU politician, the late Ahmed Abdi Ogle who was later replaced by Abdi Ali Hirsi in the elections of 1969.
Since then, the political election and representation in this constituency was largely based on inter-clan alliance and single majority in the event of disastrous political polarization in the likely event of coming up of numerous individual candidates from the same clan.
Politics in Wajir south, like in any other constituency across the North Eastern region is tossed and tilted by clan arm twisting and patronage. This is not very unusual given the very nature of Somali politics where clan elders hold the node and sway votes.
And so the political airwaves in the constituency proved an improbable occasion for a single clan to dominate the contentious political seat for two consecutive terms – that is, a political span of ten years ever since independence, safe Abdirahman Olow − the current senator of Wajir County who served a full term (from 2002 to 2007) and half term from 2008 – 2009 after which he was ousted in the course of court nullification as a result of predisposition irregularity in his election.
The first two MPs from the constituency hail from the two major clans dominating the Wajir South’s politics until today – Makhabul and Mohamed Subeer .
Although Makabul and Mohamed Subeer clans ─ both of Ogaden progeny take the conscious care of the political punch – card in the constituency, by the same token, the Bahgerri clan (Ogaden) made to the August House (Kenya parliament) through Hon. Mohamed Mohamud Sirat a.k.a. Dayow on a by-election to serve the better part of Abdirahman Olow’s second term (2010-2012), consequently, as fate would have it, Hon. Dayow became the first MP from Bahgerri clan ever since the erection of the political antiquity in Wajir South.
Though the Bahgerri clan could make the third inhabitant, nonetheless they usually prefer to team – up with Mohammed Subeer’s political candidate on the loosely muddled passion of “Baahale coalition” in an attempt to make astonishing political clean – sweep in the unlikely event of the (Makabul clan) agreeing in solidarity on a single candidate to contest for the seat. Baahale political business in Wajir South is a seasonal coalition that binds Mohamed Subeer and Bahgerri against Makabul clan and normally ends with election wind.
In Wajir South, when a general election ends, the next aspirant campaign would start up until the next general election take-off. In every pseudo gathering, people would talk about politics; progressively more women in the constituency are apparently much more motivated than men politicians these days.
Those who aspire to vie for the Wajir South seat need to take concession with the facts on the ground, that is, “how deep your pocket is.” The issue of wealth is a deciding denominator where the lack of it means a political humiliation.
Wajir South has the largest livestock population, it is the most non – aggressive and stable constituency in the entire Wajir county. For quite a long time, this constituency grieved by the niceties of unequal political take that befall the county, in that, more than two occasions Wajir district experienced gradual increment of constituencies; the first constituency split took place in 1997 when Wajir North was curved from Wajir West so that the Ajuran clan could get their own constituency leaving West for their Degodia counterparts.
The second split of constituencies in Wajir County took place in 2010/2011 which has increased Wajir County parliamentary seats from four to six. The addition parliamentary seats (Tarbaj and Eldas) again engraved off West and a fine part of East constituencies in favour of the Dagodia clan.
The colonial power in 1912 first created constituencies in Wajir district on major clans’ identity representation, for example, Wajir North was for Ajuran clan, Wajir East was for Degodia and Wajir South was for Ogadens.
Even though the unfair political game saw the Degodia get an additional constituency in Wajir West and later Tarbaj and Eldas, still the gubernatorial seat at the county level surprisingly turned to be “no-go-zone” for them. On the other hand, the political struggle and the lack of candidate consistency to serve more than one term in the August House trundled all hopes for Wajir South constituency’s future split.
Likewise, the deficiency with regards to political solidarity among the clans in Wajir South over the creation of new constituencies relegated the only largest and populated constituency as the odd one out. The curving of new constituencies excluding Wajir south was seen by majority of Ogadens as an unfair political malpractice and this painted gloomy mark on the future and political identity of the community.
What is more, any member of parliament elected from Wajir South constituency ends his five year term concentrating on how best to break record to recapture his seat for the next election which hardly occurred according to the known political history of the constituency.
Wajir South constituency with well over 35,000 voters, and as fortune would have it becoming the only and extremely populated constituency in the Whole County, but beholden to chronic political diversity and endless inter and intra – clan woes. Such political schism failed them to bargain over their large voters count so as to blackout political dominance of one clan at the county level and instead to tailor political marriage with Ajuran by offering Senator and Deputy gubernatorial Posts while Wajir Southerners go for the governorship.
History has shown that no constituency in Wajir County just grew and enjoyed steady increment of constituency site without experiencing good and selfless political leadership as in the case of Degodia clan.
This is largely because of collective ownership and tribal interest allegiance in the expense of any sitting MP’s personal interest beyond bitterly division of the tribes and polluting the minds of the innocent elders to predispose endless political struggle on each other thereby keeping at bay by all accounts equitable lobby for the constituency split that would have solved the equational pie of political representation as apparently seen in Wajir South.
One would think that Wajir South constituency itself and the people (elders and elite) are the main cause of their political turmoil, but the fact is that, the political problem in Wajir South squarely rests on the shoulders of the politicians/leaders and there is nothing wrong with the constituency and her inhabitants.
Commenting on the experience of the Nigerian nation, the renowned novelist, Chinua Achebe, once insisted that the root cause of the Nigerian predicament should be laid directly at the foot of bad leadership. The trouble with Nigeria, Achebe argued, “…There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air, or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership (Achebe, 1984: 1)”.
Diverse theories have forwarded different definition with regards to leadership in so many ways that it is hard to come up with a single working definition. However, leadership is all about controlling power of a situation, thus when it comes to Wajir South, it may be defined as a body of politician who should have lead and direct clans towards a shared goal. It may also further denote the ability to lead with integrity, direct and organize the innocent clans without internal or external locus of control with the understanding to pursue the collective constituency right.
This is not erecting political sensationalism, but it gives me the impression that Wajir South politicians and leaders who would have designed the destiny of their people unfortunately failed here and like the proverbial donkey that prayed “O God, after my death let no grass grow.” things are gloom and Greek
On the part of the voters, unless they transform from the political behaviour of subjecting their elected politician/leaders to “touch and go” political term, Wajir South constituency will not be safe from political ridicule and never – ending lay bets over the minor political space that privilege provided them long time ago.
The writer is a social commentator and can be reached at Dhagaweyne3@gmail.com