Seth Panyako, the all time Secretary General of the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) is a man whose glaring penchant for inconsistencies are what we must talk about today.
With his signature whiter than white clean shave, the man who hails from Malava constituency of Kakamega county, breathes sparks of fire every time he issues a strike notice. His boisterous voice this time will be penetrating news headlines like a vile missile from hell.
And after the notice, he would appear in a news interview to complement his threats. “The strike is still on,” he would tell nurses.
The last time Panyako was issuing threats to Afya House pertaining the then impending nurses’ strike that was set to begin on 18th May, he sent a stern warning on discrimination of nurses in allowances and promotions. While piling pressure on the Kagwe-led ministry, the katibu mkuu said that nurses were now contemplating on deserting hospital premises.
“We are serving a warning to the Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the good work you have done is going to the drains, when we leave hospitals and we leave them for doctors alone; because it appears these are the people who are known in the country, by the government. They are the only ones who are working,” he opined.
Then nurses started counting the days and marking their calendars. On Friday 15th May, there were mixed opinions as to whether Panyako was going to make good his threats. His silence was an effective arsenal, serving to escalate anxiety albeit his previous ‘black and white’ tendencies.
Those who were pessimistic about the move knew that this is a man who canceled a strike in 2017 on allegations that the government was planning to send him behind the bars. Quite cowardly, I say.
The weekend came and Panyako remained tight-lipped on Saturday. He broke his silence on Sunday, 17th May making an abrupt u-turn on the strike that was only 12 hours to term. The SG had detonated another bomb as he gave an ordeal of how he was reeling between ‘boardrooms’ and KNUN offices.
“We have suspended the strike which was supposed to begin tomorrow for another 21 days to pave way for discussions with (the) government. As a country right now we have too many problems , flooding has killed I’ve 200 people, there’s the locust infestation and we’re also battling the COVID-19 pandemic,” he announced.
Panyako’s decision served to knead the already image-battered KNUN with a stenching watery mud. The former Kakamega senatorial aspirant taking a thorough beating from infuriated nurses who took on social media to air their frustrations.
“Could we start another Nurses’ union and forget all about Panyako and the rest,” posed Sarikanne Karis.
Joys Mativo fumed: “Panyako must go; and all branch officials at county level and I say the 47 counties must go too come December this year, we need sanity in nursing leadership right from the grassroots. We can’t give people allowance transport from our payslips to represent our interests and instead they venture on their personal gains.”
And now an unanswered big question arising from the aborted strike is whether Panyako knew that floods and locusts infestation existed when he was issuing the notice. Was he simply seeing a stepping stone to something?
Dear Panyako, let me be a snitch today. There are low tone conversations that perhaps you are a backstabber and dine with the ‘kings’ at the expenses of nurses.
These disgruntled voices are gaining momentum and will topple you off the pyramid tip of KNUN leadership. With the awful experiences nurses are facing, the centre may no longer hold as no one wants to be led by someone perceived to harbor an above average strategy towards the clamor for change.