The Building Bridges Initiative National Secretariat on November 23 announced the launch of signature collection for the BBI Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020.

The launch is November 25, the secretariat said, and targets at a raft for constitutional amendments, including altering the Executive to introduce the post of Prime Minister and two deputies and leashing the Judiciary through the Office of Ombudsman.

As the secretariat was making its announcement, coronavirus infections were spiking in the country— over 1,392 deaths, more than 77,000 positive cases. The signature collection will involve in-person contacts—the primarily way through which the virus spreads.

Our healthcare system is overrunned, and medics are striking or threatening to down tools. Our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are full. Many more Covid-19 patients are dying waiting for oxygen supply. And this is not to mention dozens of deaths by Covid-19 of medical workers, our first line of defence.

The BBI secretariate claimed they will follow Covid-19 guidelines to minimize virus spread. But there were instances of infections even after precaution was taken. There is no guarantee the secretariat will avoid Covid-19 spread or minimize it at all. The situation is already jumbled. National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover will not foot the cost of treating the virus.

The signature collection is another super-spreader in waiting. What will happen to the mass of people who will get infected during the drive? Patients will have no cover to pay for their medical bills; the critically ill will have no ICU beds to lie on—most are full. In short: the government will leave you to die. Die on your own because they will not protect you or pay for NHIF cover.

This moment is critical for the country in the war against the virus. We cannot ask for more but a drastic scaling down of all mass, in-person activities until such a time the virus is under control. All resources channelled for signature collections, including Sh14 billion earmarked for the referendum, should be redirected to improve our healthcare system, protect frontline workers and the vulnerable, and offer health cover for all. The collection of signatures can wait, our lives cannot—we can succumb to Covid-19 infection. It is not the time for political machination.

The BBI secretariat cited the urgency in ending corruption, ethnic antagonism, marginalization, as well as rooting for the empowerment of the youth, women and disabled, to whip up support for signature collection. We do not need a referendum to achieve this. Our constitution, as is, can best attain the desired goals.

The process that led to razzmatazz in constitutional change is illegal. It was not a popular initiative but a plot by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga who have no authority to amend the law. For the record, our opposition on BBI still holds—and that is why we sued to stop the process. Our stand: implement the constitution.