Of Jubilee, NASA and the ‘Informed Voter’

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto of Jubilee Party

With the political party nominations coming to a close, the countdown begins towards the August 8th elections. The yet to be concluded party primaries have seen a surge in the number of youth seeking elective seats whether as Members of the County Assemblies, Members of the National Assembly, Governors as well as Senators. The general youthful argument being to provide leadership that is a stark departure from the old guard ethnic balkanizing of the electorate as well as the open voter bribery incidences that have marred elective politics for decades. It, however, remains to be seen whether these sentiments are merely populist public pronouncements or whether the youth actually desire to be different in preaching political tolerance and accommodating diverse political views. This badge that many claim to wear with pride and honor is unfortunately just that, a badge. Deep down, many still desire the raw ethnic profiling and making politics about ethnic communities and not policy or ideology.

The social media today, unlike 10 years ago has become a key battleground in the scramble for a favorable public opinion. Unfortunately, it has also doubled up as a platform for bullies and ethnic chauvinists to quash alternative opinions with the hope of anchoring the very same divisive notions that took Kenya to the doldrums in 2007/2008. No Kikuyu or Kalenjin is obligated to support the Uhuruto ticket for re-election. In the spirit of democracy, the power to choose is vested on the voter, even where he or she may suspend reason in electing representatives. Similarly, the alternative leadership presented by the Railonzo ticket is never a do or die affair for the voters. The candidates have a right to sell their agenda to the people, who also have the right to apply or suspend reason in choosing or rejecting their political ideology. Therefore, like in the case of the Uhuruto ticket, no Luo, Luhyia or Kamba is obligated to support the Railonzo ticket.

The 5 NASA Principles during unveiling of their flag bearer at Uhuru Park

Kenyans have for the past 54 years of independence allowed politicians to colonize their mental faculties, operating like automated robots when engaging in civic processes. We have belonged to political parties because our ethnic kingpins subscribe to them, shifting allegiance in a heartbeat when our tribal henchmen change parties. No wonder elected representatives hardly deliver in the roles assigned them. All they need to do is take a swipe at a particular ethnic community or its leading figures and voila, their electoral base reeling in euphoria, fall in line. Aspiring politicians also play this very card to earn popularity within a desired ethnic base then present themselves as party loyalists and defenders of party leadership. But Kenyans already know this. We have read and re-read such analyses but opt to turn a blind eye because we believe that everyone else is playing by these crooked rules. We feign helplessness even when we know very well that we are getting a raw deal and suffering the repercussions with every passing day.

I fall in the bracket of Kenyans that believe that we can do something to change the dominant political narrative. Nothing, however, happens where the will is lacking. For starters, we can actively interrogate the political ideologies as presented by the political parties and coalitions we subscribe to. Secondly, we can look at the individuals constituting a political party or coalition and question their track record in meeting the ideologies they have outlined. There can be no two ways about this. A little bit of research to inform popular statements that we reiterate once spoken by politicians can go a long way into transforming the electorate and especially opinion leaders from ‘Yes Men and Women’ to principled individuals with a grounded idea on the type of future we want for ourselves and our country Kenya.

The Writer is a Research Consultant for Savic Consultants in Nairobi.

Of Kalonzo Musyoka and Media Righteousness.

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Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka is a man under siege for snubbing a QTV journalist, Kennedy Murithi, on grounds of his ethnic affiliation to the ruling Jubilee Coalition. Kalonzo, a leader of a national stature was absolutely wrong in his insinuations. Whether or not the issue is being blown out of proportion, he could not have been move reckless in his statements at a media briefing. And just as expected, his ‘partisan’ comments have attracted fierce attacks from very familiar quarters; the ‘righteous’ media fraternity as well as the politicians from the opposing camp. Politicians are very predictable!

While watching the 7 O’clock news yester evening however, I decided to test Kalonzo’s theory. Guess what, as much as I would hate to admit it; he was absolutely right. The social media was divided right in the middle with the names betraying the opinions of whoever was out commenting on the trending subject! We were divided right in the middle in line with where our ethnic allegiance and political loyalty lay. Why then was it a major surprise when the national leader epitomized the already established prejudices that we harbor? Are we, just like our politicians so bent towards living the political means of divide and rule at the expense of actual national unity? Have we really stopped looking at ourselves in terms of where we come from, whether Kamba, Luhyia, Kikuyu or Luo?

The other surprising factor was that our media seemed to have embraced the righteousness tag in the whole melee! One of the questions I expected from the media, one which apparently never came was whether Kenyans think that they have been objective in their reporting or whether they have shown bias in some areas as was implied by Hon. Musyoka. None of these was asked. Our media played the victim. The victim in an apparent game where even journalists are bribed to air stories!(I have been solicited by one before). An environment where with a few ndovu’s (bucks) you can have a journalist at your beck and call. This, I know is no news! And maybe, just maybe Kalonzo knows that game so well!

At the end of the day, it’s all about the coalition that makes the most noise. Whether creative or destructive, the public; the compact majority, will always be aligned according to where their allegiances lay. 

Ooko Victor