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.
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.