Kenya has had a lot to face in the wake of its democratisation journey, especially after the second liberation. Presumably, under the democratic process where the leader with majority votes carries the day, we are still not so sure if this is real. There is a vast majority who believe that the system, the so-called deep state, has an influence on who carries the day. However, I believe that the ballot is stronger than the bullet.
Yet again, we are in the electioneering period, and the drums of political punditry seem to reverberate in favour of a two-horse race—Hon. Raila Odinga, and the Deputy President, Dr. William Ruto. This should not be taken as a deliberate move to assume and push the rest of the aspirants out of the equation. However, to be bold and realistic, if the pattern of voting—voting as a block—is maintained, then we have only two people who can turn the political waves in this country. In fact, the majority of the general public only know of two ideologies; The Hustler narrative with a bottom-up economic model, and the Azimio la Umoja with intentions of bringing the country together and helping the able maintain their economic muscle, as they bring up the poor of the poor. Others like the bold and daring Prof. George Wajackoyah, who intends to legalise bhang, are only known by elites and those who are keen to follow the news.
To unpack it a little, especially from an economic lens, we have two vast options to choose from. In Economics, we have a concept called Pareto analysis. Pareto analysis is a formal technique useful where many possible courses of action are competing for attention. The bottom-up model seems to me like Pareto optimality. It focuses on bringing up the poor of the poor, and I have not clearly heard what it has for the so-called dynasties. But according to Pareto optimality, you can only make one person better off by making another worse off. If Pareto optimal condition is attained, then the net effect is a simple change of ownership between the poor and the rich. Azimio la Umoja on the other hand is selling a model which looks like Pareto improvement. Here, one person is made better off without making one person worse off. The net effect is an improvement of everyone in the equation. However, human behaviour is to fight to maintain their consumption pattern or go to a higher level. So both Pareto optimality and improvement can be a safe way to strengthen a country’s economic muscle, assuming that all citizens/consumers are rational.
I will stop my “politicking” here and let you make your own informed decision, based on what ideology sells for you. Only know that you are responsible for whatever comes out after you shall have voted in your candidate. I will not even tell you which ideology means something to me. This will be agenda manipulation, and I don’t write for such purposes. Enough of that! However, as a watchman, I would advise that you appreciate your education. You cannot spend time in an academic pool, then vote solely on a tribal basis! If you do so, then your education is a waste! Create some time and inform yourself of all the options. Don’t depend on what is being presented in debates on the TV stations. People present their ideas on such forums with a slanted mindset which could be misleading. Ask for documents that are well written, to ensure you know what you are voting for. Behind coalitions and crowds, are manifestos and economic ideologies. Information is power.
What if there was a possibility of having someone else other than the two prospective winners? Again, I don’t mean that this is an absolute impossibility, but the reality suggests we are not yet there. I have heard the young generation lamenting and blaming the current big players in Kenya’s political arena. The millennials seem to opine that fresh blood without what they call “contamination” of historical figures, would take us somewhere. A fresh mind without political debts or historical wounds, someone who is owed nothing by the country, could take us to the promised land. But is this the case? What do you think? Kindly drop your thoughts in the comments section.
I tend to think that fresh blood is not enough. In fact, they would find it even harder to perform. They will come with fervour, zeal, and gusto to prove themselves and hit rock bottom within their first year in the office. Who has more influence in the political direction of a nation? We only have two options: either citizens or the political class. And the one responsible for electing the other has more power. Citizens choose who holds the office in a democracy, and they determine how they will perform. So a lot has to do with the citizens.
All the countries that have made reasonable moves in their development owe much to their public opinion and mindset. It is either a productive public opinion or a benevolent dictator, that has shaped most countries to get themselves to the coveted spot with the high and mighty. Read the Declaration of Independence, and you will understand why the US is the world’s big brother on all fronts. Try understanding Kenya’s economic agemates like Singapore, and you will find what has made the difference. This is what I want to talk about in the next few paragraphs.
Something happened that really disturbed me on the 1st of March, 2022. It was not the first time I experienced such, but this time round I felt it more deeply. If you have been in the streets of Nairobi in the evening, then you must have witnessed it—hawkers running helter-skelter with bales of merchandise, some losing them in the stampede. What does this mean to you?
My humanitarian codes were struck at first as I put the personalities to reality. Some families somewhere are looking up to them for fees, for utility bills, and most probably they will also provide the money for supper after the rat race in town. It is painful seeing the county officials cornering them and confiscating their merchandise. On this particular evening, I took some time to think and ask myself, why only a given section of the population is tensed and fleeing, and not the rest. Then I realised that however pitiable they appeared, these groups of hawkers were not on the safe side of the law. They were wrong, and the law does not protect those who don’t obey it. These people will also participate in the election. You can almost guess how they will vote, and what will motivate their choices.
Again, I saw an exchange between an aspirant and a citizen. The citizen was discrediting the candidate on the fact that he didn’t give handouts. Funny enough the particular rally was graced with a heavy downpour. It seems the people would endure queuing in the rain to get a dollar each, rather than listen to the plans the aspirants had for them. It seems that our appraisal method has changed from the manifesto to handouts and bribes. If your vote and allegiance can be bought with money, then you deserve inherited debt burdens, stalled road projects, and a rising cost of living. Our leaders are milked to death before they ascend to power, and when they get up there, they repay their debts and amass wealth and economic power. Sometimes we jump around blaming the political class, but we forget their way to the office. We didn’t care about their political and economic ideologies. Behind the handouts, was written looting and mismanagement, but we were too dumb to read it.
A Kenya without Raila or Ruto is not promising if the citizens maintain their culture. A culture of careless voting without knowledge of the economic ideologies of one’s preferred candidate. A culture of handouts and bribery at the expense of a development agenda. A culture of lawlessness from the bottom up. We must change first before we change our leaders. Our leaders are just from among us. If we are thieves, we will just elect one of us, they will steal on our behalf then give us a little to elect them again to continue with what they are doing. The ballot, when used well, is stronger than a bullet.