LEADERSHIP

How to become a Kenyan legislator: A manual

“The good of man must be the end of the science of politics.”

In Summary

• Politics of the heart is about emotions and how one makes the masses feel about themselves and their identification with the candidate.

• Politics of the stomach appeals to one’s personal appetite of what is in it for them in real terms. It’s usually more effective to the masses.

A crowd at Uhuru Park during a political rally
PREMATURE CAMPAIGNS: A crowd at Uhuru Park during a political rally
Image: FILE

Kenyans have been awash with a moment of reckoning following the release of a song aptly titled Wajinga Nyinyi by a fast-rising star King Kaka.

The release of this song has coincided with the arrest and charging of Mike Sonko, who broke all the rules of common decency, rising to become the Governor of Nairobi.

All of a sudden, it appears that the public psyche has been pricked by these happenings. The big question is whether this new level of consciousness will last. This is essentially so because we are in the midterm season of politics and this is usually the time sobriety reigns supreme.

During elections, people tend to enjoy euphoria, some kind of mass hysteria deliberately created by politicians and political parties/coalitions by whipping up emotions rather than appealing to reason, which is more difficult to sustain.

In political communication whose proper title is propaganda, the messaging appeals to three main aspects mainly targeting the brain, the heart and the stomach. Politics of the stomach appeals to one’s personal appetite of what is in it for them in real terms. It’s usually more effective to the masses.

Politics of the heart is about emotions and how one makes the masses feel about themselves and their identification with the candidate. This aspect appeals more to women as they are more emotionally attached. Due to the emotional attachments, women tend to be more loyal in keeping their word than other segments of voters.

Emotions also form the basis for whipping up tribal sentiments and senses of ethnic belonging through the creation of a siege mentality. Politics of reason that target cognition are secondary or tertiary thus appeal more to the middling classes. They are perceived to be bothersome, always asking difficult questions relating to the systems and structures of governance, yet their political involvement is minimal especially during basic and critical processes such as party primaries. George Bernard Shaw defines democracy as the act of substituting election by the incompetent many, for the appointment of the corrupt few.

This clearly captures our predicament as a country in terms of social stratification where the masses in the lower class determine who gets elected.

While they generally care for the roads, water electricity and good education, their pre-occupation for basic elements of survival is what politicians take advantage of since there is a greater appeal and immediate political reward. Handouts of basic commodities such as food, funeral expenses, wedding gifts, motorbikes, water tanks iron sheets, lesos etc are very popular on the ground.

For example, during the requiem mass of former Kibra MP Ken Okoth, Sonko promised the mourners free bus rides to Homa Bay, accommodation, food and pocket money. The response from the mourners was palpable, the ululations were almost spiritual, and the connection astounding. This is the language of the masses; immediate, direct and satisfying to their hunger. 

So the big question is, how do leaders get elected in Kenya as to occasion the complaints that King Kaka asks so sensationally?

The truth of the matter is that Kenya is not short of good leaders. They are there, many with great talents. Kenya has mainly two types of leaders: Those who join politics to make a change and serve the people. They are altruistic in nature and have the heart to serve.

On the other hand, there is the second category of those who are crooked individuals of low morals and who have perfected the art of trickery and political conmanship.

Their motivation is to amass wealth and power for the sake of it and as an end in itself. The majority of them are dealmakers and fraudsters known to have fleeced off institutions they have led in the past. A keen look at their private lives will reveal past court cases of fraud or very unstable family backgrounds.

Being streetwise and persistent lawbreakers, they are consistent with their approach to leadership. They outshine the do-gooders since the latter find it hard to compromise on their morals for them to win elections fraudulently. With a compromised electoral system infiltrated by crookery, it becomes nearly impossible to have persons of integrity elected into public office, and those who make it rarely last since they can’t possibly sustain themselves by joining the thieves to steal from public coffers to meet the immediate greed of the electorate. Their corrupt counterparts always last longer.

As Aristotle aptly puts it, “The good of man must be the end of the science of politics.” This is to mean that scheming and strategy is the essence of politics. Next week we shall explore a tested pathway to become a political leader in Kenya showing why things remain the same with minimal change.