WAMBOGO: Kenyan voters are to blame for the rot in our politics

Many a times, Kenyans have chosen the politics of anything goes due to the euphoric nature of empty political sloganeering.

In Summary
  • As a nation, our diversity should be our strength and not our cause to fail.
  • Kenyans should embrace forward thinking leaders irrespective of the leaders' ethnicity.
Kenyans during a campaign rally in Nakuru city, Nakuru county, on Friday, August 5.
BROKEN PROMISES: Kenyans during a campaign rally in Nakuru city, Nakuru county, on Friday, August 5.
Image: DPPS

To attain prosperity, developing nations highly depend on stability of democracy, politics and peace. These three form the glue, which holds a country together as it pursues greatness.

In one of his many literal works, titled, "Leading minds," Prof Howard Gardner argued that societies exist as amorphous groups until leadership sets in to provide definition. Garner goes on to say that the history of the world is not about the common men- it's about leaders- as they defined their generation.

On one hand, I favour the view because leadership (social, political and economic) plays a pivotal role in shaping the past, the present and the future of a nation and her generations- in simple terms, rotten leadership is tantamount to rotten society- garbage in, garbage out. On the other hand, I disagree with the opinion because in functional democracies like Kenya, leaders are installed in the positions of power by the common citizens. This means that the role of the common citizens in shaping the future of a country cannot be gainsaid.

Admittedly, Kenyans are a gullible lot. Political class knows this too well. Kenyans are easy going. Majority of the citizenry are cheaply deceivable and are not critical thinkers. As I write this piece, millions of Kenyans are bearing the increasingly tough economic times which they hoped the present government would resolve. The truth of the matter is that this burden is heavier than lifting a voter's card and casting it into the right ballot box.

Abraham Lincoln once remarked, "elections belong to the people, it's their decision...if they decide to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on the blisters." Kenyans had a chance on the ballot day in the 2022 election when they made up their minds that their wishes must be respected.

However, to save themselves from this predicament, Kenyans must listen to every politician carefully, filter what the political class says on a screen of truth and only consume what comes through.  

Political class in Kenya have mastered political poetry and the art of sloganeering. They know too well what sells. During campaigns, they use all manner of trendy phrases, songs, situations to their political advantage.

Tale of broken promises 

A distinguished New York governor, Mario Cuomo, once remarked that, "politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose." Cuomo's observation perfectly describes Kenya's political, economic and social sojourn since independence. Political class weave narratives to woo gullible voters and once they get elected to office, they abandon electorate. This is unfortunate and contrary to the primary intention of political exercise- to better the livelihoods of citizenry in matters Pestel: politics, economic, social, technology, environmental and legal.

It's painful to write that upon ascending to office, political leaders design policies that only favour them and not the poor voter. In electioneering seasons, you will hear many slogans: 'Tuko Pamoja', when they literally mean 'you are on your own', 'Sipangwingwi',  when the politicians mean, we will arrange you properly to the last man... 'Mambo inabadilika' when they really mean, 'we are the status quo',  and 'wembe ni ule ule', which means 'you (Kenyans) will face the guillotine'.

Who is to blame for the advancement of such political rhetoric? The right response is, the voter. It is the voter has the power to discern and follow political candidates whose narrative is founded on progressive ideology and not anything goes or happy talk. Many a times, Kenyans have chosen happy talk and politics of anything goes due to the euphoric nature of empty political poetry and sloganeering. The pain thereafter is usually unbearable and unforgettable, but the voter never learns. 

Political promises are usually the apex of political candidacy/ambition. Political leaders, dealers and brokers make all manner of to-do lists aimed at wooing the poor voter. These promissory notes are usually a facade/charade that act as a bait to hoodwink and catch the voter. Once in office, the voters attempt to cash the promissory notes only to find insufficient funds in the political bank account.

The present regime has in umpteen times reminded Kenyans that they found no money in the public coffers to honour promises they made to Kenyans, hence either Kenyans have to be a little patient or contribute more in form of taxes in order to realise the promises. In simple terms, unkept political promises define Kenya's politics.

Political culture of debates

Political debates concept is a well intended platform for political aspirants to demonstrate how their manifesto would solve the country's social/economic and political problems. The debates should not be limited to presidential contests- even civic elections deserve the same, to enable voters to interact with the aspirants, ask them tough questions and at the same time, test the candidates' temperament and judgement.

Oftentimes, the political debates have been turned to personal attacks platforms and spaces where hate and useless propaganda are traded. The citizens echo this by cheering the candidates on as they tear each other apart and wash their dirty linen in public. For political debates to be objective, the citizenry must ignore the attacks to the person and dwell more on the substance, which is the job description of the office in question and the creativity, innovativeness and plans that the candidates bring to the positions.

In the technological world that we are in, social media marketing plays a key role in electoral planning, process and victory in the end. Social media platforms are replete with narratives, information and imagery peddled by prominent and wannabe political bloggers; supporters of political leaders and even the incumbency. The electorate easily fall for these fake information. They seem not to learn to say NO to political treachery and misinformation. In the end, lies travel around the country even before the truth gets its pants on. What an unfortunate situation.

Tribalism and community grouping is a big threat to sanity of Kenya's politics and democracy. Voting patterns are highly predictable. The electorate will choose their tribesmen even when their tribesmen have nothing to offer the country. As a nation, our diversity should be our strength and not our cause to fail. Kenyans should embrace forward thinking leaders irrespective of the leaders' ethnicity. There should be diversity and inclusion. Tolerance should be the model of our politics. Coalitions formed on the foundation of ethnicity should be rejected for Kenya to move forward.

Universal suffrage is an inalienable and sacrosanct human right. It should never be abused or misused. Every time an electioneering period approaches and campaigns kick off, Kenyans must reject politics of anything goes, division and sheer sloganeering. They must detect and deject empty political rhetoric.

The writer is a hospitality manager

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star