Do Not Gamble With The Future Of Our Country, Voters Implored


BY WAIRIMU MURIUKI

One of the most apt descriptors of a voter in Kenya is perhaps a statement by political philosopher Jean- Jacques Rousseau: “man is born free, and everywhere is in chains.”

Since the last general elections in 2013, we have witnessed Kenyans’ discontent with the leaders we put in office in all forms: quiet grumbling, street demonstrations and the now very popular hashtags on social media. For the last 5yrs, we have complained about misappropriation of funds by our leaders, lack of accountability and shameless plunder of public resources. Broken health and education systems, poor infrastructure as well as limited opportunities for economic growth in the counties are a daily feature in our conversations so much so that one would be forgiven for thinking the leaders in question are an amorphous sort of donation we got from one of the more developed countries. Yet, we stood in line, patiently and made certain we voted these leaders into office. We freely, chose the chains that have bound us for the last 5 years. But that’s water under the bridge: fast -forward to 2017.

The affair:
The 2017 political campaigns have so far been as dramatic and entertaining as can be expected. We have seen the lone Member of County Assembly (MCA) aspirant who, armed with only a dream and the vitality of youth, walks from door-to- door speaking to voters and sharing his vision. For such an aspirant, there has been no thronging crowds, ululations or vernacular songs hurriedly composed in his praise. He has no financial muscle and therefore holds little appeal to would-be voters. Our affair with him has been relegated to mere curiosity and comments on how “an empty hand cannot be kissed”.

We forget that, like a majority of the youth, he’s yet to accumulate the largesse that we expect to be splashed by more mature politicians. Often times, we have dismissed him and his vision altogether.

The campaign terrain morphs into a different trajectory from the level of Member of Parliament (MP) upwards. The stakes are higher, the power games more intricate and players more hardened. This is attributable to the fact that the sphere of influence of MPs, Senators and Governors has far-reaching and multi-faceted impact on local, national and even foreign policy.

The aspirants of these positions have treated us to the usual displays of campaign showmanship; some of them sophisticated and well strategized, while others can only be described as tacky and desperate attempts at hoodwinking voters. Substantial amounts of money have been spent on campaign messaging, merchandise, teams and logistics by these aspirants. There have been allegations of money being dished in varying denominations in an attempt to make an impression on voters.

Now, whether you got fifty, one hundred shillings from all aspirants or nothing is neither here nor there: that “gifting affair” should have ended that same day. It will not count in the next 5 years. The only thing that will matter is who is representing your interests, and how his being in office will affect your life.

The nomination checklist:
After this phase of political campaigns and maneuvering quiets, nominations are the first critical stage in creating Kenya’s outlook for the next five years. Political Party nominations give voters the privilege of shortlisting the leaders they want elected into office: sinners or saints, thugs or custodians of public resources, doers or noisemakers. The nominations must therefore, be carried out rationally and with great foresight.

Here is a checklist that voters should consider “minimum expected” in the men and women we shortlist in the nominations:

1. Representation:
Think of this along the lines of selecting a defense lawyer in a murder case. This, in all intent and purposes, is a matter of life and death. You want the best and most qualified because you can’t afford to gamble with your own life, your future. You will not choose this lawyer based on friendship or association or how rich he is: you want someone who can get the job done and done expeditiously and thoroughly because there cannot be room for error. There is too much at stake.

This is the same selection process that we ought to follow during nominations and voting: we cannot afford to gamble with the future of our country, county or Wards because some politician gave you cash. Go for the person who will represent you with everything they’ve got, at every level. They must be qualified, have a thorough understanding of the issues affecting Kenya and have the diplomacy and tact to present your case successfully at every fora.

2. Character, compassion, commitment:
Character, compassion and commitment is what will make a leader stay true to the promises made and doing the right thing. A leader with the right moral compass will be committed to alleviating the suffering of not just his people, but humanity as a whole. Great leaders embody humility, courage and a high sense of accountability. You know you can count on them no matter what or how long it takes.

These are the kind of leaders who put a premium value on people and communities. Ask yourself if you can leave your little baby with the person you want to put in office. If you can’t, then do not nominate or vote for them.

3. Security and peace:
Security and peace are fundamental to sustainable development. Leaders who have been misguided to imagine that violence and chaos are fashionable need to be shut out of all governance positions. These are leaders who thrive on verbal and physical attacks and lack the capacity to persistently pursue goals that promote the wellbeing of their electorates. Their modus operandi is to respond to every mosquito bite with a hammer. They lack the basic understanding that security and peace is the conducive environment for growth in infrastructure, education, profitable businesses and job creation.

If you cannot trust a leader with a nuclear bomb code, then you have no business putting them in any public office.

3. Ability to plan, manage resources and collaborate with others:
A lot of the development challenges that we face in Kenya can be resolved through diligent management of available resources and corroborative effort. This takes a keen ability to prioritize and match development projects with the needs of the people. In this instance, it’s important to look at a candidate‘s track record: are they the kind that looks at one million shillings with a “what-can- a-million-shillings-do” retort , or are they likely to see a refurbished school library out of that one million? Do they have a sense of accountability? Are they good managers? Can they work well with other elected leaders, across the political divide?

4. Reality versus idealism:
A common and long running joke is that politicians will promise boats even in deserts. Kenya continues to face challenges that range from high unemployment rate, food insecurity to widening inequalities between the rich and the poor. Aspirants come with lofty promises and campaign manifestos that sometimes raise more fear than assurances of implementation. Nominate candidates whose skills set and track record shows they can make reality of their promises to provide sustainable solutions to the problems that we face.

5. Visionary Leaders:
Every general election gives us an opportunity for a fresh start: it’s an opportunity to give our country leadership that can generate impetus into stalled growth and turbo-charge our aspirations as a people: it’s another chance at self-determination. As we head to the nominations, it is our duty as citizens, patriots and nationalists to make certain that the woman or man we will endorse for the party ticket shares a vision for a better, united and more prosperous Kenya.

Our vote will determine whether Kenya is economically steadfast, hunger stricken or ravaged by war in the next five years. Your nominee is the face of Kenya: do not gamble with the future of Kenya.
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