Most aspirants are damned if they vie, damned if they don’t!


By Angela Ambitho

A classic riddle my mother told us as children has lingered on my mind of late.  It is about a farmer faced with the dilemma of crossing the river with his goat, leopard and sack of grass amid a looming storm using a tiny boat that can only ferry two passengers at a time. To ferry all his possessions successfully he is faced with tough choices.  If he leaves the goat and the leopard together, the leopard would devour the goat. If he leaves the goat with the grass, the goat would eat the grass. If he were indecisive, the storm would prevent him from getting across.  Upon careful thought the farmer moves swiftly. He first takes the goat across the river and returns to collect the leopard. As he drops the leopard, he returns with the goat, leaves it and ferries the grass across. He then returns to pick the goat and goes home a successful man.

Indeed, when you look at the current jostling for power one can easily draw parallels between the farmer and presidential aspirants. Most of these leaders seem to be caught up between a rock and a hard place. Should they stay in the race and if so who do they pick as running mate? Should they drop out of the race and rally their support behind another aspirant? 

Any decision made in haste would result in a knockout. It would be the kind that could be equated to the farmer hastily crossing the river with the grass and leaving the leopard behind to eat the goat. On the other hand, indecisiveness could also lead to sudden death. It is similar to the farmer in the riddle pussyfooting with his decision and getting caught in the storm. His possessions would be destroyed. He would lose everything.   Ultimately, our presidential hopefuls will fail or succeed depending on how accurately and swiftly they bite the bullet.

Those aspirants, who decide to drop out of the race and support other aspirants, could face the wrath of the public who may conclude that they are opportunists who went into the race with an agenda other than winning the presidency. They may postulate that these aspirants were out to use the election as a vehicle for making a quick buck or a means of sneaking their way into political appointments. Whereas this option probably leaves these dropouts financially sound, it also tarnishes their reputation and undermines their future presidential ambitions.

In crafting their strategy these potential dropouts must ensure they are not remembered as election opportunists who picked the “money over the box”. The candidates who opt to swallow the humble pie and settle for deputy would have to convince their supporters on the reasons they were not the better contestants. They would also have to allay the fears of their people that the coalition agreement would not be breached, as is often the case.

These humble pie aspirants will need to convince their electorate that they have not “sold out “purely for financial of otherwise gain which only benefits their cronies and themselves.

This lot must realise that the sweetness of the pudding they prepare will only be eaten during the post-election victory power sharing. Should doubt loom among their supporters, and should the wananchi even but smell a whiff of stench in the pudding, they would probably decide to put their eggs in a perceived more reliable basket. Ultimately, these humble pies could end up with egg on face.

The final set of contenders consists of those who intend to go the full hog perhaps because they foresee victory driven by their higher popularity ratings or because they have deep pockets.  There may also be hopefuls in this category who despite low ratings and shoe string purses run because they feel entitled. It may not be clear to the naked eye where they intend to gather support from. Full hog aspirants must make the right decisions in picking the optimal running mate and a formidable campaign team. Should they err in choice of running mate, they lose. Should they choose wrong luminaries in core teams, they lose.

Their decisions would have to be spot on to attain victory in a tight race. The flipside of loss would mean that they were ‘almost’ victorious.  The world would quickly forget them and their supporters would never forgive.

Almost doesn’t count! In a nutshell, many of our presidential applicants seem damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It is high time they heeded the proverb stating that the fool speaks, the wise man listens. In refusing to listen, they risk aping the fly that followed the corpse to the grave in defiance of good advice.

The writer is Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Infotrak Research and Consulting Ltd Email:

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