We’ll only elect the right people if our destiny is clearly defined

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga makes his speech in presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta during the official launch of the BBI Initiative Taskforce Report at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on October 26, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Why do “nice guys” fail to capture seats in Kenya elections? Put differently, why do “bad guys” get elected by an electorate that yearns for change? Isn’t it a contradiction that we want a country that is unified and prosperous yet our “nice guys” never get elected?

As Lewis Caroll says, if you don’t know where you are going any road gets you there. Arguably, as a country we really do not know where we are going. In 2002 we exactly knew where we were going. For this reason, Kanu was swept out of power. In 2007, Kenyans knew exactly where they were going had the electoral body stuck to a legitimate process through which the sovereign will of the people would have prevailed.

It will be easier to know whom to vote for if the post-2022 elections destiny is known. The several economic models that have been advanced are not a destiny but a means to an unexplained destiny.

In fact, it is easier to vote for a candidate who clearly states something like “… if elected, my government will focus on improving our health system that is too expensive for most people as well as too slow in attending to patients.” In just a sentence, I know why I will wake up to vote. The destiny is evident.

Besides ambiguity in articulating our destiny, we are just walking on roads leading us to nowhere not necessary because we are a tribal national, but deeper than that because our avenues to express civil liberties have been considerably disabled.

The most relevant avenue for mobilising our collective desires, especially during electioneering is the civil society space. While in the recent past there have not been direct confrontations between the civil society in Kenya and the Government, the absence of formidable voices to conduct robust civic education, highlight the performance of the concluding regime, and bring out the agenda for the next government simply shows we really do not know where we are going.

The “nice guys” with whom we should discuss our destiny before casting votes are unsurprisingly mute. If they attempt to win, especially the major seats – governorship and presidency – they are likely to fail. Why?

Nicolo Machiavelli claimed that it is impossible to be a good Christian (read religious leader) and a good politician at the same time. Implied in this statement is the assumption that “nice guys” must be ethical, hence honest, respectful, dutiful and discerning in the decisions they make. On the other hand, “a good politician” does not need to be ethical to rule.

This explains why Machiavelli argues that a Prince should have no problem leasing terror on people on condition that that is not regular if only to be “effective which is the desire of citizens.” Bringing honour on the State, Machiavelli advances, is a destiny. Everything else is a means.

Once Machiavelli set this goal, the entire work in his book, The Prince is centred on justifying where a leader can be deceitful without feeling guilty, lie in daylight and feel good, and even inspire terror on the people because “it is better to be feared than loved.”

The “nice guys” we dream to rule us struggle to reconcile their conscience in doing good as they should and joining the “bad guys” who have no problem fatally attacking critical voices, massively bribing their way to victory and ignoring the precious promises they make to the electorate once they win.

We the voters have our own problems.

Often it is easier to vote either the person we fear most or the person whom we think will stand up against the person we fear. Voting in this case is nothing but a spectacle. We feel obliged to reactively vote our side for fear of being vanquished.

“Nice guys” may offer us neither protection nor victory because their paradigm is very different from this frame. It’s imperative to wisely choose our destiny.

Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communications

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