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The riddle of 2022 elections is that the best aren’t good enough

By Andrew Kipkemboi | Mar 14th 2022 | 4 min read

Deputy President William Ruto addressing supporters along Thika Road, Kiambu County. March 13, 2022. [Jonah Mwangi/DPPS]

For a moment, I thought this year's elections offered us a chance to break away from what we were used to; a politics that generates so much heat and little light; a politics where politicians and the voters come together to find solutions for the common problems.

It was exhilarating to imagine a campaign devoid of the usual hypocrisy and subterfuge. Deputy President William Ruto’s “hustlernomics” had the powerful elite of the political class and wealthy scratching their heads. Hustlernomics was not only fresh, it was also so alluring and uplifting. The conviction was that, bottom-up would topple the status quo by offering a chance and opportunity to millions on the fringes of the economy and political leadership because everyone’s effort counted for something.

Compare that to calls for peace and unity; two abstract ideas that have been floated around since the fall of Kanu in 2002. That attempts by the power elites and their surrogates to paint it as introducing class war fell on its face speaks of the authenticity of the idea. The general consensus among the pundits was that an issue-based political discourse causes less tension and therefore generates less feuding and little acrimony.

But alas, the hope and inspiration provided by the bottom-up narrative was short-lived. By default, the political discourse has shifted back to personality-based, ethnic mobilisation of the old. The Hustler swan song is not as loud as before. Did co-opting Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang'ula change the tune? The Azimio la Umoja side, on the other hand, rather than offer a counter narrative, seems to be relishing more the prospects of beating William Ruto and sharing the spoils.

The muting of the bottom-up ideology highlights the folly of relying solely on a politician’s will to change the course of things. For most of the time, those high-flown ideas will remain just slogans.

“It is all about interests.” That is how the chattering classes – including media and the working class – describe the soap opera playing out in the political field. After all the razzmatazz, will Kenyans get the government they need to get things done? Highly doubtful.

And so the political arena is living up to its dubious reputation eerily captured in WB Yeats’s famous poem, The Second Coming. The best lack all conviction, while the worst/are full of passionate intensity. Look again at the crop of leaders jostling for positions, are they the best that Kenya could offer? We should be worried when the political system doesn’t attract the best morally, in ideology and in experience.

If that were the case, it would bother us that five months to a watershed election, the preoccupation in the main political formations ought not be the sharing of positions. Whatever happened to the “big picture view” of things. The fact of the matter is that the political architecture is not sensitive to the needs of the times; jobs, healthcare, education, decent housing and a working, efficient and cheap public transport system, climate change.

Can’t someone see, for example, that the government is spending too much on itself (supporting the political elite and their associates)? It is such that the current social contract doesn’t inspire confidence, allegiance and faith in the political architecture. Redemption will come once we accept that largely because of bad politics we have developed at half the potential. So while the likes of Asian tigers (at par with us at independence in 1963) galloped, we were just happy to lumber along.

What to do? To start, we need to rekindle the spirit and vision that yearns for good leaders. We have to acknowledge that on their own, the leadership doesn’t really care about us. In fact, the political class is sucking life out of us and anything we value.

Additionally, other non-political actors should play a leading role in the affairs of the country. For example, the private sector (the biggest contributor to the GDP) should influence policy not just for their businesses but also for the common good.

There is a feeling that the business community has been nonchalant about issues that matter and would rather watch from the ringside than immerse itself in such things as efforts aimed at dismantling the bureaucratic network so often blamed for obstructing investment, breeding corruption and fueling dead-end politics.

Mr Kipkemboi is Partnerships and Special Projects Editor, Standard Group


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