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Of goats, ballots and men in this year’s August elections

By Julie Masiga | Published Tue, April 18th 2017 at 00:00, Updated April 17th 2017 at 23:37 GMT +3

There are some people who would rather vote for a goat than for Nairobi’s incumbent Governor Evans Kidero. They would rather deface their ballot papers with the image of a farm animal than endorse a man they feel has failed Nairobi - and they might have to. Dr Kidero is one among many ODM candidates who have received direct nominations, ostensibly because they were standing unopposed.

No one in Nairobi – or elsewhere in this great republic – believes they can do a better job than Kidero. Not even a goat. Strange, but true. So if you’re a habitual Opposition voter, your options just got narrowed down to one human and one animal.

Or you could be really wild and vote on the issues, no matter which party colours they are cloaked in.

There is always the option to look across the aisle. To choose an establishment candidate with a manifesto practical enough to change the fortunes of the Nairobi electorate. Well, you could if there was one.

Limited options

In a contest between Kidero, Peter Kenneth or Mike Sonko, a voter would essentially find himself between the devil, the deep blue sea and a hard place. The first has had four years to fix Nairobi’s problems (and has failed), the second is a failed presidential candidate and the third? The third might just be naïve enough to believe that the city mandarins will allow him to be the man in the mirror and make a change.

But all that remains to be seen. The temptation is strong to sketch a goat, draw a box beside it and give it a resounding tick. That way, you are still fulfilling your civic duty to vote, but at the same time exercising your democratic right to protest.

To silently agitate for change.

In this country, change usually comes in the form of a unified opposition but after the shambolic ODM nominations that – strangely enough – were scheduled to run over Easter, the very idea of the Opposition being a catalyst for change is in itself idealistic.

Which is not to say that the Jubilee Party will have it any better at their own primaries. I’m not a prophetess but if I were, I would easily predict that come Friday this week, there won’t be enough cameras to capture the chaos as JP incumbents push back against the new kids on the block – with the exception of those who have the unique pleasure of standing unopposed.

But primaries – perhaps more correctly the appearance of the same – are a necessary cog in the wheel of democracy. The people must be seen to participate in the selection of their leaders. It would be decidedly uncouth to stuff candidates down their throats without their apparent acquiescence.

We are after all a civilised society. And in civil society, country always comes first. The battle for political supremacy cannot be seen as a power-sharing contest, even when principals and co-principals say as much.

Neo colonialism

Civilised or not, the truth is that we are also enslaved by a plantation mentality, and the cotton has been pulled over our eyes for decades. Somewhere along the line we moved on from white bwanas to black waheshimiwa and in many ways, this modern-day oppression is much worse than good old-fashioned colonialism.

Now we find ourselves having to contend with a farce in the name of party primaries, essentially rubber-stamping candidates that have been anointed by the party gods, never mind what the people think.

The people. A term that has been bandied about so much as to lose all meaning. An ideal that reads so well on paper, but that has zero bearing in the real world. A social construct that has become so devalued that some folks are willing to vote for goats.

But come Election Day, the Kenyan people will be presented with a choice between the devils they know and the ones they don’t. The real decision then will be to keep their preferred devils accountable. The polls begin and end on August 8, but the civic duty to hold elected leaders to account does not.

If the electorate really wants change, it must find a way to make that civic duty manifest.

Ms. Masiga is Peace and Security Editor at The Conversation Africa 


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