Political campaigns in Kenya are out of this world. They are more manipulative than persuasive.
I was nearly run over by boda boda riders who must have had a meeting with agents of a Kibra parliamentary seat candidate. They were rough, unapologetic, lawless and their identity was unmistakable; supporters of one camp in the Kibra race.
In their campaign mood, they made it clear to all motorists that they were in charge of the roads and waved everyone else off.
One can justifiably wonder whether they knew about law and order, but opted to suspend it and perhaps for a moment exercise power; illegitimate as it may have been.
But, God have mercy, did they, later in the evening, look back to say how irresponsible they were to their fellow Kenyans? Or did they sleep feeling nice and praying for a similar day?
My beef is with whoever fed and released them to ‘whoever it may concern.’ The sender must be someone who permits or even sponsors such awkward voter behaviour.
Political campaigns are meant to be persuasive. There is a code on how one should go about selling themselves to the electorate.
After all, it is clear in the constitution that an elected leader should bring honour to the office he or she seeks.
When supporters of a camp take over police duties at will without a reprimand from the respective party, then you know the candidate must be enjoying it.
Persuasion in political campaigns brings about sanity. This is possible if the brand is valuable.
Candidates who truly respect themselves, know their space well and know their capacities to deliver are more persuasive than schemers who cannot stand anyone on their way. Persuasive candidates respect their voters and therefore approach them with dignity.
When candidates engage in persuasion they don’t hurl insults at each other like there is no tomorrow. Persuasion is an art in which the speaker aims at favourably influencing the minds of voters. There is power in messaging. As professionals in Public Relations (PR) would say, persuasion does not just win over a client, it makes such a client trust and remain loyal to the brand.
Moreover, persuasive candidates focus on a constructive agenda. Politics of fear, intimidation, aggression and pure manipulation of people particularly because they are poor does not build society. It builds devils.
Far from persuading anyone, political campaigns in Kenya are considerably a circus. The voters know that it is a time of harvest.
They reap and desire to reap big from candidates. They know that once the elections are over, the candidates will retreat to their mansions and that marks the end of harvesting.
Logically, or so it is argued, strike while the iron is still hot. I have been a beneficiary of free sodas in the past. It felt great but I now know it was vanity. I was manipulated like a robot. I must have used some intelligence in that campaign.
Our political campaigns are also a time of blackmail. I lost count of how many times I have heard candidates blackmailing voters.
In equal measure, I have heard voters blackmailing candidates. The story is always if you don’t vote this way “tutaonana mbele” (we will see who is who).
The real problem is whether political campaigns in Kenya are cursed. Without a bit of violence, it is as if elections are meaningless. And, I do not buy the idea that only voters are manipulated to fight.
The candidates are well loaded with fire. They physically fight each other on occasions, only that we do not get the stories in the media all the time. But their real fights are psychological, resulting in deep emotional distress. Is it worth it, really?
If the Kibra show is an indicator of where we are as voters, then 2022 will surely be chaotic and uncontrollable.
Again, when politicians disregard the electoral law and become law unto themselves when conducting campaigns, what hope have we that in future political campaigns will not be another free black market where there are no rules except for the mighty?
I mistakenly thought that Kibra campaigns will be run on some sober debate, testing major theories of development in this country such as how to upgrade and integrate slums into the housing agenda in the Big Four Agenda of the Jubilee regime. Instead, what comes through the media are the usual hot air promises.
Dr Mokua comments on Social Justice Issues.