Ideas, not cash handouts, should influence our voting

Hundreds of Kenyans line up to vote in 2005 [Courtesy]

In a republic, the people are understood to be units of independent judgment capable of making decisions on the basis of freely available information. In current times, the politics of wealth and dishing out money to crowds have, however, subverted the sacrosanct credos of our democracy and rendered it bankrupt of ideas.

Plutarch, the Roman historian, did warn us that an imbalance between the rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.

This warning has resounded more profoundly in Kenya than any other republic.

The gap between the rich and poor in Kenya is not only enormous but of such enormity that it poses as a conduit for politicians to literally buy the consent of the electorate. The will to undermine democracy in this year's general election campaigns is blatant and glaring to the point that it pits a competition on who dishes out more money between rival political class. Those who fall short in this competition are easily branded stingy.

It will be a bit much to blame the moneyed politician and completely off to blame that recipient poverty-stricken Kenyan. Our economic system's malfunction is to blame. I will not digress. However, it’s incumbent upon politicians to win the electorate through ideas and agenda and not money. When money takes precedent during campaigns, then we are simply compromising the tenets of our democratic establishment.

I say so because the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution represented the most hopeful establishment of a constitutional democracy. Thus, the only legitimate source of power in Kenya was to be the free consent of the governed. Wealth and money was not to be bartered for political power.

In the same vein, the former vice president of the United States Al Gore taught us that the derivation of just power from the consent of the governed depends upon the integrity of the reasoning process through which that consent is given. In the event the reasoning process is tainted and corrupted by money, propaganda and deception, the consent of the governed will be based on false premises and any power thus derived is inherently counterfeit and unjust.

If politicians extort the consent of the governed by manipulating mass fears using money, state machinery or divisive propaganda, or such consent is embezzled with claims of divine guidance, our democracy will undoubtedly be impoverished. Kenyans can never afford to suspend reason for money in this electioneering period. If a substantive portion of the electorate loses confidence in the integrity of the process, our democracy will definitely be bankrupted.

Let ideas influence our voting patterns and not money. Our leaders must endeavour to preserve our democracy by respecting the very people who donate power to them instead of using them as mere pawns in their quest to ascend to power. Teach us how to fish for you will not give us fish every day.

In the end, we will all say the famous words of Abraham Lincoln “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.

Mr Omulanya is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.