If you vote based on tribe, you vote for bad leadership

A man confronts an anti-riot police officer for storming into his house in search of protestors demonstrating against the repeat presidential election, Kawangware, 2017. [Pius Cheruiyot, Standard]

As the political season gathers tempo, we are again being treated to politics of alignment and realignment, mainly based on tribal and regional persuasions.

Such moves should worry every reasonable Kenyan, not only for its potency of sowing seeds of discord, but also breeding leaders bereft of values and consequently defiling the purpose of public service.

It is disheartening to see the electorate hypnotised by the call to safeguard the position of the tribe. They are made to believe that it is the tribe, rather than the individual that hold the position. This very mindset creates the chorus of ‘Us’ against ‘Them’.

Further, the unfortunate reality is that most of problems in society stem from the exercise of political power. Understandably, the exercise of public power depends on how the very power was gained. Thus, rising to positions of authority through ethnic matrix will precipitate abuse of such authority by facilitating favouritism, exclusion, inequalities and corruption.

Most politicians capitalise on Kenyans’ attachment to tribes to lead. Any leadership gained through such a process provides lubricant to the machine of inequality, systematic discrimination, marginalisation and corruption. This is what ails the public service and perpetuate inequalities and bad governance in societies.

The voters often fail to appreciate that public positions are critical avenues for shaping policies which affect their lives.

For instance, what benefit does an incompetent legislator elected on tribal card serve his/her tribe when a tax bill on essential commodities is passed without his/her contribution? Apparently, what is at stake in every election is the delivery of public goods like quality education, health care and food.

It is ironical to hear Kenyans complaining of poor delivery of basic services while they never cared to scrutinise the qualities of candidates before electing them. The ubiquitous inefficiencies, embezzlement of funds, lack of accountability in public institutions are as a result of lack of strong leadership.

It is not surprising to see leaders serving narrow and parochial interests in public office. The wanton disregard to the laws, skewed award of government tenders and corruption among elites are caused such leaders' influence on government institutions.

The worst is the creation of malignant tumour of ineffective and extractive institutions servicing the narrow interest of those in power hence destroying public confidence in public institutions.

The tragedy is the blatant abuse of sovereign power by electing persons based on tribal considerations and relegating the qualities of personal integrity and competence.

This perpetuates inefficiencies in leadership and abuse of entrusted authority, hence tainting the fabric of the public sector. Any person who sacrifices competence and quality leadership at the altar of political convenience is an accomplice and not a victim of poor governance.  

The imminent election yet again provides an opportunity for the voters to exercise their minds and give mandates to leaders who have qualities. If our voting is driven by emotions of tribal politics, we will lose the main purpose of public service leadership.  

 The writer is a lawyer and governance analyst. [email protected]