Voters have to take responsibility for the mess that politicians cause

Voters queue to cast their votes in the 2017 General Election. [File, Standard]

In under three months, Kenyans will head to the polling booths to elect people they hope will safeguard their interests.

In less than a week, the electoral agency will declare the beginning of the official campaign period, which does mean much because campaigning has been going on for ages.

That written, Kenyans can take solace in the fact that there is still time for introspection, time for them to think about their choices, and eventually vote wisely.

Barring any deaths or successful election petitions, the leaders elected on August 9 will be in office for five long years.

During this period, they are expected to deliver on their promises of improving service delivery and standards of living, lowering the cost of living and generally steering the nation to prosperity.

If history is anything to go by, Kenyans can only wish that their choices will make their lives better since what they get is totally different from what was promised during the electioneering period.

For a start, Kenyan politicians begin campaigning immediately after they are sworn in. They start seeing political enemies, mostly imagined, in every corner and start laying strategies on how to overpower them.

In the process, they forget about the promises they made and even the so-called development they said, or thought, they would bring.

In fact, they totally forget about the voters since their first order of business is looking for ways through which they can increase their salaries and allowances.

When debates about their perks come up, even those of them who had sworn to only think about the voters, fall in line, salivating at the expected windfall. Even though some of them never speak in the assemblies for months or even years, they are with their more garrulous colleagues in spirit, praying, hoping that they succeed in channeling more public money in to their pockets.

It can safely be called fleecing the voters because that is what it is. Apart from increasing their perks, there are also underhand deals to be cut, and in the end, it is the voters they promised development, and prompt delivery of services, among other goodies, who suffer.

While it is never openly said, it is all about recovering the funds they spent on the campaign trail, about getting the returns on their investment, for, in Kenya, it is never about public service, but personal gain.

Kenyans need to start a meaningful conversation on the uncomfortable issue of campaign funding that politicians have consistently evaded, or fought off, and dismissed because they do not want to be held accountable. Ideally, they have never wanted to be held accountable. They do not want to be questioned about the sources of their funds.

They speak of friends funding them, but these friends remain faceless, and they do not reveal how the so-called friends will benefit.

Lack of accountability is the biggest hurdle to progress — and since Kenyans at all levels of the economy and governance are inherently corrupt, the voters themselves protect their favourite politicians when the issue of accountability comes up.

When certain groups try to push for accountability in politics, they are drowned out with noise, and many a time, the noise does not come from the politicians; it comes from the voters who ironically are the ones who suffer the most when politicians divert public funds in to their own pockets.

It has been said several times that Kenyans need to be proactive and stop thinking that their civic duty ends at the polling booth, but we are not ready to listen.

In the few times that we do, we are outmanoeuvred by the politicians whose lies we swallow, because they throw crumbs at us, and we see them as generous people, yet, had they not sabotaged the system, we would not need their private intervention.

It is not wrong to say that politicians insult the sensibilities of Kenyans because Kenyans have allowed them to do so.

It is true that Kenyans are easily excitable and fall for their cheapest of lies and lamest of excuses.

Politicians fail to deliver on their promises, but hoodwink us with handouts and we go silent. We do not take them to task over the anti-people laws that they pass, and we do not care much about the wealth they accumulate within a short period of being in office.

When politicians are caught red handed, they start screaming that they are being persecuted, then rush to the people claiming that their whole tribe is under attack.

Sadly, the people agree, even as they suffer because of poor governance and bad laws passed and defended by the same politicians they are dying to protect.

This might sound like blaming the victim, only that it is not. Because the power is in our hands, literally, in the form of a voter’s card, and in our voices, which we must learn to use, to bring an end to all the chicanery.