IEBC should have erred on side of values while clearing aspirants

Deputy President and UDA Presidential candidate William Ruto (centre) and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua after they were cleared to vie for Presidency by IEBC at the Bomas Of Kenya, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

When the list of presidential aspirants came out, over 50 odd candidates had thrown their hats into the ring. If all had been cleared by the IEBC, the ballot paper would have been the longest in our history. This would certainly have been a nightmare for voters and counters – possibly with many spoilt votes and counting errors.

But in what appeared a master stroke of genius, the IEBC swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme, ending up with only four presidential candidates – the shortest list in the history of multiparty elections. In all probability, the presidential ballot will be the easiest to deal with, both for the voter and counting officials. But how did IEBC pull this feat?

It would appear that the IEBC embarked on the review of each application with scrupulous diligence. They checked every undotted “i” and each uncrossed “t” to ensure every application was in conformity with the rules, procedures, and laws governing each electoral position.

Every candidate was taken to the IEBC labs and given a thorough health check through the legal MRIs, the process x-rays, and all administrative tests. The reports were then sent to the no nonsense electoral doctors, with no qualms whatsoever announcing the good and bad news to the anxious candidates – sometimes in the glare of the media.

In this way, many candidates saw their hopes dashed, even after going through gruelling party nominations. And thus, the presidential list was whittled down from a whooping 55 aspirants to a paltry four candidates. The same was true for other positions. For this boldness in sieving the lists, the IEBC must be greatly commended – possible errors notwithstanding.

Unfortunately, it does appear that in testing the leadership health of the candidates, the IEBC missed out some absolutely vital tests – the ECG for the heart and cancer screening in the vitals.

Chapter Six of our Constitution expressly provides that the state of the heart is critical for leadership – because values and ethics are the true foundation of leadership. Furthermore, our supreme law and statutes require that those whose lives are tainted with the cancer of corruption should be deemed to be too sick to hold office.

It was therefore with utter dismay that we watched as candidates whose hearts are obviously on the verge of ethical failure were given certificates of good health. Likewise, men and women with reports of serious Kenyan cancer – some at stage four – were cleared to join the tortuous race to national leadership! Though the EACC – the authorised centre for testing cancer and heart diseases – sent a long list of suspected sick candidates, the IEBC gave long and winding explanations as to why their own machines had returned results to the contrary.

It would appear that in screening candidates, IEBC chose to err on the side of the law rather than on the side of values. They feared more breaching the letter of the law than upholding the spirit and ethos of it. They thus cleared obviously sick candidates, who met the technical and legal requirements, but barred some who appeared morally healthy but had apparently breached an iota of the law.

The sad reality is that if IEBC was avoiding being taken to court for a seeming violation of certain people’s rights, they have ended up in the court corridors anyway. How much the better if IEBC had chosen to err on the side of values. They most likely would still have had a date with the judges, but for a more worthy cause. And in all probability, Kenyans would have rallied behind them in their effort to redeem the sanctity and dignity of our leadership.

Kenyans did stand with Michuki in streamlining the transport sector. They did with Raila in reclaiming grabbed road reserves and clearing the by-passes. They supported Matiang’i in restoring the value of the “A” in our education sector. And they willingly shut down their businesses to allow Mutahi Kagwe tame Covid-19.

The truth is that, if this country is going to be turned around, it will take courageous leaders ready and willing to stand for what is right. Chebukati has shown the mettle. He needs to go further.