The pseudo-policies and untested agenda that George Luchiri Wajackoyah proposes to the voters call for people with formed conscience to examine them.
The narratives of smoking marijuana, snake farming and suspending the Constitution are very exciting pastime topics, but I struggle to see a president in this kind of messaging.
It is one thing to excite young people who love drama but another to see a solid presidential candidate who speaks to national issues in a way that brings honour to the office of the presidency. I would not mind an MCA or some low-level MP hanging on utopia manifestos to impress voters. Not that MCAs have a licence to sell any agenda to the voters. Not at all. Only that if a region grows marijuana an MCA might pander to that as an agenda.
We must be having very different understanding of what the presidency is about. From where I sit, the presidency is a symbol of national unity. By the very agenda of Prof Wajackoyah indirectly influencing young people to see contested drug use as a good thing because it will give us income does not demonstrate our care for the future of children. Are we putting money before moral formation of our young people?
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For the record, the government, religious institutions, parents and teachers have had a very difficult time in the past 10 years handling arson in schools, children who find their way into smoking and drinking dens, strikes - especially in secondary schools and the killing of students in universities among other horrendous evils that children are vulnerable to. The challenge persists. If we keep entertaining the discourse around marijuana and its related activities, we are reacting the children into rebellion. Here is why.
In psychologist Erik Erickson’s eight stages of psychosocial human development, children between 12-18 years are in a stage of identity formation. This is a stage of embracing a world in which as they start moving from being children to adults, the social structures in which they live and learn, the character of political leaders and celebrities, shape their identities.
Since young people at this stage struggle to construct their world and gain autonomy from parents and independence even from teachers, it is very easy for anyone to abuse them. Giving them an utopian world in which people smoke weed, work four days a week and use the rest of the time enjoying themselves sounds sexy.
Kenya is a young democracy and about 35 per cent of its citizens live in poverty. We should be very cautious on what agenda we propose to voters, particularly the poor and young. Any adult, vying or not, should find it in their hearts to care about what children pick from the media and from politicians who promise what they cannot offer.
Wajackoyah has a minimal chance of winning the presidency. However, he should regulate his own thoughts since the kind of poisoning that might go into the children’s young minds may take a whole generation to heal. Well, yes, children below 18 years won’t vote, but they are following the presidential race very closely because it does have an impact on the kind of role models they choose.
The presidency addresses high-level governance matters touching on the legislature and Judiciary. Besides, the presidency is the face of the country abroad. I am afraid we are trivialising the office of the President by distracting ourselves from the more prepared candidates, William Ruto and Raila Odinga. These sideshows can negatively influence the presidential election outcome.
What we should focus on are candidates who add value to the competition. Running a government requires someone who has the networks, normally built over time, the practical knowledge of what voters really aspire for and indeed a candidate who has a transformative agenda. Beyond words, I am not sure the agenda Wajackoyah is proposing will meaningfully stretch the young people he fascinates. Let us not sell illusions to children.
-Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication