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Think twice before voting for your MP to become governor

Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Do you know that your vote could actually elevate your candidate to incompetence? Here is how it works.

The Peter Principle by Lawrence Peter states that people get promotions until they reach a point at which if promoted further they become incompetent. For instance, our Harambee Stars coach might win the Africa Cup of Nations.

But, if the same coach is promoted to train Liverpool FC, he might be incompetent. Similarly, an excellent and experienced senator, if elected as governor, could turn out to be a disaster.  

So when in under two weeks you go vote, you need to think twice about whom you cast your vote for because you might be promoting someone from where they are experienced and excellent in performance to a new role of leadership where they will immediately hit their level of incompetence. Let us delve a little deeper into this.

Unlike in the past electioneering, this time around, several wards, constituencies, counties and, as we have seen with the presidential debates, there is a new culture of interrogating candidates in public debates to size up their suitability for the job they are seeking from voters. I followed a few of those debates in counties and I found them extremely revealing.

First, great debaters are probably the least qualified to deliver. They have the logic, the God-given talent to speak regardless of the facticity of their content and language mastery to turn tables on great performers with lower skills in debating.

In line with the Peter Principle, the experience and giftedness in debating and praising oneself by exoneration or inclusion depending on where the bread is buttered is very different from people who are gifted with vision and the energy to go after social change.

If you appoint the latter to represent you at the UN Council, they will be a disaster. The former will give a standing ovation speech. Listening to the debates across the board, I realised that a few million votes will be cast to promote people to their levels of incompetence.

Irrelevant issues

Second, I was taken aback by how some of us voters are ignorant of the job descriptions of governors and the presidency. Ideally, the interviewers should have placed the job descriptions before themselves so that they shoot questions directly related to the functions of the office.

Since this was not the case, a good chunk of time was spent on personality attacks, deflections to irrelevant issues, and, lo and behold, the debates turned out to be venting stations, therapy sessions, swearing spots and a space to demonstrate, like wrestlers warming up to a match, how they would destroy the opponent.

I was thoroughly disappointed at how blatant lies were peddled as truths. Strangely, serial liars attract supporters. It is all fine for the spectacle bit of campaigns. The trouble lies in the Peter Principle.

Once the candidate is passed in the ballot, the task in office will be a totally different ball game. Not long after, we will begin to see how incompetent the candidates, who were so eloquent in debating, become problematic and impossible to reach. We will then seek to impeach them.

Third, the Peter Principle tells us that when a newly promoted person in an organisation begins to complain through and through, blaming everyone around them for failures, finding excuses to distribute stress and frustration, then such a person has hit an incompetence level. The Swahili say, 'mchagua jembe sio mkulima" (a competent farmer does not choose a hoe).

The point is, there are people who are best best-suited to be senators or MPs. Leave them there. Most successful businesspeople make poor leaders. A good candidate for an elective position, according to the Peter Principle, has to have done well in a social change agenda. We have many candidates to choose from. To vote wisely, consider candidates who, if voted, will talk less and deliver more.

 -Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication