Who between President Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Raila Odinga has betrayed the other? Unless you belong to the inner circle of politics, you have no idea. We will get to know the truth – if at all - when those in the inner circles of power pen their memoirs. What we consume in media and influence our liking or disliking of some candidates could be a complete spin. Some of us are loyal to these three high calibre men and will vote on the basis of sheer speculation on who is loyal to who or who is trustworthy. Talk of vote gambling, isn’t it?
Loyalty has levels of causes to pursue from lowest (greed, unjustifiable entitlement, treating others as means) to highest (truth, professionalism, transcendence). Voters get hooked to a candidate thereby creating a loyalty the same way we do to a brand. Loyalty can be pursued because of either the value-system a candidate stands for or the candidate’s character. For instance, abrasive violent characters attract loyalty of sorts among voters in Kenya.
Political loyalty is on trial in this election. Politically speaking, we shall manifest personal loyalty to a candidate or a cause next week when we exercise the right to vote in, hopefully, a free, fair and credible election.
As the curtain falls next week after years of campaigning, we can count dozens of politicians who have been disloyal to their friends or masters and are in foul mood to make a statement come Tuesday 9. There is a cloud of either (my way) or (their way) setting up voting as an 'either' 'or' exercise. Few voters will vote on loyalty to a cause such as belief in gender. Here is why.
There are several loyalty pair of choices playing out in the campaigns upon which most of us will vote: Friend vs enemy; revenge vs letting go; curse vs blessing; lesser evil vs big evil; learned vs unlearned; reforms vs new bureaucracy; a righting of wrongs vs progress agenda or other combination.
I would like to focus on the first three, as they are more defining for the election moment we are in.
Let us start with friend vs enemy loyalty frame. Loyalty is not just a good soothing word to hear said to someone for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance.
It is also a virtue that boosts relationships. Friends loyal to each other commit, protect and support one another in good and bad times. The opposite is betrayal. In relation to our electioneering, from car rooftops to podiums, betrayal, said all implied, is a driving election agenda.
Revenge vs let go. Some of our candidates are out to revenge. Others just want to move on, let go. A considerable number of voters are driven by political revenge. Rather than moving on to a new regime, revenge voters have unfinished business to sort out in the ballot.
I like this. Curse vs blessing. Countless number of rituals and prayer sessions have been held to “anoint the chosen one”. Indeed, there is collective social anointing. However, like the Israelites in the desert, communities can easily return themselves from advancing to democracy to worshipping idols. Irrational worshipping of candidates brings a curse upon individuals and the community.
Tuesday, August 9, 2022 defines our loyalty to what is truly in our hearts. The judgment day is coming next week. For where we plant shall we harvest. If our loyalty is individualistic, progressive, gender-sensitive, age-sensitive, human rights based, name it, we turn a new page next week. All our lamentations on the Kenya we don’t want will expressly be manifested on how we vote. We shall know our true selves by our voter behaviour.
Our loyalty to a cause should lead to fight corruption, support affirmative action, create opportunities for development and cultivate a culture of justice. As we announce our loyalty at the ballot, remember what is done in the darkness shall be announced from the rooftops.
-Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication