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Passion of politics can be lethal, let's sober up ahead of elections

David Oginde
 When supporters of different politicians clashed at an event in Busia. [File, Standard]

It is becoming extremely apparent that perhaps nothing is more intoxicating and potentially destructive to the human person than the passion of politics.

Sober men and women seem to lose their reasoning capacity when the drug of political passion enters their veins and invades their bloodstream. Reasonable human beings throw caution to the wind and behave like brute beasts – dazed by political passion. Check out KOT and listen to the toxic language and provocative videos. This reality has been buttressed by watching the US Jan 6 hearings.

Whereas I recently took off from Nairobi for a break from siasa, I landed in the USA in the midst of a high-level political activity. The heart of the nation has been captured by what has become known as the 1/6 hearings – an investigation into the mob attack on the US Capitol building on January 6, 2022. The US House Select Committee has been piecing together details on the role various persons may have played in the unsuccessful attempt to forcefully overturn the 2020 presidential election results – ostensibly at the instigation of then President Donald Trump.

Having listened to the stories and testimonies of various key witnesses – planners, mobilisers, participants, security personnel, top aides of the President, including advisors, allies, family, friends, and top party leaders – I have reason to believe that politics is worse than cocaine.

A majority of the instigators and participants are well educated, highly placed, well-endowed, and even highly spiritual individuals. Yet in a moment of their political stupor, they almost ran this foremost nation aground. They mobilised gangs, assembled dangerous weapons (even erected gallows!), and travelled long distances with the united intent to disrupt a constitutional process. None gave the least consideration to the ultimate consequence of their actions. Yet as they testified before the committee, it was amazing how many have since regretted their actions. Several lessons emerge.

One. When circumstances are contra to a leader’s desires and their sense of judgement is blurred, sobriety and selflessness are the hallmark of great leadership. Several White House advisers, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, testified of how they had tried in vain to persuade President Trump to concede the election long before January 6. Nothing but selflessness would have awakened the President from this daze.

Two. Followership is a high responsibility, but fanatic following is dangerous – very dangerous. In the 1/6 hearings, Stephen Ayres, a rioter who broke into the Capitol, testified how “I was hanging on every word he [Trump] was saying.” Likewise, gangs like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, mobilised to “support and defend the President”. Stephen Ayres has since pleaded guilty and apologised to the police for his actions.

Three. When good men sell their souls for the cause of the leader, great men must trade in theirs for the greater cause of the nation. Responsible allies must know when the leader has taken a wrong turn and muster the courage to tell him so. This was greatly demonstrated by top Republican Party leaders and several senior personalities who stepped out to stabilize the tottering national ship.

Four. Robust governance systems and respect for the rule of law are the cornerstone of democracy. It is instructive that during the uprising, various institutions of government took charge of the situation, including empowering the Vice President to momentarily take charge of the nation – at great risk. The by-partisan commitment by Congress to certify the electoral results was a clear demonstration of true patriotism.

Five. National wounds, no matter how ugly, must be opened up and cleaned to allow for healing. Unlike in Kenya where we forget and move on, America has chosen to confront the ugliness of the 1/6 incident so that it does not remain a festering national wound. The nation is likely to emerge stronger.

As we enter into these final moments of our elections, let us remember that the passion of politics can be intoxicatingly dangerous. Leaders and supporters must remain sober. This is the moment for our leaders to demonstrate statesmanship and put the nation before self. Let us emerge sober, better, and stronger irrespective of the election outcome.

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