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We blunder when we focus on personas and not their agenda

OPINION
By Edwin Wanjawa | October 11th 2021

The interconnection of the Yin and Yang of politics in Kenya is that demagoguery has no favourite side. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Everything has a yin and yang; opposing polarities that are, nevertheless, dependent on each other. One cannot exist without the other. More than just a construct of eastern philosophies, the need to balance opposing energies is a fundamental aspect of all human psychology.

In each of our lives, we need to find a balance between work and family, ambition and recreation, and our intellectual and emotional sides. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

It appears that our 2022 presidential election cycle is early on being defined by that philosophy. The question is, can this propaganda, innuendo and media-driven divide be good for the future of our Constitutional Republic?

My concern is that we, Kenyans, are once again being driven by media news cycles and not focusing on the prevailing issues or the future of Kenya. Instead of basing our decisions about the future leadership of Kenya on individual personalities, we should seek out a vision.

Sadly, the social culture in Kenya forces us to pay more attention to personas rather than principles and ideas. Now, I will be the first to admit that consideration of policy solutions and development models may seem boring, but a base understanding is essential.

We have become more drawn to the person than the idea. And what is lacking is a representation of the embodiment of that Kenyan idea envisioned by our founders. Some would say that it does not exist, and God knows there are many who are trying to eradicate it – we are a few months away from fundamentally transforming Kenya.

What is necessary in the current election cycle is for the electorate to listen, and not be emotional. How do we establish the free enterprise opportunity society in order to get Kenyans back to work and productive in their own lanes? How do we develop a strategy to defeat the ogre of corruption? What do we need to do to reasonably stem rising cost of living, secure the future of our youths, and protect our sovereign borders?

How do we repair a healthcare system where individual premiums are rising, the individual mandate tax is increasing, and the level of care is deteriorating? How do we advance the idea of parents being in charge of educating their children and being responsible for determining the outcomes – not the government or teacher?

The current Yin has done an exceptional job at focusing Kenya on emotional “feeling” oriented issues. The reality is that the Kenyan public feels less safe. They know their beloved Kenya, the land of individual economic empowerment, is fast becoming a breeding ground of collective economic enslavement, wealth is transferred from the poor to the rich to grow a dependent society, a playground for the corrupt to  outdo each other on who has more offshore accounts.

And so we have the rise of the new yang, a new slogan, but a lack of defined policy vision. Will it be DP William Ruto’s bottom-up approach or ODM leader Raila Odinga's Azimio la Umoja? Unfortunately, the other candidates are yet to expound a cogent alternative to our current sorry state. ANC's Musalia Mudavadi is mumbling something about the economy and debt management. Exactly, what policy options does each entail? How do they intend to fund these alternative visions? These questions are important given that Kenya is basically broke with a huge debt knee on our collective necks.

The next CEO of Kenya has a long in-tray. First and foremost he or she must slay the dragon of corruption. Second, the issue of the debt burden has to be reworked and favourably renegotiated. Third, an economic blueprint must be implemented that ensures more and more Kenyans are gainfully engaged. Last but not least, a tax administration regime that ensures all taxes are collected and not pilfered. Only then can any leader implement their lofty ideas.

If we want this cycle to continue, we’ll get that. If we want it to be destroyed, we’ll get that too. Unfortunately, the interconnection of the Yin and Yang of politics in Kenya is that demagoguery has no favorite side. It can appear anywhere and finds a way to feed off the other.

 -The writer lectures at Pwani University

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