In recent days, we have witnessed many political realignments as political leaders take note of the buttered sides of their bread. These defections will increase as we get closer to party primaries. Every electioneering year we have been taken through the same dizzying movements of the political elite. The defections are so rapid and so unpredictable that it is now illogical to vote for any leader on the basis of their party affiliation.
People we once considered life members of political outfits have made U-turns and formed new political vehicles with little consultation with the electorate. Leaders we had considered joined at the hip are now calling each other unprintable names, while those who could not see eye to eye, who had hung each other to dry in public fora, are now best political buddies.
Political parties in Kenya are nothing more than mere vehicles with five-year, often non-renewable licences to carry their owners to their political destinations. The few that remain true to their original agenda are quickly abandoned for newer, more trendy outfits. We have lost count of the number of political slogans we have had to chant over the years.
Why then would anyone vote for a political leader on the basis of the party they are affiliated to? I mean, many of them have barely any time to put together a manifesto before the day of elections. All they have to sell are insults and malignment of the leaders of parties they have abandoned. That is what they consider their biggest selling point. If you ask any fanatical follower of any political party what the ideology of the party is, many will have not the slightest idea.
One of the unfortunate outcomes of the lack of strong political parties with strong ideologies and leadership is the number of good leaders who are likely to be rigged out of the nominations, potentially killing their political ambitions, sometimes forever. The clamour for the coveted political party tickets is evidence of the importance attached to party affiliation, especially in regions of the said parties’ dominance.
We should normalise the vetting of political candidates on the basis of their integrity and ability to deliver development rather than the party they belong to. The allegation is that party primaries are largely predetermined in favour of party leaders’ close allies. Those who lose out on the tickets are left in the cold, their leadership qualities notwithstanding.
Independent candidates are rarely taken as seriously as those wielding party tickets. Good leaders running on tickets of parties not well known in their regions are frowned upon and seen as traitors. What we end up with are leaders who are in power because they are loyal, not to the electorate but to the party leaders.
For a change, in the coming elections, let us consider individual candidates: Their vision for the people they seek to represent, their ability to deliver and, most importantly, for the incumbents, their legacy thus far. History has taught us that the political elite make decisions for themselves. They will defect from allies and form mergers with political foes for their political survival. Let us also learn to make political choices for collective selfish reasons. The ‘six-piece’ voting narrative is a scam. Let us vote in individuals, not parties.
Dr Kalangi is a communication trainer and consultant, Kenyatta University.