Of Angry Youth And Our Election Cycle

The common denominator for men and women of my generation, born before 1980, was that no one was above a good beating. Our parents were from the school of hard knocks. They swore by the words,  ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child”. I grew knowing my parents wrath came from a place of good intentions. The punishment was structured and one even got to fetch the cane that would be used to inflict pain and deliver a lesson. When disciplining was over, we were reminded that the world would not be so kind. That is what good parenting entailed.

The Announcement

Friday, August 11 2017

The axe forgets what the tree remembers. African proverb

The tension was palpable 3 days after voting. Media had prepped Kenyans for a big announcement. Serious discrepancies had emerged over the vote tallying and opinion was sharply divided and emotive. The kind that could trigger off a big reaction.

People who had shown up for work on that Friday reported the lack of transport and the light traffic in Nairobi. Employers and business owners with good sense had to ensure the premises were shut by 2pm. We received reports of heavy police presence in the hotspots, in our case the poor ghettos in the opposition chiefs stronghold that were primed to react in protest after the announcement.

2017 And Other Local Diseases

There are three opening lines to a bad joke.

A crocodile walks into a bar. A two men were walking down the street when they spot a penguin. I am running for President.

The problem with the third joke is that political jokes get elected and it is usually no laughing matter after that. Every Kenyan looks at Donald Trump and pities Americans. Elections are a bag full of surprises. The pitch for 2017 Kenyan General election is getting revved up and 2017 references are starting to make conversations in the pub very trying. Nothing as depressing as getting stuck in bar on an El Nino evening with a patriotic Kenyan whose passionate political analysis is drawn from three Facebook posts. With the big boys and girls shifting attention to political survival, ordinary Kenyans can only be troubled about the future for good reason.

You can tell election campaign season is here. Political talking heads are popping up at public rallies around the country hurling insults across the divide in back and forth fashion. What did one politician say to the other “I abuse you this week, you ‘twanga me’ next week, in between prayer rallies for our sponsors, we can keep the public fixated on our interests through to 2017”.

From my wary corner, I stare at the revolving news cycle and marvel at the scandals still coming through, to borrow a phrase from the JKL show, “Thick and fast”. Names are aired in public, records paraded and summarily forgotten in pursuit of the next trending corruption headline. Overnight, connected men and women in the political class, of previously modest means are enjoying boom season. Organized greed has become a major element of government business as there are no consequences for looting public coffers.

Politicians and their functionaries are banging on the billionaire club door. Corruption is so rampant that it is not a scandal worth fretting about if it is not in the billion shilling range. Auditor General Edward Ouko recently stated that up to 500billion of public funds were unaccounted for and you did not need to be a political scientist to spot the tell-tale signs of organized greed.

Organized greed is a sophisticated operation. When election deception begins all the country’s current problems are deferred to the future where the promise of change resides. Political rivalry starts to get very shallow, partisan and hypocritical during the campaign season as all pretence at decorum is thrown out the window. Political loyalties are realigned to the usual tribal arithmetic calculations and sworn enemies make up. Personal interest and survival before country. The ‘dirty’ money starts trickling down to the masses from the political benefactors and the prospective candidates lined up to give the illusion of choice. They throw money around to entice potential voters like rice at a wedding. As the elections draw nearer, politicians get progressively chummy. Six months to D-Day everyone will be kissing babies and attending funerals. Western governments, development partners, friends of Kenya and the self-appointed custodians of human rights and democracy will be heard urging Kenyans to maintain peace and order so as not to mess up with their sunshine and scare away tourists and investors.

The public relations spins will be about progressive national policies but the first consideration of leadership is still tribe. Political ideology died a still birth in this country. All we have now is the cult of personality and the disposable mob. In the case of willing buyer, willing seller, the voters mortgage their future to the highest bidder. People should know better but in our politics familiarity breeds votes.

 Elections in Kenya are becoming a game of chance. A sick twist of Russian roulette meets Stockholm syndrome. Election choices have been reduced to electing the devil you know. The lesser of the two evils. Outsiders are what voters think they want but in truth retaining the status quo feels more familiar and comforting.

In the end the verdict is never really in your hands. It was Joseph Stalin who once said, the people who cast votes decide nothing. It is the people who count the votes that decide everything.

This is the recurring national disease that occurs at all levels of political leadership and aptly diagnosed by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in the book “His Philosophy and Beliefs” compiled by the late Prof. H. Odera Oruka in 1992.

“People who are victims of seeing power as an end in itself wish to grab power but once they are in power they see their goal as fulfilled. They believe that the mere possession of power is an achievement which no other duty can equal. And so once in power they forget about the people, the masses who elected them”.

It is a frustrating state when short sighted politicians expend all their energy in winning elections. Hope of change varnishes into thin air to be replaced by a familiar sense of vulnerability that has been the curse of our generation. Perhaps, it is time to pay heed to the old saying.

If we keep doing things the same way, we are only going to keep getting the same results.