October 22, 2012 Mad Hatter

Presidential Debates! But Equally Retain Personalized Politics

“So as 2013 presidential debates begin, I will not divorce personalities from politics. Those who are comfortable with their families owning a whole Nyanza while Kenyans are IDP(s), those whose families converted public molasses plants into private owned enterprises; those accused of crimes against humanity, those who were in the YK92 when the rest of the republic was struggling for change will have to be seen as such.”

The television history of Kenya will certainly register an epic moment on 26th November when Presidential contestants face it off in a debate. I rightly guess the collective audience watch will hit an all time high. While this is certainly a great step towards realizing an electioneering contest based on reason, and it should be pursued to its ultimate maturity, as a country we have to equally place an eye on the person.

I believe we have to retain personalized politics just as much as we pursue ideology based politics. Politics, unlike any other form of calling is dependent more on the person “politician’, more than what they say or what they have been trained. I will stretch the basis of my assertion to the most basic of reasons. When persuading voters, the aspirant will traditionally offer their visions. These visions will rarely be comprehensive.

While we may want to create an illusion of idealism, that we should elect a leader who gives the best deal, and that way it ought to be, the imperfections of democracy create an altogether a different reality. The political reality is that it will be more about “how do you present it,” than “what do you present. And this is not entirely wrong. A political leader perhaps carries a significance that exceeds ability to legislate or formulate good policies. The nobility of politics lies in the fact the people deposit a trust in their leader.

If this was not so, clearly Martin Oduor can perhaps handle the economy of Nyanza better than Odinga, Kareithi Murimi understands structural impediments to investment than Uhuru Kenyatta yet they will never assume the roles these two have. From a superficial look, we could condemn the respective electorates of respecting undeserved political deities; but beyond this condemnation, we should never fail to understand that it is a reality; and realities are not vanquished by well designed academic arguments. Politics has a rather unquantifiable nobility in the fact of “being a deposit of trust”.

Well you could counter argue and say in that case CEO’s of financial institution are the most trusted as people trust them with their monies. The difference between the trust vested to a political leader and in any other leader is will. Men do not give away what they value without reasonable considerations. Yet the most learned will vote the less knowledgeable and trust them to guide their destinies. An extremely learned CEO will have the standards of performance prescribed for them in manner of performance contracts, yet the electorates will applaud politicians who they agree never perform to the extent of their promises. Am I excusing incompetence by creating non existent nobility? Certainly not, but if you disagree with the assertions, I would be justified to say you are running away from the reality. It is this realization; that my vote as holder of a bachelor’s degree and the vote of my uneducated grand ma carry the same weight that informs my stand that we should not divorce personalities from politics.

Indeed, the truest restriction a society can ever have is that which ensures that those who offer themselves for political offices are worth the trust that will be vested in them. This I would guess is the rationale for restriction placed on persons with criminal chances when seeking elections. Basically, leadership and the concept of a “good citizen” are inseparable. Good in the sense of a legal or otherwise vindication that the character of the person seeking the office is worth the trust. Legal vindications will always be realized through promulgated regulations and institutionalized requirements, but the most crucial of the vetting is the otherwise aspects; the not-coded restrictions that a society places on who should be a political leader.

Herein lies the electorates’ right to prod the candidate’s past and present commitments, their unsaid beliefs, speculations on their past, their convictions. This is not an exercise that can be effectively concluded by watching a candidate on a debate platform. On the platform, they may mask their totality by well planned messages, beyond the allure of eloquence and grasps of statistics, the electorate should always be entitled to an answer of this question; “who is the guy that wants my vote.” Because debaters will naturally agree on the rules of engagement, what should be a chance for the electorate to know who their candidates is is in reality a stage managed contest.

A politician is not going to fit into an organizational culture so that we should get comfortable by the way he expresses himself before a panel of interviewers. His excesses may be checked by systems but that checking may leave voids that disrupt a society to huge extends. A politician’s therefore ambition must be placed in the context of his entire life. Do I expect anyone to live blamelessly? No. But I expect those who aspire to have me deposit my trust in them to be courageous and own up to their dispositions. I expect them to be courageous and admit their mistakes, perhaps strong enough and explain them. What is excusable will always be excused.

I guess, I will be confident to deposit my trust in a man who regrets what they did than in a man who is blameless.

So as 2013 presidential debates begin, I will not divorce personalities from politics. Those who are comfortable with their families owning a whole Nyanza while Kenyans are IDP(s), those who converted public molasses plants into private owned enterprises; those accused of crimes against humanity, those who were in the YK92 when the rest of the republic was struggling for change will have to be seen as such.

Those who excuse post election violence in the guise of self defense, those who stayed as foreign affairs ministers for close to a decade when the rest of the country carried a heavy burden, those who are being accused of not completing school, those accused of being statehouse projects, those who have spend five years in parliament gaining experience as opposed to working should be seen as such. I will watch the debate, but I will vote for someone who deserves my trust.

And by the way, I am young and ambitious and one day, I know I will be vetted. And then I may hope that this never applies to me, it does not mean it should not apply to me.

Tagged: , , ,

Leave a Reply