Political parties and politicians that favor the so-called 6-piece voting pattern will soon be licking their political wounds unless they engender free, fair, transparent and accountable processes in their primaries.
It’s emerging that the major political formations in the country are intent on locking in politicians in regions where they dominate so that such people are denied opportunity for fair competition against preferred candidates.
The parties and their leaders are running scared that newcomers might unseat seasoned politicians most of whom no longer make sense to young voters. This is particularly true within the ODM regions of Nyanza and elsewhere where newly registered voters do not necessarily appreciate the tired stories of second liberation, detentions and discrimination by the state. Most of those who are going to vote for the first time this year were born after the year 2000. They don’t relate to the freedom songs and stale tales of discrimination against certain regions and communities in allocation of development resources.
They want development. They don’t care why the regions were not favored in the past. After all, they can see rapprochement between the president and leader of the dominant political party in their regions. They wonder why their regions are not as developed as other parts of the country. They have great ideas that have been tested elsewhere with great success. They want to test them in Kenya.
These guys can access and process tons of information within a split of a second. Their reasoning is not driven by tribe or region. Some of them don’t even know for sure how their native counties look like, or what languages are spoken there. All they know is that they are Kenyan, and it doesn’t matter the tribes of the friends they hang out with.
That sort of thinking belongs to my generation and above. In fact, they consider it primitive and utterly intrusive to be asked which tribe they belong to. If you start talking to them about the stereotypes associated with different communities, they easily lose interest and switch to social media. It does not matter to them that girls from Kabete have traditionally been associated with cunning behavior. They will date those girls, and before you realize it, you have grandchildren with bloodlines of Kabete.
If these are the people politicians are banking on to deliver to them the presidency and other political seats, then members of the political class had better put their act together and tell these youngsters what they need to hear, not what politicians think they ought to hear. Those stories had better be short and to the point, otherwise, they will not have time for them. If you spend the first 8 out of your allocated 10 minutes of speech to do ‘tialala, tibim, warembo hi, and riap’, you will most probably lose them completely. They will remain there listening to your tialala and tibim merely for entertainment but not content. That’s why William Ruto is running away with the majority of these people.
The DP’s ‘Bottoms Up’ approach to economic management may not necessarily withstand intellectual scrutiny, but it is a message, nonetheless, and its being said repeatedly. The other side has no convincing message to compete with the DP’s ‘wheel barrow’ narrative. They are running scared of a simple, hollow message with no economic fundamentals.
The reason they’re scared to the bone is that DP Ruto has identified an issue that is very close to the hearts and minds of young Kenyans: lack of job opportunities. It doesn’t matter that the DP was part of the team that promised Kenyans a swathe of heaven, but failed to deliver more than an infinitesimal piece of earth.
I am telling you this for free, and you can take it to your nearest political bank, it will be honored on presentation: it will be very difficult to dislodge Ruto’s message from the hearts and minds of young voters. This guy will defeat anyone hands down, and especially in the constituency of newly registered voters. I know this pains, but it’s the reality, nevertheless. Those gallop polls numbers that appear in our dailies from time to time are not necessarily without merit. They don’t come from the woodwork. It’s not wise to ignore or defeat. It is better to accept the numbers and work towards reversing them.
Remember, I am not referring to the merits and demerits of the ‘wheel barrow’ message. I am simply referring to the fact that it’s the only product in the space where young people operate. By virtue of my university job, I interact on a daily basis with these young people. They tell me their views about 2022 elections. As we moralize about Ruto this and Ruto that, hoping that the young voters will be swayed away from him, they instead ask for well crafted and packaged alternative messages, and there are none. So, you can’t blame them. What do you want them to do?
Now, ODM is running scared. The party wants to lock in everyone without considering their inalienable right to choose who to associate with. The English say that old habits die hard. Already, the ODM party has given indications as to the sort of people they prefer for certain party positions, and rumor has it that they want to issue direct party tickets to these individuals. They are the usual suspects in their sunset years who should be playing with their grandchildren at home. They don’t want to let go of their privileges despite their obvious lack of creative ideas to transform the party and increase its fortunes on the national stage.
DP Ruto too started testing political waters in his Rift Valley backyard, and got a rude shock in Bomet the other day when he was rudely reminded that ‘ya Rais tutakupigia, lakini hapa mashinani hatupangwingwi.’ The DP and his strategists must have gone back to the drawing board to think of a better approach to handle Bomet County where former Governor Isaac Ruto looms large.
Unfortunately, ODM isn’t as flexible: it doesn’t learn and re-strategize in real time. They are still insisting on the stale 6-piece strategy. Although I am not the sort of person that one would strictly describe as a politician, all said and done, I am not apolitical. Politics controls life. Nobody can completely avoid it.
I will tell you for free that the 6-piece strategy is ill-conceived and ill-intentioned; it is going to be very expensive to the party. I have listened to the argument that ‘we cannot have madoadoa in the 5th President’s region.’ We all pray for the best, while bearing in mind that in politics it is not done until it is done.
Let’s control what we have control over. The party can influence voter turnout in its strongholds. This, it can do by accommodating all shades of political opinion. In the absence of a compelling message, people vote for individuals, not party. If the party locks out their preferred candidates on frivolous grounds, they will not go to the polls. The result is poor voter turnout. The implication is that the presidential candidate will be disadvantaged. The ramifications are far reaching. If ODM is still doubting this obvious link between denying people their choices and poor voter turnout, then they are still not ready for the presidency. This is no brainer.
The other thing that’s not auguring well for voter turnout in ODM regions is the fact that senior politicians who should be seeking national offices so they can be in Nairobi give company and confidence to ‘The 5th’ in Nairobi are trooping back to the counties to seek gubernatorial positions. What message are they sending to the party membership across the country that are hopeful of clinching the presidency?
Are they saying they are not sure about the big seat? Do they trust their Azimio partner to support Baba’s quest for the presidency? Why do I get this weird impression that the now widespread ‘The 5th’ is more realistically about Baba’s 5th stab at the Presidency than his chances of being the 5th President of the Republic of Kenya? If ODM wants to prove me wrong, then the party must stop forthwith the 6-piece campaign.
The writer is a Lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya