In the Saturday Standard of 7th January 2017, veteran politician Koigi wa Wamwere had this interesting anecdote. A story is told of this mythical farm where there lived a farmer with his panoply of livestock. The serene and bucolic setting only belied the surreptitious mannerisms of each. The petrichor emanating from the fertile earth after the rains could not be surpassed by any other. All was not well in paradise as there was Mr. Mouse who wrecked havoc on the farmer’s produce. Piqued by the incessant loss of produce he set a trap to catch the mouse. The mouse got wind of this and tried to engage the cockerel for a solution to this problem. He hit a brick wall. He did not lose hope. He tried to touch base with the goat but with similar result. All was not lost, he thought. As the cow was seemingly closer to the farmer; the mouse tried some camaraderie with him in the hope that he may have some ideas but was flatly turned down and advised to look elsewhere as mouse’s troubles were none of his concern. The mouse could not risk it and had to sleep on an empty tummy. Come midnight there was a commotion in the silo which the farmer responded rapidly to. His haste tapered to a whimper when he was inadvertently confronted by a terribly aggravated snake that had been the unfortunate victim of the trap. It dug its fangs deep injecting copious amounts of venom into the farmer’s circulation. The farmer collapsed into sempiternal tranquility. The next day gloom and melancholy hung heavy as the cockerel was slaughtered to feed the bereaved. As numbers surged, the goat soon joined in as a protein source for the mourners. At the Funeral of the elder; no other animal could suffice for the collective appetites of the esteemed mourners but the cow. Eventually, it was woe unto the rest and bliss for the mouse who was virtually acquitted. The moral of the story is anyone’s problem can eventually balloon to everyone’s problem. But I seriously digress.
With the complexities in life, running a business, employment, farming, raising children and all the hullabaloo involved it is easy to get tangled up in a maze. One is vulnerable to losing sight of the most important things. Of vital importance are constitutional obligations, one being registration and making your voice heard through the ballot. The simple requirements to be registered as a voter in Kenya include:
- You must be eighteen years of age and above.
- You must be of sound mind which is facile enough if you are reading this post.
- You must have an original National Identification card or valid Kenyan passport.
- You must physically present yourself at the registration centre of your choice and fill in a requisition form to be a registered voter.
During his presidency; one of the most beloved and most greatly revered of American presidents and world statesmen, Abraham Lincoln preached the importance of the government being of, for, and by the people. He argued that voters played the most important role in making sure the government reflected their wishes and functioned according to the guidelines of the Constitution.
Despite Lincoln’s appeal to the public, it can be argued that many people today fail to appreciate or acknowledge their role in shaping the government. Equally, our forebearers fought viciously against colonialism with this as one of their aims in mind. The Right to Self rule and determination. As citizens, we should maintain our responsibilities as eligible voters. This statement aptly and succinctly applies to Kenya.
Registering to vote. Notably, people’s most important responsibility as citizens involves registering to vote. If you are legal citizens of the nation born or naturalized who are of legal age then you are eligible to vote in elections. The process of becoming a registered voter is simple and can be taken care of in a matter of minutes.
Voting in Elections. Once you are registered to vote, you should then make every effort to do so. Many people dismiss this responsibility by saying that they do not care about the issues on the ballot or that they are unfamiliar with the candidates up for election, voting won’t end their troubles or worse still the queue is too long and they may catch an airborne infection associating with so many people. Balderdash!
Additionally; here in our great land with its historical issues and with our electoral system a work in progress, there is always the fear of vote tally manipulation which disenfranchises many voters. If voting is amenable to manipulation, many see no need to engage in such a fruitless venture which appears to them as a predetermined bet. However, by failing to use their privilege to vote, people essentially allow other voters to make decisions for them, to let deviant voices be heard over them who make no effort go to the polls. With elections especially in Sub-Saharan Africa you only have to go with the wisdom espoused in the Serenity prayer by American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. Have the serenity to accept things you cannot change while having the courage to change those you can all the while having the wisdom to know the difference. Come Elections day forget everything and only remember that this is your one and only chance to hold your leader by the scruff of the neck to account for how much he has achieved in 5 years. Any other time, their self declared ‘soldiers’ & ‘bouncers’ will make mincemeat out of you. If not, this is the opportune moment to throw out the obstinate child with the bathwater and bring in the person you want.
People outside their home counties. Will Kenya ever evolve electorally to the level where we can vote electronically? For now if you pose this query, the answer is an emphatic NO! So it is imperative for one to just bite the bullet, get off his couch and go out and brave it out on the ‘foleni.’ Some people will claim that because they work far away from where they were born, they will be inconvenienced by the hustle of travelling ‘upcountry’ to vote. Besides, most people save so as to only appear on the other side only in the Christmas season before hurrying back. Let no one downplay your significance as seeming unimportance. One ant may not seem much but in unity many can bring down a colossal mansion. In the newly enacted Kenyan constitution Chapter 7, Article 81 furnishes every citizen with the right to live, work, register as a voter and have his voice heard electorally anywhere in this august nation. Your vote is vital. Your side needs it. By ‘side’ I mean people who are congenial, sharing similar needs, ideals, principles, beliefs and visions. In Kenya it has an ethnic connotation to it. We hear of the phrase ‘Tyranny of numbers.’ This is one awkward term which has no manifestation whatsoever with regards to the population census. By and large a consequence of members of what would have been one huge ‘vote-bloc’ shunning their obligation to vote. The very essence of democracy is for the minority to have their say while the majority has their way. By not voting you even lose the moral authority to complain about morally inept and inadequate leadership of the person who sailed through as a result of you failing to cast your vote for the most preferred leader. This is one of the primary reasons why you need to vote!
The outcomes of elections can impact voters’ personal freedoms, taxes, general destiny and fate of the nation even with regards to her neighbours and other aspects of daily life that they take for granted. Because of the far-reaching impact that an election can have, people have the duty to cast their vote if they want a say in how their futures play out.
You should also stay up-to-date about the location of your respective polling station. The locations of polling stations change regularly. A school, church, or business that was utilized as a polling place during the last election may not be used again for the next. Voters can find out their polling places online by visiting the IEBC website or your nearest regional offices. Even Huduma Centre I suppose. What are they for anyway?
Remember that your Vote is the only weapon you have against that corrupt, inept, failed, ‘60-million shillings in sack clueless’, perverted, bigot, ego-maniac, selfish and all-round moribund politician. Voters play a major role in shaping the government and their very own futures. They can satisfy their duty as voters by observing this noble responsibility.
Any government of the day worth their salt has the responsibility of developing an electoral system that is simple, credible and efficient with minimal margin for error. As with all systems, there is none that is perfect. It is always in a constant need for improvement. Invariably, the election being a matter of grave national importance and especially bitterly contested in Kenya, it needs to be safeguarded from all shock. As one wise albeit subtle man once put it, ‘any election worth contesting is worth rigging.’ Systems should be developed with the hindsight of this axiom in mind.
‘Kenyans on Twitter’ and the lovers of the tipple. For the ‘Justin-Bieber generation’ and newly-minted middle-class Kenyans who spend 90% of their time on social media, my advice will be to carry your phone, tablet, iPad and whatnot to the polling station. While at the queue waiting your turn you can enjoy the serendipity to tweet, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and take ‘selfie’ to your heart’s fill! You will kill two birds with one stone; exercising your God-provided constitutional obligation while still keeping up with the “Joneses, Bobos and Shishes” on social media. I must also take this opportunity to lampoon those adults who discuss in ebullient seemingly passionate voices of their afflictions in public discourses yet on elections day inexplicably become too drunk to even stand on the line let alone walk a straight line! Refrain from alcohol or other drugs one day before the polls. Even if free, keep the drinks in a fridge as you will have 5 years of having one for the road any day after the polls. Your side will desperately need every vote it can get. So stay sober.
Have no fear of retribution. This is a secret ballot vote. Come out to vote for the leader of your conscience not just for your own sake but for the sake of that seventeen-year-old who cannot wait to be old enough to take the onus, for the unborn child who needs a reasonable leader with the presence of mind to safeguard their interests for the future though they are not there yet. Choose the one who shies away from both opportunistic and chameleon-like tendencies. We are ON come Tuesday, the 8th day of August 2017. Cast a vote for posterity and national prosperity. The future will judge you harshly if you do not!