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Political & Social Empowerment

PITFALLS FOR OUR YOUTH IN ACCESSING THE LEADERSHIP & POLITICAL SPACE

Hon. Charles Kanyi (Jaguar) Njagua mend fences with Hon. Paul Ongili A.K.A Babu Owino (Courtesy of The Star Newspaper)

In the treatise that directs the footsteps of the Christian faith is captured one powerful passage of text that recently fell upon my gaze. It was in the Book of Joel 2:28, so enthralling that it was reiterated in the Book of Acts 2:17. To lay it all down here verbatim, “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your progeny shall prophesy as the older folk dream dreams of glories past, your children shall see visions of the future.”  Thence, the scales fell off my eyes and I realized that destiny is beckoning me and I am duty-bound to answer to its clarion call.

In the immediately previous post, where in the doldrums of melancholy, I read the eulogy to activism in Kenya, I equally intimated that I was heavily involved in the voter registration process. This is not by default but by design because I have taken the brave stance of moving away from hollow sentiments in this platform to the actual political agora to articulate my sentiments with an interest to represent, legislate and execute public interest oversight on behalf of my people. I am taking cognizance of the need to move away from the space of sympathy and empathy to that of influence in solving the quandaries that assuage our people. I am currently in a headlong dive into the murky, duplicitous and perilous world of elective politics in Kenya. It has come within my purview that approximately 75% of the current population demographic is made up of youth but a glaring anomaly is that we have only 6.5% of Youth in the contemporary sense in both chambers of our bicameral parliament. Indubitably, the raison d’être of my incursion into national elective politics has been the dearth in leadership I clearly witness today. Public interest has become a by-word as every man for himself becomes the prevailing modus operandi of our legislative politics. This of course, denies any prospects of meaningful development being unfurled unto our people which to me is a crying shame. Corruption, tendering malfeasance, abuse of office and the culture of having our leaders as ‘Mr. 10-Percents’ has no doubt been a sticking point that has pushed me to the current verdict. Those who have been reading my pieces for a sufficient time have surmised that my concept of stewardship is that it must be sacrificial, truthful, transformative, development-oriented and indeed appreciative of the principle of the SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Reasonable & Time-bound) analysis. I wholesale abhor the culture of merely pandering to whim and letting ourselves to be flags that flap about the vicissitudes of the winds of destiny but instead be the creators of the change we yearn to see in our communities. Solving of real-world challenges that bedevil the hoi-polloi is my earnest endeavour, the biggest currently being Unemployment. Today, popular despondency and destitution that has been the aftermath occasioned by the cataclysmic policies of the UhuRuto Jubilee regime has seen our people driven further into the depths of penury, deprivation and despair. The novelty of the worldwide audacity of hope that was the quintessence of the period after the First Black man was duly elected as the 44th President of the United States of America is soon wearing off. A year earlier, when against the tide of expectations, a newly-cobbled together superstar trio at NBA outfit, Boston Celtics dragged the team kicking and screaming to a triumph in the finals, the overarching sentiment was that everything was possible. In antipathy to the Pharisees of the modern-day who promise to move heaven and earth to deliver impractical promises and white-collar jobs for our people, I have purposed to pursue a more pragmatic approach to matters. I am alive to the fact that we need to think outside the box which loosely translates to funding inborn skills, talents, innovation and most especially industrialization as a path to break the surly grips of the vicious cycle of poverty on my people. In reading the wholesome story of the call of Moses, a stammerer as leader of the children of Israel in their sojourn in the wilderness, I have realized that the Lord of Hosts seldom calls only the qualified but exercises the discretion to qualify those he calls no matter how inadequate they appear, prima-facie.

Barrack Obama, 44th POTUS (Courtesy of Flickr)

My rationale for taking the delve with the rabble aside, I authored this piece to outline the reasons why many youth find it an exercise in futility to break into the closed-shop that is the Elective political space in Kenya. There are the select few, well-heeled for whom politics is a family heirloom passed down to them to continue a longstanding family tradition of preserving the family recognition, privilege, wealth and hegemony. However, for many non-bluebloods who may be the first members of their families making a stab at elective office, it is certainly no walk in the park. In the paragraphs below, I will try to unpack the drawbacks and obstacles many young men and women have to surmount to get to any iteration of public office:

  1. Lack of Financial Muscle – The most obvious and glaring one for non-legacy or those devoid of a family dynasty or past political head honchos is doubtlessly lack of sound financial grounding for many of the young people who are probably trying to settle into careers, enterprise, tertiary education or worse still unemployed. Though Chapter 4, Article 38, Clause 3 (C) of our pristine and progressive Constitution furnishes every bona fide, duly registered Kenyan citizen with the Right to Contest as a Candidate for public office anywhere in Kenya and if elected to hold office, finances are no doubt a limiting factor. Costs abound everywhere from putting to ground an effective well-oiled campaign team, schedulers / personal assistants, advertising, political merchandise, memorabilia & whatnot. Today more than any other time in history, Digital Communications Experts pejoratively referred to as ‘Bloggers’ are an invaluable arrow in the quiver of any political player. They may make or break a political contestant with either oodles of adulation or hard-hitting exposes of scandal and murk for the opponent. This quandary is exacerbated by the conceited incumbent Members of the National Assembly and Senate who in an effort to ringfence their currently acquiesced political fortune have done little to create water-tight laws rules, strictures, statutes bare minimums to regulate campaign financing. Currently, a laissez-faire, jungle-like environment exists out here with survival only assured for the most pecuniary fit. The door is ajar for all sorts of unscrupulous and dastardly characters to buy political influence by financing campaigns for those who seek office. Clandestine rings of drug peddlers, human traffickers, owners of brothels, pimps & their charges – the purveyors of the oldest profession, cattle rustlers, illegal arms dealers, corrupt state apparatchiks, tenderpreneurs, brokers of political patronage and gate-keepers of the corridors of power today find free reign to finance election campaign vehicles and even offer themselves for election in Kenya with limited shackles upon their activities. Let me not forget those state operands implicated in corruption scandals like the recently orchestrated heist at KEMSA, the ‘Covid Millionaires Scandal.’ We have incontrovertible experience of the perpetrators of NYS I & II go scott-free and win public office in 2017. In this free market economy, a candidate without a strong financial base could as well be dead on arrival as brisk trade becomes the norm in the lunatic season of elections in Kenya. You will be relegated to a laughing stock when you are campaigning on a motorcycle, bicycle or donkey cart while your opponents are using private jets and helicopters on the same errand. Worse still, with rampant poverty in Kenya as a result of dampened financial prospects, youth unemployment and constrained industrialization, the lure of easy money is almost irresistible for many Kenyans out here. Patriotism and austerity are virtues sacrificed with exuberant ease at the altar of the expectation of gratis lunch (hand-outs) from “Mheshimiwa Mtatajiwa.” In current street parlance, a contestant is spoken of in the grapevine as ‘serious’ or “on the ground” only based on the level of financial outlay he has set out to expend on the entire endeavour of seeking votes. Ideology is only an afterthought as money changes hands. From what I have surmised from my brief dalliance with seasoned and grizzled, old commentators on political affairs, in urban Kenya, today seeking the seat of Member of County Assembly (MCA) will set you back to the tune of 3 million Kenya shillings according to modest estimates. Horror tales are recounted of those who spent as much as 20 million and still scored in the triple digits during the elections, indubitably losing the contest. For the Members of Parliament (MP) who have a new designation of Member of the National Assembly (MNA), the costs could rise to the dizzying heights of 7 million shillings minimum and as much as 50 million and above just to bring up the ceiling. Mind-boggling figures are mentioned pertaining to the cross-county positions of Women Representative, Senators and Governors with as high as a cool 1 billion Kenya shillings being mentioned alongside the Presidential seat in this republic. These are costs too steep for any Tom, Dick and Harry and so many may just opt for the easier option of standing by the wayside and muttering about their shortcomings under their breath with the faint hope that probably one day their plaintive prayer will move the Almighty to act on their vexations and worries.
Cash Money (Courtesy of https://www.varsityscope.com)
  1. Brokers and profiteers attempting to make a quick buck off naive candidates – Closely linked to the first one albeit more ignominious. It is said that experience is the best teacher which are sentiments I corroborate. Perils of false brethren exist everywhere you turn. An announcement of running for public office is almost always greeted with glee with some scummy layabouts who view anyone contesting any seat as having money coming out of their ears. Facebook requests will increase nearly 300% as your DM is set ablaze by all sorts of characters who purport to be able to mobilize their entire villages’ votes to your side if only you just pay them 300/- every day.
2 Corinthians 11:25

Then there is the team ‘wash-wash’ who take advantage of the fact that money is much revered in the Kenyan political space to concoct all sorts of ploys to get the contestants to fork out real cash to be enabled to get ‘non-sanctioned’ tender. I will not name names here, but a character who will henceforth remain unnamed unless in the unlikely event of a commission of inquiry, has made claims that if given 1 million Kenya shillings he could easily transform it into 100 million! A nailed-on snake-oil salesman. Tears are being shed in a toilet near you with the moral of this cursory tale being prudence in the face of fabulous stories with little locus standi in the realm of logic pertaining to cash. The sages put it best that a fool and their money will soon be parted.

Beware of Papa le Wash-Wash (Courtesy of Terrence Creative)
  1. Mistrust of the young turks by the old guard – In fractured societies there are insipid misgivings by the older members of society about giving leadership roles to relative saplings. It is a product of the great ignominy some of the young people who were accorded political office in the past brought upon the esteemed establishment. Puerile conduct is certainly not appreciated by grizzled troopers who know they deserve better. This is in spite of the fact that youth is a time of great energy albeit salubrious verve. This is the time a man or woman will be healthiest in their lives unencumbered by the vagaries of natural attrition and decay. Invariably, this is the most productive phase of human existence. Idealism is still at a premium as youthful exuberance may sometimes be valuable in undertaking an endeavour devoid of apprehension and hindsight. Youths most often than not have fresh ideas and insights that may add impetus to leadership as the old guard with time deplete the mother lode of good ideas they may have had in times bygone adjunct to the predictable loss of mental faculties with the progression with time. Yes, they possess acquiesced experience which is a valuable attribute but the puissance of youth cannot be gainsaid. The young have a wealth of time to make mistakes, be corrected and learn valuable lessons from the transgressions of their youth which may not be available to those in the twilight of their lives.
  2. Cultural and Traditional Norms – In the halcyon days when our ancestors lived, the youth and women were there to be seen but not heard. Social conventions dictated that leadership was the preserve of those who were graduating from the warrior class of society and now making the transition into junior elders. These were mostly the privileged masculine denizens with these rudimentary precepts more often than not resulting in the systematic ostracism of young people and women from decision-making and public interest discourse. Once in a while, there arose a spectacular paragon of exemption who wowed his ambient community to the extent of being given the reigns of power. Some of the metrics on which this would be assayed would include uncommon valour in battle or cross-border cattle raids with rare instances where charisma was also lionized. There are also tales similar to Joseph the son of Jacob who found himself the Vizier (Premier) in a foreign land as a direct consequence of his prescience and precocious intuition that saw him advice the Pharaoh to build great silos in the period of abundant food reserves because he sensed leaner times ahead. Sure as death, it came to pass and the Egyptian state acquired strategic importance like never before. However, in many societies leadership was hereditary but would not merely be given to any tot immediately their regal progenitor croaked. Age would be an important concern with a regent ruling in the stead of some toddler entitled to office until they were old enough to exercise statecraft. Even today, the precepts that rule society expect young people to be looking for jobs, engaging in courtship and starting families, probably establishing commercial engagements to secure their futures. Things become horrendous manifold if you are a woman. If you try to dip your feet into the hot bath that is politics, your will in no time be contending with a public exposition on your sexuality or at least some far-fetched episode of the lascivious which I feel is injudicious because their male counterparts rarely have to deal with such a tilted playing ground. Gender-based violence is just the worst.
In our patrilineal societies, any attempt for feminine leadership is often met with brutal resistance and persecution as what happened to Diane Rwigara in Rwanda (Courtesy of https://www.economist.com/)
  1. Culture of handouts and ‘Kujipanga’ brand of Politics – A dearth in national philosophy has hit our society really hard. There were days when sacrifice, altruism, patriotism, conscientiousness, erudition and eloquence were highly-cherished attributes in our leadership space. Then the age of materialism set in and things simply went haywire. The culture of victimhood, populism and populism has been reinforced even further in the kakistocratic Jubilee government regime with an irreverent love to lucre being a feature of society. When did we all develop a fetish for unearned wealth? Currently, quid-pro-quo politicians are having their day in the sun as a huge tranche of the youthful populace is unable to countenance a past when ‘donations’ from political players was not in vogue. This damages our collective moral fibre as all sorts of charlatans and scoundrels will become the darlings of the public merely because they possess deep pockets. Once upon a time, the United States of America’s much-beloved 35th President uttered, “Ask not what your country (politicians) can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Entitlement has taken such a grip on society that clumps of the electorate are likely to be found hanging around polling stations on election day like fruitflies near ripe bananas devoid, of an iota of surreptity, waiting for whichever candidate is ready to meet their asking price to vote for them in contravention to our ineffectual Election Laws and Acts. I urge the youth to borrow a leaf from our heroes of yore like Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi. How much was Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s ‘Matigari ma Njiirungi’ paid to abandon the creature comforts of his familial abode and warmth of his conjugal bed to venture into the frigid climes of the Aberdare Forest, braving colonial bullets additional to gnawing hunger, carnivorous beasts of the earth, slithering serpentine monsters, pneumonia in the arboraceous mountainous wilderness among myriad other perils to fight for the independence we celebrate today? We need to interrogate the sources of wealth before accepting any so-called ‘donations.’

  1. Discouragement from family and friends – It takes a brave man to forego the safety of an assured salary at the end of the month and just make the sortie into the political quagmire. Discouragement will be your constant companion if you choose to tread the lonesome journey into politics. From Parents and other close family members, friends, the clan, council of elders, your spouse who doesn’t want to be widowed at a young age; you are unlikely to find peace before you succeed in this odyssey. It takes the fortitude of spirit to stick to your guns until the end which with some luck and prayers might be successful. Those who are worried sick about you have justifiable cause knowing full well they will have to pick the pieces in case you are not successful or the vagaries that come with the territory of politics catch up with you. Preference is to play it safe with some business or other, gripping tight unto your job like a brassiere onto a bosom or better still taking some marketable degree course instead of this kamikaze foray into the domain of conjecture. However, the naysayers need to take cognizance of the fact that the collective destinies of us all are inextricably linked to the decision of whichever politicians we elect. So why not elect capable ones?
(Courtesy of Yourquotein.com)
  1. Lack of veritable Mentors & Role Models – Today, we have the onerous distinction of putting on display Hon. John Paul Mwirigi (Born on 7th January 1994) of Igembe South as the youngest elected member of the 12th parliamentary session who was elected to inexcusable glee in 2017. In the previous house of representatives, we had Hon. Boniface Kinoti Gatobu (Born in 1987) of Buuri Constituency. These two have in recent times held the candle as the youngest elected Members of the National Assembly. Both were of humble extraction and had to surmount great odds just to be on the ballot paper. In recent times we have got the likes of Hon. Babu Owino, revered Kenyan artiste Hon. Charles Kanyi Njagua (Jaguar), TV journalist Hon. Naisula Lesuuda, Hon. Caleb Amisi, Hon. Nixon (Jenerali) Korir, Hon. Johnstone Sakaja, Hon. Alexander Kosgey Kigen among a galaxy of others. However, this is a drop in the ocean compared to the geriatric brigade we have both in the front and backbenches. If indulged on the matter, I will opine that public office needn’t be a retirement home for anyone as the responsibility of leadership is too precious to be left to men/women past their heyday.
Aspiring Samburu Women Representative Hezena Lemaletian in Full Voice (Courtesy of Citizen TV)
  1. Politics is a dirty game – Were politics a game, it would be played by cunning yet confident thugs and spectated on by equally thuggish fellows only more unenlightened as to be oblivious of their future being pilfered away. This is certainly a daunting prospect for many young people who are put off by its rough and tumble. Of course, you will have to hobnob with the repugnant of character, the riffraff, louts, touts, rabble-rousers, profiteers and actual professional criminals of the ilk that are conscripted to cause chaos and even burn sections of Gikomba market from time to time. Violence is often not far from the horizon with a political candidate expected to keep a minimun of two bodyguards just in case things go south. With the monetization of our politics and ambient poverty, people will crowd any politician trying to give a speech. Things get thick as soon as he/she tries to leave the venue without dishing out wads of cash. Then and only then, will the contestant be inundated with the equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition on why he could keep all these people in the sun without any refreshments/lunch? In the absence of sound judgement to deescalate matters, soon invective will start getting launched and not before long projectiles. I am left to wonder why the same youth who need a fellow young man in the august house to articulate their memoranda should be caught up in such shenanigans in full comprehension of the fact that an unelected citizen like them has no state funds to give handouts.
Courtesy of Eye Gambia
  1. Dearth in knowledge on electoral processes or even basic constitutionalism – Many young adults, even graduates often grapple with the comprehension of the rigmarole of formal political mechanisms. Naivety unfortunately confers upon them a feeble understanding on the impact of political activities on their ordinary lives. That is why you may at times walk into a heated social media chatroom where one or another lass or lad is trying to avow his/her ‘right not to vote’ thinking they are being sensible! This is rather bizarre, but is unfortunately where we are at as a nation without politically conscious youth. Voter sensitization and education probably exist only in the hyperactive imaginations of the most idealistic and deluded if not optimistic. Look at what the likes of Hon. Martin Shikuku, Tom Mboya, Masinde Muliro, Justice (Rtd) Willy Mutunga and even Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga did with their youthful years. Indifference to democratic principles casts a pall on our youth who fail to connect the dots on elections being the conduit through which meaningful reform nay leadership can come to their doorsteps. Many are heedless that a failed system or leader needs to be replaced at the end of an electoral cycle. This ignorance is indubitably costly as tendering malfeasance will forestall any prospects of those with businesses from gaining lucrative tenders and scaling up. Ineptitude in bursary allocation will result in the continuation of illiteracy, by and large the vicious cycle of poverty.
Courtesy of The Captain
  1. Youthful voter apathy – A carry-over from my previous post is the galling realization that many youths just too disenchanted with affairs to want to vote. At the pit of my tummy, I reserve the midpoint emotion between disgust and sympathy as I actually understand where they come from. Some may have been toddlers during the 2007 – 2008 post-election conflagration that saw them needlessly lose family members, property and the even the security that comes with having a home. The trauma of seeing erstwhile neighbours and former schoolmates-turned-monsters may just be too poignant in the minds of many out there. The situation is exacerbated when they saw the perpetrators merely have a handshake and cup of tea as the status-quo was restored. They most certainly witnessed the verdict of the ICC process that saw the core-indictees of the crux of the violence go scot-free, hitherto protected witnesses located and left swimming with the fish in nondescript rivers, deliberate lack of co-operation by the state with the investigative arm of the ICC for obvious reasons, cases dragging on before fizzling without as much as a whimper, blatant discrimination in the reparations paid to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and most egregious the two who bore the greatest culpability against each other’s tribes actually teaming up into a formidable force that buttressed themselves into Statehouse. It is just disheartening. Many youths have been left drifting in the doldrums of distrust for the political process, utter disdain for institutions as we have scoured the nadirs of leadership failure in the last decade all apparently attributable to the electoral process. The musical chairs at IEBC has seen some who dropped the ball for the botched and annulled 2017 Elections virtually rewarded with similar roles at other state corporations rather than get reprimanded. However, on matters of elections, I always urge people to live by the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer. Also, as a large sector of those in their early thirties are people who may have listened to the inspirational music of a rabble-rouser social activist who jolted the establishment in the USA; the incomparable Tupac Shakur, you may just be that mind that is kindled by his now dearly-departed spark to bring the change you wish to see in the world.
Tupac Shakur (Courtesy of AZ Quotes)
  1. Ignorance to empirical wisdom that fortune favours the brave – It is surely a precarious leap of faith for anybody devoid of established legacy connections to just drop everything and exercise their constitutional right to offer themselves for election. The economic and social ramifications of leaving a well-paying job for the wormhole that is politics are difficult to argue against. Many will think you have certainly lost your marbles with such a move. This obfuscates the fact that this world has been revolutionized by mavericks. In times bygone, a small band of Judaic Maccabee Jews orchestrated a revolt against the mighty Seleucid Empire, an unimpressive remnant of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon interspersed with the final vestiges of Emperor Alexander the Great’s Greco-Macedonian realm but still mighty in its own right. This was as a result of the Seleucid monarch’s draconian embargo on Jewish religious practices. The odds were stacked firmly against the Jewish dissidents led by Mattathias and later his son Judah Maccabee as King Epiphanes Antiochus IV boasted an impressive army of nearly 100,000 strong. However, the Jews decided to launch an offensive all the same in Jewish mythology guided by the flaming sword of Angel Michael. It seemed to be prima facie, an endeavour doomed for failure at first but guerilla warfare by the gallant bunch yielded spectacular results with the Jews making a triumphant return back into Jerusalem. This goes to show that nothing in this world is assured as the linguists of medieval times coined the axiom, “Faint heart never won fair lady.”

So in terminal remarks, I feel my fellow youth do themselves a great disservice by avoiding the call to engage in the political and leadership space. Generational transition calls for them to stand up to be counted as the old guard are slowly being phased out by natural attrition and the nation needs new blood to replenish the systems and institutions we need to see working better. As hallowed, 32nd American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt put it excoriating his charges to have hope during the great depression, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

By dennismukoya

I am a consummate thinker of new solutions which I passionately endeavour to implement.

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