Do the people really choose or are they victims of circumstance?

If all we have is a system that enables corruptible leaders to vie for elective posts, with incumbents fighting civil societies organisations, and systems that are prone to failing and manipulation, it is hardly the voters fault that the cycle of poor leadership continues

KISII politicians invited to pick their BROWN ENVELOPES, DP Ruto to host them

By Olukoye Anjili Michael

Having read the article by Daniel Benson Kaaya and Kevin Motaroki, “Blame the people; they do the choosing”, I put the question they sought to answer to thought. Who is to blame for State’s failures and woes? In the aforementioned article, the writers contend that blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the electorate. The reasons they give are that voters allow their decisions to be informed by things that do not matter. They say that voter ignorance leads them to install unscrupulous and morally deviant leaders from their ethnic blocs, and with each electoral cycle, the same looters, kleptomaniacs and justice-benders are often-re elected. Thus, the maladies and failures of the State are a product of citizens’ and voters’ ignorance, and the inherent opportunism of the elected.

Their sentiments are well placed, but only to a certain degree. There are factors they failed to put to consideration that, to an appreciable extent, inform who makes it to elective office.

The first to blame are corruptible leaders, what the authors termed as opportunism of the elected. David Brin once stated, “It has been said that power corrupts, but it is actually more true that power is magnetic to the corruptible”. The corruptible are those who cannot resist the siren-like lure of deviance. Corruptible leaders will vie or apply for almost all positions, elected or appointive. Once in position, they may start off on the right foot but, by the by, they begin to settle into wrongdoing, looting and/or even fighting those who make strides to rid out corrupt dealings in government.

Corruption has become such a normalcy that it is abnormal not to be of corrupt values. Those who stand out to fight it are held in such awe that it is like the people at large glorify the vice itself. Case in point is the Kenya Film and Classification Board chair Ezekiel Mutua’s fight against moral decadence and Education Cabinet Secretary Matiangi’s efforts to rid the education sector of exam cheating.

The worst thing about corruptible leaders is that those who stood up to wage war against it have ended up succumbing to its allure. Deputy President Ruto in his campaign period with the president presented the people a government that was bracing to fight corruption.

However, into their term the DP has been faced with massive graft allegations that show that corruption of values and standards is something that runs deep to the topmost office.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and its predecessor the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, have not escaped the brunt of graft allegations. All of its chairs to date have left office before their terms ended a graft claims forced them to step down. It is like a fulfilment of what philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “…whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster; For if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Second, we have what is termed as institutional failures. Institutions and bodies that are supposed to guarantee and safeguard the integrity of elections have failed time and again. The problem herein is that we cannot guarantee that the people’s choice is upheld. A case in point is the 2007 general elections were the Justice Johann Krieggler is on record saying, “even if you wanted a re-tallying of the results, still you would not have sorted out the mess. It would have been impossible to tell who won or who loss between the two of you (Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga).”

In the last general election, the elections were highly contested across the board, with a record with a record 188 election petitions filed, 120 of them being filed within the first 16 days after elections. The issues filed ranged from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Commissioners, inconsistency of electoral laws with other laws, political party nominations and procurement of BVR kits among many more (East African Centre for Law and Justice: Election Petitions and the Arising Jurisprudence). This Led to what has been largely termed as court-installed leaders, i.e. those who got into office through court processes. This, like in 2007, culminated into all commissioners leaving the office before the expiry of their terms, thanks to political instigation.

External influences

Third, a debate on whether the electorate solely chooses its leaders isn’t complete without consideration of external influences. External influences may come in various forms e.g. donations in terms of machinery or in monetary form or even through active manipulation of the systems in favour of certain candidates. These come from the State, individuals and any other entity that has vested interest in who wins elections, probably due to friendly relations, policy or any other reason.

The history of external influences dates back to as early as the days of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko being supported by the United states and others like Cuba’s Fidel Castro being fought by US support in the infamous war of the Bay of Pigs. More recently, in the recent Israeli elections, Obama’s administration has been accused of a failed attempt to support opposition against Netanyahu, as well as allegations – from intelligence reports – that Russia rigged the November 2016 US election in favour of Republican candidate Donald Trump (

Closer home, we have instances of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga getting a donation of high tech vehicles and sound systems from presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton. Her intention was made clear in her statement, “Sir, it is my wish that when I become president of the United States, you will become president of Kenya.”

These seemingly small gestures go a long way into influencing the squander, spending, and splurge of cash that is witnessed during election periods by candidates. This, in fact, spurred the Election Campaign Financing Act which has set stringent measures to regulate donations received by candidates and parties, and the amount of spending as it influences to a certain extent what choices people make.

In conclusion, what it all means is that there are a lot more factors that go into how leaders get in power. Because, if all we have is a system that enables corruptible leaders to vie for elective posts, with incumbents fighting civil societies organisations, and systems that are prone to failing and manipulation, it is hardly the voters fault that the cycle of poor leadership continues.



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