Independent candidates are an overrated, non-ideological, greedy lot

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By David Onjili

I am a proud member of a political party, which I joined on my own volition as a young Machiavellian mind in the year 2006 and not out of hot air and razzle-dazzle politics. It was one of the greatest moments of my life, to be affiliated to a political party. It still is my joy to date.

Kenyan politicians change their positions just like your ordinary wind vane, and this was confirmed when, to my utter dismay, one of the senior member of my party – who also happens to be the person that truly sold me (us) the ideals of my party – jumped ship due to the tribal and regional tendencies of Kenyan politics. Despite his departure, I remain in my party as a proud member, cognizant of the challenges (mainly underfunding by government and over reliance on individuals for financing) that political parties, mine included, face. In brief, I have subscribed to the ideals and policies that my party fronts. I may not love all of them but I am largely content by the agenda that my party and its leadership champion. I believe that institutions need to be strong and made to outlive individuals, and that members should hold the leaders to account within party structures.

Cases of parties having their blue-eyed boys is not new phenomenon; it is interesting that even our current president has himself changed political parties (KANU, TNA and currently Jubilee over his political life) not to mention other leaders of the opposition, like Raila Odinga. Kanu, the independence party, had to rebrand itself or risk the possibility of being extinct.

Others like ODM and Ford-Kenya have all had their challenges as well. In South Africa, The Africa National Congress (ANC) has faced one of the toughest revolts in its lifetime time. However, the solution has never been in folding the parties, but rather for the party organs and members to address the said challenges immediately, and to be careful not to lose touch and base with the citizenry.

What is, what works

Kenya is an episodic country, as once described by Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi. And the in-thing now is being an independent candidate. News and political talk shows are all analysing this phenomena like it is very new, yet I honestly think that their numbers will be insignificantly small to warrant the attention they receive. While I might have once entertained the idea of Nairobi County being governed by an independent as Governor, who could take a bi-partisan approach to the issues affecting the capital, the tokenism and bidding tendencies loved legislative assemblies make this an unattractive idea. Such a governor would find it very difficult to carry out his/her mandate, as s/he would be hostage of small-minded MCAs eager to ‘eat’ – our politics is about get-rich five year plans, rather than service and legislative time.

Take the example of Nairobi County. Why didn’t Miguna Miguna join any of the two major political parties and get a proper endorsement in the primaries? Is it because Jubilee Party has its “owners”, as Mike Sonko once claimed on national television? Why not use any other party, even ODM or Wiper? Or is it because he is too full of himself to consider gauging his popularity against others, before the actual election? It is this kind of self-importance – and it is not just in one candidate – that makes me treat them with suspicion.
Individuals who were thrashed at party primaries like William Kabogo, Peter Kenneth, Zedekiah Bundotich alias Buzeki, and Jack Ranguma are now running as independents.

What this is doing is to weaken parties and encourage greed; such kind of people should not be locked out for running for office, but they certainly ought to be exposed and evaluated for what their real agenda is. For all they are saying is, if they cannot have their way within their parties, they will bolt. In other words, they have to be at the ballot at whatever cost. Because where there are genuine complaints, there are platforms for redress in tribunals and courts.

A perspective on independent candidates

Independent candidates are individuals who choose not to be affiliated to any political party. They hold a centrist viewpoint between the major political parties, or hold views that none of the major political parties hold. Another group of independent candidates are those associated with political parties, and could even be founding members, but who choose not to formally represent that party in parliament and be subject to its policies.

In the 11th Parliament, there are 2 independent candidates: Wesley Korir of Cherangany and Kinoti Gatobu of Buura who, immediately they were sworn in, joined ranks with the ruling coalition Jubilee Party. This is the real quagmire that befalls our democracy, and which points to the mediocre level of ideology amongst our legislators. They are independent by name and not thought or agenda, but just the pocket. And who can blame them?

Allied against what, exactly?

The Kenya Alliance of Independent Candidates is not only a mockery of our intelligence but also of the Constitution. Most of its members are Jubilee Party rejects, who still fully support the ideology of the party, so what are they independent from, competitive party primaries? Surely, this explains why someone like Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua was so easily persuaded to shelve his ambitions to support Lee Kinyanjui, who thrashed him at the party primaries. Properly, were Mbugua to run and win as an independent, he would just go to bed with Jubilee Party post-elections. At least he has saved us the time and drama by showing what he truly stands for.

As Kenya prepares to go to the elections, I am yet to see or listen to any politician who meets the threshold of being an independent candidate. All are just wolves in sheep clothing with an independent tag.

 

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