“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we‘ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
– Barack Obama
I am not voting for Raila, No! I also refuse to call him baba…
It is not that simple however, so hear me out first.
Yesterday I got accused by a close friend of being a closet supporter of Jubilee, reason being that I refuse to prostrate myself at the feet of any man and parrot those paid for public relations narratives that are ubiquitous in our media. It came somewhat as a shock to me to have this kind of thing thrown at me, as you see it was not because I have anything good to say about the current regime (a fact that must have made me many frenemies), but it was because I insist on pointing out that all our mainstream political leaders are deeply flawed, and that virtually all of them have been touched by allegations of corruption and self-seeking. The fact is that none of these men (and they are mostly men) is an angel, not a single one: not Raila, not Kalonzo, not Mudavadi, and certainly not Uhuru or Ruto. I am not sorry if this kind of observation offends anyone’s gentle sensitivities, because I don’t care to sugar coat matters that are out in the public domain.
But it is alright, you see thinking about these things made me come to one realization: we need to vote for ideas, not for men; we have to understand movements encompass the ideals of the people, they are not simply an avenue to place any one individual on a pedestal; and finally we have to always keep in mind Victor Hugo’s quip that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and then know that if this idea is change then that change is dependent on us all moving things forward rather than expecting one person to deliver it to us on a silver platter: we have to cross the river Jordan on our own two feet, Joshua will not carry us on his back. That is why I am voting for NASA as a movement, taking every opportunity to stump for the opposition, and hoping that we can all view this coming election as a battle between status quo and change, and not between Raila and Uhuru, that we are picking between carrying on with business as usual (and piling on the debt, already close to 4 trillion), or changing direction towards the promise of fiscal responsibility.
What’s the difference between voting for Raila and voting for NASA you might ask, and rightly so. Well, the difference is that reducing matters to individuals inflames passions that only serve to create more heat than light, individuals are easy targets to attack and brand as bogeymen by their unscrupulous opponents, and individuals are not necessarily representative of what a movement stands for, for we end up creating heroes to worship and villains to mobilise against, and in the end the message is lost and the purpose of a contest is muddled and reduced to ad hominem exchanges and straw man arguments. We cannot afford to turn this into a baba vs kamwana contest. But we can instead choose to pick between what JAP stands for vs what NASA promises.
Kenya chooses its presidents from the middle, from the centrists, not from the ideological wings. If we focus on individuals we end up with the false narrative of a socialist Raila vs a capitalist Uhuru, yet we all know that NASA and JAP are essentially a hotchpotch of all manner of ideologies that settle at more or less the same middle ground. That is why I am not voting Raila, I am voting NASA; because NASA’s agenda is to take power away from the JAP, and not to take royalty away from Uhuru (the narrative we are sold to balkanise us into tribal voting blocks). I am not voting Raila because I live in an idealist Utopia where he can do no wrong and is a personal hero to me, far from it, I am engaging in what American Democrats refer to as “transactional politics”, which is all about getting the best deal possible given the political realities, which are hopelessly stacked against the hopes and dreams of the young and the poor of this country.
In fact if I were to vote with my conscience, I should stand with Dida or Aukot or Pete Ondeng. For these gentlemen have probably never had the opportunity to be tainted by the allure of power and easy access to public resources, but it would be a fools errand to cast a vote for them; this is because standing on “purity” in matters of politics often only serves to stagnate movement in the most desirable direction. To move forward we cannot have an unwillingness to share the burden of morally ambiguous compromise, we must budge a little for the sake of progress, we must nudge our conscience a little to bend to the demands placed upon us by the prevailing realities, and they’re realities that call for incremental politics which in turn can give us the opportunity to have a leadership that can enable this country to stand a chance of working.
So to those in NASA who feel aggrieved that their man is not on the ballot, look at the bigger picture, stay transfixed on the prize, keep your focus on what matters. NASA as a movement is not about one individual, change is not the preserve of a tribal hero, the desire to see a difference is not on the shoulders of any one individual. We’re in this together to the end, as a movement with the goal to make sweeping changes and not merely bring a a man to the zenith of his political career –however deserving he may be; this may be self actualization for Raila, but I choose to see a Raila presidency less as a reward to him but rather as a victory for those of us that believe voting matters a damn thing in Kenya. We cannot afford to give up on this fledgling coalition simply because it is not Kalonzo or Mudavadi who comes first in the pecking order, we cannot say certain communities have been shortchanged or lied to, the squabbling serves no useful purpose, and in the end we’ll throw out the baby with the bathwater, and forever regret cutting off our own noses to spite our faces.
But there is hope, for just like me, you don’t have to vote for Raila, you don’t have to venerate the man as baba, but you owe it to yourself to consider voting for NASA if you’re truly displeased with the direction the country has taken in the last five years. Those who understand this struggle as I do we do not have many options besides putting a mark next to Raila’s name on 8/8/17, for that name represents not a man, not a tribe, but the National Super Alliance, a movement that brings together a coalition of men and women that promise (and surely deserve the chance to try deliver, just as we gave one to Jubilee) to make a difference for you and me and in the way this country is run.
“Leaders who do not help the people must be replaced by the people.”
― DaShanne Stokes