Elections are finally here, remember to stay sane

Monday, August 1st, 2022 06:27 | By
Kenyans queue to cast their votes at the Moi Avenue Primary School in Nairobi in the 2017 election. PHOTO/PD/File
Kenyans queue to cast their votes at the Moi Avenue Primary School in Nairobi in the 2017 election. PHOTO/PD/File

It is a few days to the election and the question that begs an answer is: How much of our sanity will be tested?

Our country has a difficult history with disputed elections and the world is watching how we handle next week’s polls.

This year’s vote comes at a time when the rising cost of living has left many households struggling. Many households are still recovering from the Covid-19 impact and adding elections to this is not a good combination.

 Elections are generally about emotions, exaggerations and lying with a straight face. A politician’s key tactic is always to provoke raw emotions among their supporters. This leads to segmentations and unnecessary profiling, a story that most Kenyans are familiar with.

For a country that is viewed as a bastion of economic and political stability, we can do better and set the pace for the rest of the continent.

I have been following the campaigns and I have even had a chance to interact with some of the candidates and their campaign managers.

Truth is, politicians, most of the time, behave as if only power and resources matter in life. It can be difficult to undo the damage that politicians can cause and that is why I am calling on Kenyans to look beyond August 9.

 So, how do we ensure sanity during elections?

 We need a mind shift as Kenyans. I agree that this cannot be achieved overnight but with the correct messaging and delivery, the younger generation will have a better reaction to elections.

 We are the ones electing the leaders and it is time we had a genuine conversation on why we are letting a small segment of people tear us apart every five years.

The sooner we remove emotions from elections, the sooner we realise that the candidates are interviewees asking us to employ them.

It is us who determine who gets the job, so they should not have this much power over us. Let us take back control.

Secondly, emotional reactions are human. But they are bad when they lead to violence. We have only one country to preserve so let us think deeper and harder and make the right decisions before reacting.

Thirdly, political conversations crop up in our daily conversations. Should you happen to be engaging or being engaged in one, always try to learn something.

There really is no point in having a shouting match with friends and neighbours, and it is equally fruitless to sit around with like-minded people and talking about how terrible the opponents are.

Ask why people are sticking by their candidates. When someone expresses an opinion, whether you agree or disagree, ask them to elaborate. You might learn something.

 After you cast your vote, you go back to your routines. The most important thing you can do on Election Day is to vote. Other than that, don’t think about the rest because that is out of your control.

Yes, elections are important, and so is your participation. But your life and those of the people you care about is still mostly yours to control. Elections come and go. You are the constant. Keep your life moving. Don’t allow a single election or decision to change how you approach life.

I think politics should take the form of an argument between reasonable people about the best way to solve the country’s problems. But that is rarely the case.

For the longest time, Kenyan politics has been insulting rather than respectful, destructive rather than constructive.

That’s something we need to change and since I can’t control what everyone else does. I suppose I’ll have to start by changing myself and those around me by striving to keep my sanity and hopefully you will do the same. Over time, we will create a new trend.

—Boney Otieno is a finance expert and an entrepreneur.

More on Opinion