The folly of voting for flowery manifestos

Thursday, July 7th, 2022 11:00 | By
Deputy President William Ruto at Kasarani stadium, Nairobi during the launch of the Kenya Kwanza manifesto. PD/JOHN OCHIENG
Deputy President William Ruto at Kasarani stadium, Nairobi during the launch of the Kenya Kwanza manifesto. PD/John Ochieng

One thing that you can take to the bank about Kenyans is that they never learn. Well, I understand this is a blanket statement, but you must have an idea of what I am saying!  We keep electing criminals and ne’er-do-wells to public office every electoral cycle, then lament for five years about corruption and misgovernance.

In the last couple of weeks, we have been treated to the launch of manifestos, nay, fake promises, by our four presidential candidates. Well, it is a ritual that we have become accustomed to, and even demand for it, knowing very well that it is an exercise in futility.

Many of us, sadly even the educated ones, are all glued to our television sets excited by the promise of manna from above. The fact that we even give scant attention to the nonsense speaks volumes of our gullibility or our penchant for deception. Tragically, we are still drafting manifestos that sound like the post-independence five-year development plans full of bread and butter issues. We are still having a conversation about hunger, basic shelter, health et al in a space age.

The only person who I wanted to hear this time is, you guessed it, “Prof” George Wajackoyah. And not because I have chatted with him before about his campaign. The reason was because he has something new, even though some of his pronouncements sound loony. At least, the Prof — he has made it clear this is not through convocation — has woken up Kenyans to the practical possibilities that exist within our borders beyond the conditioning of the five-year regurgitations.

Still, he seems to have learned the lesson that if you want to get good attention in Kenya, be as controversial or even as silly as possible. That is the way of gaining high ratings. Wonder why our broadcast media is full of one-night wonder comedians, while journalism graduates are languishing at home after four years of rigorous study and training? Sorry, I digress.

Agano Party presidential candidate David Waihiga was also spot on in his manifesto. Any manifesto that is not heavy on corruption, the one ill that has made us technically a banana republic, is simply a waste of time. All those high sounding ideals fall through the cracks of graft, which is the mainstay of our political class.

But no, we will not vote for upright Waihiga because he is either not from the same ethnic group, does not have money for the kind of cut throat competition on the campaign trail or is not good at lying with a straight face, exchanging epithets or engaging in shouting matches. We live by the self-fulfilling prophecy that politics is a dirty game.

The media stands accused of abetting lies and helping politicians in taking the electorate down the garden path. They have been absorbed by the pomposity of expensive manifesto launches without questioning their contents. For instance, why is the media not putting to task those who have previously made lofty promises but failed to deliver when they were in a position of power? Well, we hope they will not bungle or squander the forthcoming presidential debate with humdrum questions and pussy footing on sensitive issues. 

Yeah, I know! This is another reaping season for the public relations industry when lies are clothed in snow white linen and wolves adorned with sheepskins. But politicians know that we still have an ample supply of fools in Kenya who will vote for them even while the red flags are all over on the homestretch. This election should not be won by empty rhetoric and text book manifestos which have proved mere pieces of paper. It will be won by the levels of integrity and track record of the candidates, and the practicability of the promises they make.

— The writer comments on international affairs

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