Third Eye

Why media are lumbering along in campaigns

Saturday, June 25th, 2022 05:50 | By
UDA presidential running mate Rigathi Gachagua campaigns in Githunguri on June 16, 2022. PHOTO/Rigathi Gachagua/Twitter
UDA presidential running mate Rigathi Gachagua campaigns in Githunguri on June 16, 2022. PHOTO/Rigathi Gachagua/Twitter

So far so good. The media are covering this election gingerly exhibiting less baggage from the past. In 2007, the media was accused, and not without some cause, of fanning the violence that characterised those elections.

In 2013, they faced a different challenge. They were fingered for being too scared, too timid to be of much good in providing the public with balanced information.  They covered the elections robotically.

In 2017, the media were busy trying to find a balance between timidity and fawning over candidates and issues. Now, in 2022, things seem to be different. First, these elections are turning out in the least predictable manner and throwing the script of the previous election’s reportage out of the window.

That Azimio la Umoja candidate, Raila Odinga, is running for elections is normal. It is also normal that UDA candidate, William Ruto, is running. But that is probably where the normalcy ends.

The rest are all unchartered territories. Who would have predicted that Jubilee Party, together with the sitting President, Uhuru Kenyatta, would support the Azimio candidate? That is the first abnormal in these elections, and with it, Kenya keeps setting records in Africa.

It was from this hallowed city that the Supreme Court threw out the election of a president. But it did not stop there, soon after, the two protagonists surprised everybody when they came together to shake hands in the process of throwing out the script for playing politics in Africa.

The Deputy President, for four years, seems to have defied his boss. When asked not to campaign but focus his attention on the President’s agenda, the number two man in the hierarchy thought otherwise. There seems to be a consensus that he defied his boss, again, another first in these regions.

Now here we are. First, we have a very young generation of journalists in the newsroom, and they come with their own script. They care little about the history and seldom visit the newsroom library. They are content getting their background information from social media just like the rest of the country.

Secondly, they are just as shocked as the rest of the country at what is going on in the political arena and too often can’t explain this turn of events. Unlike in the past, these elections are not focusing on ethnicity.

The politics of “yuom” (the private parts) is not featuring as much. Then we have a new phenomenon in town in the form of Prof George Wajackoya.

The only way this man of letters would make sense is if the Constitution was thrown away, and that is what he has promised to do.

He wants to set a firing squad on the nation, smoke bhang in public and rear snakes. Again, this is not what the script writer ordered, and the media does not know what to do with him. When candidate Ruto promised to stop reggae he had no idea Prof Wajackoya was coming – a man at home in Jamaica’s rich tradition of Jah worship. If the enthusiasm he brings to the reggae dance floor is anything to go by, then reggae is still on.

The mix in these campaigns would confound any student of history. The reality of the appointment of Martha Karua, for long the nation’s lightning rod, as Raila’s running mate has not really sunk in.

In her own words, “hacheki na hachezi na kazi”. While many may pretend not to know what she means, but those who fall on the wrong side of the law better take notice. Ms Karua has brought new excitement to Azimio's ticket that may have not been there if she was running on her own.

We may as well resign ourselves to the possibility that there will be no presidential debate to talk of in these elections. That is not because of a lack of candidates or interest. The peripheral candidates are certainly a powerhouse when it comes to ideas and intellectual heft. But that is the problem.

The mainstream candidates would loathe engaging with Wajackoya on his pet subjects, or the Senior Counsel candidate for Agano Party. And the media is lumbering along. 

— The writer is the dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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