BY OKECH KENDO via Star
Salient lessons emerged from the Homa Bay county senator by-election. Competing parties and observers know assumptions of wishful thinkers collapsed spectacularly. New political truths emerged to expose strategic naivety of some of the competitors.
Lesson one: You do not win peopleâ€™s trust by flaunting money. Money can help a politician to grow strategic networks. But these networks collapse if they are built entirely on manipulative generosity. Tumbocracy is not democracy.
There is no dignity in adults struggling to pick Sh35 on average. The giver is as dehumanised as the receiver. If you must bribe, get change to give victims of political mendacity dignity.
It is heartless tying four people to a Sh100 note, or even 10 adults to Sh1,000. Some politicians find sadistic glee when poor people purr over peanuts. The good news is, there is mutual contempt between handout givers and takers. The takers often sing, â€˜Kula Kwa Y, Kura Kwa Xâ€™.
There is no mileage in keeping the poor waiting for hours for the benefactor. Some benefactors believe lateness raises their selfesteem. You know, â€˜very important personsâ€™ â€“ Lichmen â€“ have 1001 daily engagements. Lichmen expect wananchi to understand the tight schedules of â€˜VIPsâ€™.
Expectations of those who rely on handouts at village â€˜toll stationsâ€™ mount, as the waiting time gets longer. When they get nothing, or crumbs, they curse, condemn and accuse. Not even room service after the end of official campaign time can change the thinking of vulnerable people when they are offended.
The value of money as an influencer of the outcome of elections is often exaggerated. Stanley Livondo, who rained money in Western during the 2007 general election, knows this. One Mwanga, who mesmerised Ugenya with torrential cash, also knows this.
You do not start throwing money at people when a vacancy is declared. Not even when you have enough Sh1,000 notes to carpet the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
Lesson Two: Political representation is not about eyeing any job. Leadership is service to the people. Focused leaders do not salivate for every vacancy. Anyone who eyes every position is like a cornered cock looking for an exit.
During a live debate on Radio Ramogi last Tuesday, one of the candidates casually said a position had been advertised and he had applied for the job.
Lesson Three: ODM and Cord should train their supporters to start thinking of the politics of numbers in elections. Apart from encouraging supporters to register as voters, and actually vote, the party must allow fair competition during nominations. Fair nomination will give voters the leaders they deserve, even as it raises turnout.
The turnout in the byelection at 135,000 voters was under 50 per cent of about 340,000 registered voters. Which means fewer people registered, and even fewer voted. This apathy also influences registration of voters, and turnout in general elections.
Jubilee tyranny of numbers is not a myth. During the March 4, 2013 general election, Gema enclaves (Kikuyu, Embu, Meru) had 4.65 million voters, before bringing in 1.7 million Kalenjin cardholders into the reigning Jubilee coalition. Cord had 1.7 million registered Luo voters, 1.8 million Luhyas, and 1.55 million Kambas. Registered potential Jubilee voters were 6.5 million, against 5.05 million for Cord.
The competition is already talking of the 2022 general election, assuming 2017 is bagged or bungled.
Lesson Four: ODMâ€™s largest constituency â€“ Nyanza â€“ still respects party leader Raila Odinga. Raila remains a political institution, stronger than his critics assume.
The myth of Nyanza as â€˜southâ€™ and â€˜centralâ€™ was buried. Also rested was the claim that â€˜strangersâ€™ should not influence the vote in Homa Bay. The actual â€˜strangersâ€™ were the â€˜monetisedâ€™ men who do not understand the countyâ€™s political dynamics. The strategic neophytes lacked the humility to interrogate their assumptions. The current denials are not helping matters either.
The divisive ideology of â€˜strangersâ€™ was known more to senior citizens. This elite wanted to show Raila that the county detests the influence of â€˜outsidersâ€™. The budding propagandists learnt that, for now, Luo Nyanza is indivisible, not even by flaunting money â€“ the classic carrot of impunity.
Lesson Five: Get people to buy-in by appealing to their basic needs, long before asking for their support. Whoever will win this support, or even inherit Railaâ€™s turf in the fullness of time, needs ODM and its leader. Itâ€™s about seduction â€“ not confrontation.
The writer, a communications consultant, is also a university lecturer.