It is the Greek sage Plato who once noted that although philosophers are wise and generally mean good, they do not make good leaders, even in the unlikely event that they get to positions of power, as they aren’t very much liked anyway. Today, philosophers can be said to be the thinkers, the theorists, truth-seekers, dons, academics, logicians and the like.
This observation alone to me would seem to explain the whole political system in general and our peculiar voting habits. Populist politicians who wield wild charisma and audacity are able to with relative ease draw large crowds, as they spew out lies and half-truths. Also they usually get elected. These are actually the ones that believe it or not preach division, and the existential threat that the “other group” presents, the ones with the money to buy out the voter, and the ones who are willing to commit deeds most foul as long as it guarantees power, those are the ones that actually get to the seats.
For the good men, who mean nothing but good, well it so happens that occasionally they get elected, by sheer luck, lack of another choice or sometimes because they represent a reasonable hope for the electorate. But once they assume the positions they promised to utilize correct the ills of past leaders, they find out that indeed politics is configured not for the well-meaning but for the sinister and the most evil of the society. They cannot operate in an environment that basically only thrives on evil. Embezzlement, corruption, deceit, prejudice, slayings, manipulation and greed. That’s what the system of politics is designed for.
With time the good men in the system give in to the pressures and either fit in or ship out, in the latter case hoping that the powers that be do not hunt them down for fear of getting exposed of who they really are.
In post-colonial Africa particularly, the stakes have never been so high. Upright men have never been at so much risk. A quick sneak peek at the shambolic systems of democracy that are supposedly in operation in Africa, one gets the sense of the exact systems of politics am talking about. The governments are controlled, behind the scenes, by mafia like groups of self-interested individuals who will by hook or crook get their way. Sometimes these are external powers like the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, powers that murdered Lumumba and thawed his body in acid, for basically being too good a man for president. Other times its tribal cocoons that will hear nothing but their own language even when it’s clearly impossible, like the case of Kenya where literally a handful of tribes have dominated the rest since independence (despite the many attempts to rationalize the economic and political subjugation) in an apparent show of arrogance towards the diversity of tribes. Other times its races, and still other times its religious nests. All are one and the same thing, a glorification of a system that disregards the wellbeing of the common citizen, who has ceded all his powers to the state in absolute faith that it will deliver for the sake of a few gluttonous, evil individuals to who nothing matters but their ultimate domination of everybody. The most important tool for them is not virtue but money, for which has been called – and rightly so – the root of all evil.
This year Kenya holds general elections. It has been touted as the most competitive in the history of the country as the main opposition leader Raila Odinga fires his last bullet according to many pundits in an attempt to dislodge incumbent Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta. Once again, the narrative of post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa politics repeats itself. Granted, the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta has seen many important developments in the infrastructure and health sectors, unprecedented in the region, and granted on an order of merit, comparatively to other previous and regional regimes much has indeed been accomplished. Yet still a campaign based on policy and development doesn’t seem to guarantee a win in Kenya. The politics has yet again seen immense efforts at ethnic mobilization, and opening up of old wounds in the countries historical social injustices alleged to have been committed by some tribes against others on key questions of land and political and economic marginalization. This therefore has forced the two main rivals to once again retreat to their tribal shelters and consolidate support based on tribes a scenario likely to hurt other than heal Kenya.
Once again, politics not of policy or virtue or honour but politics of ethnic balkanization and self-preservation. Power and money for the self-interested mafia like groups. Nothing else. In the end the man on the street the vote does not matter. His job is to vote and place the men in power for their own good, suffer for some few more years and…repeat. Election cycle after another.
Unquestionably, the stakes on elections have never been higher, not for the man with the vote, no, he can fight and burn each other later, but for them, the criminal owners of our countries. They want to be sure their embezzled funds, grabbed land and illegitimate wealth is in safe hands and nothing dare threaten that. Not just for Kenya, not just for Africa, for the whole world. It’s literally a man eat man society in the famous words of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
As for the common man, where most of us belong, and the people I intend to actually speak to, he has a choice. Put the good men in power overwhelmingly such that they cause a revolution in the political system, or again continue to be duped by those who have nothing but their interest at heart with sweet scorns, lies and handouts. Is such a scenario, where good overwhelms evil in politics really possible? Am I being too optimistic to hope? Maybe.