By John Harrington Ndeta
2017 General Elections are barely four months away and the hype across the nation is already reaching fever-pitch with campaign money being dished like it grows on trees. The cost of elections campaign in the forthcoming elections could be the highest ever with everyone in the race ready to flex their economic muscle.
But what is informing the obsession with money when it comes to seeking leadership positions in Kenya? Is it not the love of money; not just by the leaders but the electorate too, in total disregard to the biblical teachings of Apostle Paul that the love of money is the root cause of all the evil?
Politicians know that Kenyans are gullible and corrupt and so resorted to using the money to buy their way into office. No wonder our country has been balkanized by drug loads masquerading as philanthropists who disguise their malevolence acts as benevolence. They are in villages, slums, churches, schools and communities conducting harambees, giving donations and at times directly bribing voters to woo their support.
But it is said that it takes two to tangle. This pompous culture in our politics and campaigns in order to win votes cannot be entirely blamed on politicians. It is the electorate who are driving politicians’ nuts with our demands. On average, anybody who has declared the interest to vie for an elective position receives 3 requests for support from the electorate. Such demands from the electorate have doubled or quadrupled with the nominations and elections fast approaching.
The electorate is eager to make as much money as they can from politicians before they are elected and still hope that once someone who has paid them to get into office will still serve their interests. Alas! The first assignment of a politician elected on the strength of his cash is to recover their costs; not serve the electorate.
It is even sadder to see some aspirants flaunt more cash than what they would ever earn in their 5-year tenure of office. One wonders what is the motivation and logic behind the use of huge amounts of cash in campaigns. The answer boils down to a corrupt society that Kenya has become. This fallen society has been built by you and I and Politicians only read the mood and our psyche, and respond accordingly by greasing our hand, our chama’s, our churches, our schools our communities so that they can get our votes.
The electorate is not interested in Manifestos. They are neither interested in the development record of incumbents nor their past failures, plunders, misallocations and mismanagements. The electorate is not interested in the integrity of constitutional office holders as enshrined in Chapter 6 of the Constitution of Kenya 2016. It is rather revealing that all that the electorate is interested in is a fleeting Ksh 50 or 100 and they give someone their vote to go maximize their loot.
It is the backdrop of this basis that Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) set campaign budget limits for all the elective positions. For presidential contenders’, campaign spending was capped at a maximum of Sh5.2 billion. Members of Parliament are required to spent not more than Sh33 million, and governors, senators, and woman representatives are bound by law not to exceed Sh432 million in their campaigns. The Members of County Assemblies are not allowed to spend more than Sh10.3 million.
Though well intentioned, IEBC played into the trap of hawkeyed, money-bagged politicians, effectively locking out well-meaning aspirants who may not have that kind of cash to run a campaign. The race to leadership has become a preserve of the rich a scenario that only perpetuates corruption.
To expect an MCA to spend 10 million in a campaign so as to take home Ksh. 79,000 per month is not just an epitome of corruption but a travesty of justice to well-intentioned aspirants who have no ability to raise even a million towards the campaign. Rumors are doing rounds that aspirants rolling in cash are buying party tickets with millions of shillings and our conniving political parties are reciprocating by giving direct nominations to such moneyed politicians.
If such a person ends up elected, their preoccupation will be to recoup their cash, hence rampant corruption amongst constitutional and pubic office holders.
IEBC made such a big mistake in permitting so much cash to be used in the campaigns, implying that only the rich or people with means have a free pass into leadership. Kenyans from all walks of life deserve free and fair elections based on equality and non-discrimination.
It is indeed sad that electoral campaign reforms that were meant to afford equal opportunity for eligible persons to compete in elections by not allowing money or resources to be a key determinant of the outcome are being flouted in big ways and nobody; not even IEBC nor the electorate has the powers to rein this in.
John Harrington Ndeta is Media and Communication Practitioner firstname.lastname@example.org