I don’t know who I will vote for in August 2022 when millions of my fellow Kenyans and I will line up to cast our ballots. But I know that it will not be any of the two horses on the ballot even though there is a high likelihood that one of those two horses will win. I suspect that I will vote for a donkey, the underdog. It will not be a protest vote, but a principled vote.
In any given race, the two horses are those with a ‘realistic chance’ of winning. The rest are donkeys that are not expected to keep up with the horses and are destined to lose. But as elections elsewhere may have shown and as you may have experienced even in your own life, donkeys don’t always lose.
My friend Allan will tell me that my donkey vote will be a wasted vote. He will probably vote for one of the horses. The one that will bolt from whichever stable the Rt. Hon Raila Odinga will be part of, in the unlikely event that he doesn’t run himself. Many of my friends and relatives will most likely follow suit and vote for this horse too. But many of my other friends and other friends will vote for the other horse. His Excellency Dr. William Ruto.
Whichever horse they cast their vote for, I will be left puzzled. I will wonder why they always have to go for a horse, a famous name, a rich fellow, a political titan. Can’t they ask themselves where the horses we have had in this country have led us to? Since independence, we have had four top horses – Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. Other distinguished members of this exclusive Kenyan horses stable include Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his son Raila Odinga plus William Ruto. Plus maybe Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.
If Kenyans continue with their love affair with horses, then for the next one hundred years, our presidents will always come from members of this exclusive horse stable. If it is not President Raila Odinga, it will be President William Ruto, President Kalonzo Musyoka, President Musalia Mudavadi, President Jomo Kenyatta (President Uhuru’s son), President Rosemary Odinga (Raila’s daughter), President Gideon Moi (President Moi’s son) and more from the same stable.
There is nothing wrong with these fellow Kenyans exercising their constitutional right and running for the highest office in the land. But there is everything wrong in forty million other Kenyans who don’t belong to this horse stable never standing a chance to win the presidency, however transformative their leadership is.
Let me remind you what Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek leader once said, ‘I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.’ It may be that Kenya has never roared economically because sheep don’t roar. Maybe our horses have been sheep who have cowered in the face of corruption, poverty and tribalism. But if leaders are reflections of their people, doesn’t it mean that Kenyans are in fact sheep and not lions being led by sheep? Exactly. If Kenyans want to be led by lions, they themselves must become lions. And one way to become lions is to have the courage of looking beyond the usual suspects to lead them. They can also become lions by stepping up and seeking leadership.
In reality, donkeys empower horses by electing them in every election cycle. But can’t they see that most of the leaders we have elected are the ones that have ridden our backs instead of us riding their backs into a better Kenya where your last name doesn’t determine your job prospects? A Kenya where a youth from Lamu is just as valued as a youth from Nairobi. A Kenya where dying children in Turkana are rescued with the same urgency as dying children from Nyeri or Buruburu. A Kenya where young people, whether they be called Njeri, Chepkorir or Otieno can find or create a job without having to take five, seven or ten years to do so. If ever. A Kenya where billions are spent to build bigger hospitals not bigger mansions for politicians. Where millions are spent on better roads, not better cars.
This Kenya is not yet a reality despite the fact that we have been led by four horses since independence.
That is why I will look at my friends and family in the eye and ask them why on earth they are following a horse yet again even though other horses have in the past kicked them and left them with bloody noses.
In the 2013 elections, I voted for a donkey named Professor James Ole Kiyiapi. Allan (who would be a great businessman by now if capital wasn’t a preserve for a few) told me that I threw that vote and in so doing helped to elect Uhuru Kenyatta. My then girlfriend (an amazing lady) voted for Abduba Dida as did my sister Grace (a truly graceful person). My sister Liz was also supposed to vote for Dida since the three of us were fed up with horses. But she says that when she entered the voting booth, “I saw the photo of Raila and just felt teary. I couldn’t not vote for him.”
Such is the emotional connection that makes a good percentage of Kenyans go for a horse even when that horse hasn’t delivered them to the promised land.
As someone born in 1978, Liz was nineteen when Raila Odinga first ran for President in 1997. By the time she cast that 2013 ballot for him, he had been appearing on her TV screen on presidential related politics for at least sixteen years, which is twice as old as her first child Joshua. It’s no wonder Raila felt like family.
Isn’t it unfair to not vote for Raila or President Uhuru Kenyatta simply because they are horses of Kenyan politics? You may ask.
What is unfair is that at least twenty-five million Kenyans of voting age can never win the presidency unless the horses are not running. Yet it is this same Kenyans who actually elect those horses. That is why Allan considered my vote for Professor Kiyiapi as ‘wasted.’
If a critical majority of Kenyans ‘waste’ their votes in 2022 by voting with their conscience, not just mass appeal, a donkey might just win. Not just the presidency but all other elective posts too.
To be continued in my upcoming book, ‘Vote of Confidence.’