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Time to vote wisely

All the hullabaloo is nearly over. It’s time for the day of reckoning on 27th December, in the only place that matters: the voting booth.

The right to vote is the fundamental tenet of democracy. None of us should take it lightly. It is one of the most important powers granted to you by your nation. So get out there and vote! Don’t have a leisurely breakfast instead. Don’t be put off by the queues or be fearful of crowd violence. Don’t sit back and watch it all on TV. It is your future, and that of your children, that you are voting for.

But do vote with intelligence, discernment and insight. I have no preferred party or candidate to recommend to you. That is your choice to make, and yours alone. There are, however, some principles you may want to keep in mind as you tick those boxes.

Vote for integrity. Bad behaviour by leaders has been the bane of this country. We always have a cabal in power that does nothing for the national interest and everything for its personal interest. Your money has been stolen again and again. That money has come out of the schools, roads and hospitals that you could have had. Enough is enough. This time round you, the voter, must take a stand.

Don’t vote for anyone with a tainted past. Don’t vote for anyone who suddenly became very wealthy without any obvious source for that wealth. Don’t vote for anyone who has been investigated for corruption. Don’t vote for the crooked characters that seem to live under the stones in every political corner. Vote for clean people with clean pasts and clean intentions, in whichever party you can find them.

Vote for character. In the past, we have voted for people we know to be of bad character. We know that they are abusive, ill-tempered, intolerant, unkind and arrogant – but we vote for them. This time, reward good behaviour, not bad. Seek out candidates who seem to be humble, tolerant, kind-hearted and spirited.

Is that not what you would do when hiring a housemaid, a gardener, a secretary, a chief executive? Would you not make every effort to discern whether the person you seek to employ is a decent human being with good values? Then why not do the same for the person who is going to lead you? Let the character test take prominence now. Watch the behaviour patterns, the utterances, and the past record of all the candidates before you. Pick out the one who passes muster. Vote for decency.

Vote for action. Campaign time is when our politicians lose all sense of balance and perspective. They promise you the earth, with the moon thrown in as a bonus. They promise you first-world status, when it suits them perfectly to keep you in the third world in perpetuity.

Look through all the empty talk, and vote for men and women of action. We’re great at talking about what we should do, and terrible at actually doing it. It’s time to change all that. Pick out the people who measure their success in terms of results on the ground for the people, not in the number of goat-eating sessions. Listen out for those who know how to set targets and meet them, and can configure people and organisations to deliver real things.

Vote for connection. Over the decades, a very bad norm has set in. Leaders are conceited, haughty and aloof. They live in a different country from the people; they rub shoulders only with the high and mighty. They are not approachable and not accessible. They only connect with their people when it’s time to chase after their votes.

It is time to think about leaders who are connected with their people, who understand their lives and who feel their plight in their hearts. Leadership is not exercised in the clouds far above the earth; it happens every day on the ground on which the people reside. Search for the candidates with a genuine love for those they wish to lead.

Vote for the economy. In a poor country, everything begins and ends with the economy. Our development agenda is our key agenda. We have started to cruise on the runway, and it’s a good feeling. Let nothing come in the way of take-off. We must never return to the crazy days when the economy was a plaything in the hands of robber barons.

Vote for good, sound economic management. Vote for those who will appoint qualified and competent custodians of the economy, not for those who will anoint their defective cousins. Vote for brainpower. Vote for freedoms and incentives. Vote for real ideas, not slogans.

And finally: Vote for Kenya. For a change, think about the nation rather than your tribe or race. Vote for merit rather than birthplace. Understand that if you want to create a great nation, that greatness must begin with your personal action in the ballot booth. Tribal overlords have given you nothing all these years. This time round, leave your village in the background, and vote for a nation.

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