By Jerry Okungu
January 9, 2013
In December 2002, greedy party functionaries sold nomination tickets to losers and moneyed individuals at the expense of popular candidates. A case in point was the bombardment of the NARC head offices in Nairobi with stones by angry losers. Realizing that they were under siege, the profiteers handed in nomination certificates to the protesters through the office windows.
In Kisumu, it was the same story but a little more bizarre. It was alleged that nomination managers holed themselves in a top star hotel and started dishing out nomination certificates to the highest bidders.
The situation was no different in 2007 when a top retired high court judge who was hired to lead the party’s Election Board messed up the nomination beyond recognition. In the aftermath, he was fired by an angry party leadership. In that year, there were a number of party candidates who got direct nominations at the expense of the electorate’s preference. Some of them like Joe Nyagah of Embu still went ahead to lose anyway.
Some popular candidates in Rift Valley who felt shortchanged switched to smaller parties and won against major candidates. In some constituencies country-wide, moneyed aspirants bought their way into parliament.
This year, there are already grumbles that the same merchants of injustice are at it again. Loud noises are in the air about some top luminaries in Kisumu, Nyeri, Siaya, Nairobi and Mombasa angling for direct nomination.
These grumbles in Jubilee Alliance, Cord and Amani must be taken seriously and nipped in the bud. If there are small fish operatives planning to cash in on desperate aspirants, party leaders must weed them from the party. They are the stuff that can bring this country to its knees.
This is because party leaders must remember that there are many aspirants who have spent a fortune traversing their counties for the last two years campaigning for the same posts. If they are knocked out unfairly, it will not auger well for the country. Such little failings are the stuff that sent Museveni to the bush. Kenyans don’t want to go that route.
This preferential treatment perceived to be the preserve of those close to political parties’ leadership must be disabused. If the characters feel the urge to plunge into politics, they must be prepared to travel the narrow path. They must be reminded that there is no shortcut to fame and neither is the road to stardom smooth.
This year’s elections are too important for Kenya to be handled carelessly and casually. Those trusted with this heavy responsibility must appreciate the magnitude of their duties.
We are holding the first election that is different in all aspects since independence. We are electing more officials than we have done before.
Never before have we invoked integrity and ethics clauses in our electoral system. It has always been a free for all affair. Our liberalism has been a breeding ground for thieves, swindlers, thugs, land grabbers and public coffer looters to be elected our leaders. Only this time we are trying to put a break to this madness.
To succeed in this, let us remove friendship, our closeness to political operatives and party donors to deny the electorate their choice. If as party leaders and election boards we get blinded by the wealth of some of our aspirants, if we turn a blind eye to their excesses, crimes, court cases and their recorded public image, we shall forever ruin the chance to make Kenya and truly democratic state.
We know that there are constitutional offices charged with the responsibility to vet aspirants- thousands of them from all over the country. However, to make their work simpler and meaningful, county political offices must be in the thick of things. Those officials that were elected by parties to be branch officials know the aspirants better and must gather the courage to execute their responsibilities with the strength of character.
Their sense of morality, ethics and integrity should guide them to aspire to be Caesar’s wife in their enclaves so that by the time the names of the aspirants from locations and counties reach the national office, 80% of the vetting process is complete.
This is the reason our new constitution barred elected politicians from running political offices. If you are elected a branch chairman, Secretary or treasurer, be satisfied with that position and excel as a fair and competent manager.
I know this is a tall order, this country being Kenya but we must start somewhere. The clock is ticking against us. We must build political dykes to weather the floods of general elections. We have to be an example to the rest of East Africa and the continent like we almost did in 2002.
We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes that sent our brothers to The Hague. We must be ready to learn from our mistakes.