GORI: Voting is a solemn duty, apathy only helps entrench bad leaders

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By FRED GORI
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During the past few months, I have had the opportunity of engaging Kenyans of different age groups and socioeconomic classes.

I have been extremely encouraged by the candidness and clarity of thought among many of them.

Although they may not agree on the techniques of reforming the architecture of the nation, these Kenyans know what they want, they understand the gaps and are clear that something ought to be done to harness the nation’s full potential.

I have, however, been taken aback by the number of those who are no longer sure whether their vote can translate into real improvement in infrastructure, education, healthcare, environment and overall quality of life, equitably and without discrimination.

Going by the experiences with elections since the reintroduction of the multiparty era, I have found it difficult to fault them.

What they know is that they cast votes for people who then disappear to Nairobi or (since the 2013 elections) to county headquarters.

The next time these leaders reappear is when they return to their constituencies to ask for votes.

In between, they hear stories of mega scandals, substandard projects, appointments based on anything but merit and expenditure that does little to advance the wellbeing of the citizenry.

When we talk about voter apathy, this is what we are talking about – shattered dreams and dashed hopes.

It is something that the political class needs to pay attention to not just because they want votes but because it is the right thing to do.

Whether you are elected as an MCA, MP, Woman Representative, Senator, Governor or even the President, it is dishonourable to betray the trust of those who put you in office by stealing from them and absconding duty.

It is more honourable to remain true to the oath of your office and go the extra mile in ensuring inclusiveness and sustainable improvement of people’s lives.

That notwithstanding, the burden of ensuring good governance, constitutionalism, the rule of law and general good manners in politics rests with the electorate.

In the workplace, the responsibility for ensuring proper behaviour rests with the employer.

If the employer does not hold the employees accountable, then sooner or later all else descend into anarchy.

It is the same with elected leadership. You give a select few jobs to represent you.

In essence, they are your employees and you have the duty to ensure they honour the contract they sign when they take up the jobs.

Looking the other way when elected leaders perpetrate misdeeds is equivalent to a business owner who allows an employee to steal.

Such a business cannot stay afloat.

The role of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is to ensure every vote counts through professional management of elections.

But it is the duty of the electorate to make the right call on the leaders they choose.

I know it is a lot more complex than I make it appear here.

The nation has no homogeneity of ideas and perspectives when it comes to critical issues affecting citizens.

Sometimes, citizens will agree that there is a problem but then take completely divergent views on the causes and solutions.

Such divisions are often influenced by clan or ethnicity, economic or social class but mostly political affiliation.

The complexity of the issues, nevertheless, does not absolve citizens of their cardinal responsibility to not only elect individuals with the right mix of qualities but to also hold them accountable.

That is why the Constitution opens with the words, “We the People.” The people are supreme and the people are sovereign.

Looking back at our history, the few times Kenyans made landmark changes to the architecture of the state was when the vast majority rallied behind an idea.

Such was the case in 2010 when we voted for a new Constitution that has fundamentally changed how we are governed.

Now imagine what we can achieve if all Kenyans united behind a “no-corruption” agenda.

The leaders would be very afraid and the brazen theft would fizzle out.

But they know they can still count on your unquestioning support despite their evil deeds.

I appeal to Kenyans not to stay away from the polling centres on August 8.

Let us drop that “voter apathy” lingo from our vocabulary and embrace participation.

If we stay away, someone will still be elected and the decisions they make will affect us directly.

As I write this, voter verification is ongoing and every voter should ensure they are properly registered.

Once you confirm your details, try to learn as much as possible about the candidates on offer and the electioneering process.

Share what you have learnt with your family, neighbours and community.

The moment of decision is almost upon us. Are you ready?

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