Perhaps it is COVID-19 restrictions or maybe a new way of doing politics, but it is a clear – our politics is now characterised by a departure from the traditional big rallies in different stadia to a much more targeted strategy of speaking to different communities of the voters and opinion leaders. The two apparent front runners in the 2022 race seem to have embraced this approach with the DP, William Ruto using his ‘hustlers’ mansion’ to meet different groups and delegates. Raila Odinga on the other hand has taken this three tiered approach of meeting the leaders first, then the business community and other opinion shapers and finally the people. He technically caught Kenyans by storm when he traversed Mt Kenya – all the way from Nanyuki to Kiambu in one day accompanied by elected governors and speaking with the people.
Both, Baba and the Deputy President seem to be commanding serious traction and they have cemented this perception that 2022 is a two horse race. You see, in politics, whether we like it or not, perception is reality and Baba’s sojourn in the mountain with four first time governors from the mountain has sent a very powerful statement of intent. Unlike the DP he seems to be in the company of solid leaders who people trusted with the county leadership. That warm welcome by these leaders and the perceived notion that Baba has given these leaders a solid economic blueprint that will address the issues of the majority poor, seems to be just one step in a multistep strategy.
The DP, William Ruto, has been consistent with the bottom up economy model packaged as a game changer. He has used every opportunity to remind the mountain of what the Jubilee government has delivered and he has done this as the ultimate voice of the people of the mountain. Increasingly he has found himself prescribing a cure to the problems of the mountain. His authority and command of the terrain, having been heavily involved in the developments in the region during a better part of Jubilee’s reign and the fact that he used proximity to the President to have his loyalist elected puts him in a very strong stead.
But the mountain is not budging. They seem intent on forgetting the past and seizing the moment and have every iota of their interest addressed and sealed with some solid assurances. Well, that is our politics – mobilisation around tribe and region. I wish leaders from other regions would also speak to their local issues and call on the leading contenders to provide a roadmap of not just what they will do, but how they address the issues put forward.
However, even as presidential candidates move from region to region it should not be lost on us that it is not just about regional interest. This election should be about many other pertinent issues, chief among them corruption, uniting Kenyans and helping majority poor to put money in their pockets, food on their tables and inject capital in their businesses.
To this end, we may need to revisit the basic tenets of democracy. Democracy has been described as a system of governance where the power to lead is given by the led. Others have opined that democracy is a system in a capitalist state where the citizens give the government legitimate consent. Therefore, as leaders discourse amongst themselves, it is instructive to see the legitimation of such discussions in the behaviour and actions of the common citizenry.
Back to the two leading contenders and how they are seeking consent from mwananchi. The DP has taken a direct route to the people, moving to the populous Mount Kenya with his message directly to the people in what critics have termed as a populist approach anchored on sloganeering. Well, politics is about numbers and the chief hustler in his mission has made it clear that he has “no space to retreat and the luxury to surrender” as he takes what seems to be working for him as the legitimate route to get consent from the citizenry.
Baba on the other hand has gone for the multi-step approach of gaining acceptance from the top leadership, speaking to different communities of opinion leaders and finishing with a direct address to the people. From a man who has always commanded popular following from the masses, this represents a different way of going about what appears to be a very strategic quest to finally get to the presidency. The legitimacy of his message to the people seems to be buttressed by the language spoken by the seasoned political and economic authorities from Mount Kenya. The fact that four governors, a galaxy of authoritative and respected leaders including top businessmen are cascading Baba’s message to the people speaks of a spirited effort to undo the false narrative that has been associated with Raila Odinga. Two contrasting pathways and indeed 2022 is poised to be a contest between a man on a mission and his main rival who has been to the mountain top and wants to take all of us to the beautiful land he has seen. Who will get out legitimate consent?
The author is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies and Political communication.