Kenya election and political lessons for the Nigerian electorates

William Ruto

August 9, 2022 could have been a random day across the world; in faraway Kenya, it’s a special day for over 50 million citizens to vote for a president who will steer the affairs of their country for the next 5 years.

The question of how President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two terms in power had fared or how his successor, Willam Ruto, would rule is not the crux of this piece; rather, the many lessons Nigeria should learn from the just-concluded election in the East African country.

Unlike in Nigeria, where citizens who live abroad are disenfranchised during election seasons, Kenyans who live outside Kenya were privileged to exercise their franchise. Not even Kenyans in places like prisons were denied the right to vote for their next president. This is commendable practice. The Nigerian Electoral Commission (INEC) should tap from Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and initiate an effective “Diaspora Voting” into their electoral policies, so that Nigerians abroad, or at least in certain countries, can also participate in voting processes.

Moving forward, the hues and cries about election results being trampled on as a result of late or inaccurate results display appear to be becoming the norm during Nigerian elections.The Kenya IEBC, however, defied odds to bare election results to the public, live and immediately after votes were being cast. Even Kenyans in areas where there were no access to mobile phones were provided with satellite equipment for the transmission of results. An idea that has generated global applause. The Nigerian electoral body should take a hint from their peer in Kenya, and make fast and fair transmission of election results a standard. This, without doubt, will aid the process of fair and credible elections.

It is worthwhile to state that the commonly held mentality in Nigeria that online polls/strategies do not determine election results, or that new political parties do not stand a chance of winning elections, needs to be relegated. The elected President, William Ruto, had prior to the election won many online polls, and even with a new political party, the United Democratic Alliance, formed in 2020, William Ruto still managed to win the election. Although a Kenya literacy rate of 81% in 2018, compared to Nigeria’s 62% in 2018, could be credited to his winning, as more Kenyans are informed and have access to the internet, and as such will be more rational in their choices of candidates.

To surmise, Nigerian youths who politicians use as agents of destabilization during elections should learn from the youths of Kenya who chose peace and participated fully in the elections; one was even seen in a viral video going to the polling unit without clothes, mainly because he had no clothes and could not give in to that as an excuse not to vote. Nigerian youths should learn from their fellow African youths and hence uphold wide political participation and peace during elections.

As the 2023 general election, being a critical election, draws closer, it behoves INEC and Nigerians to look closely at the lessons from the just concluded Kenya election and raise standards that can list Nigeria in the league of nations where free, fair, and credible elections are upheld.

The electoral outcome of Kenya has some lessons for Nigeria. We shall summarize Seven of them below:

Lesson 1*:

Having influential Godfathers with power of incumbency can no longer guarantee electoral success. Raila Odinga lost the election.

Lesson 2.

Political alliances of old foes are now viewed with suspicion by today’s electorates in Africa unlike what obtained in the past. Odinga was a bitter rib and critic of President Kenyatta. People saw them in their new alliance as strange bed fellows.

Lesson 3:

Money politics and corruption have ruled Kenyan politics over the years. However, abject poverty, high youth unemployment, untold hardship and unfulfilled promises have woken the masses from political slumber to reject money and vote wisely.

Lesson 4:

The Social Media was very powerful in swinging the victory to the side of Mr. Ruto. Those who still underrate the power of Social Media in modern African politics should have a rethink.

Lesson 5:

Age has become a key factor in African politics. Voters are now rejecting old, recycled candidates in preference for youthfulness. At 55, Ruto was the youngest of the 4 major contestants. He defeated the older and much experienced Raila Odinga who is 77 and a former Prime Minister. The other two major candidates are also in their 60s.

Lesson 6:

Contesting several times does not guarantee victory for a candidate in future election. Raila Odinga contested 5 times (between 1997 to 2022) and lost all. He lost to Kibaki, Kenyatta and now Ruto. (A lesson for Atiku Abubakar of Nigeria)

Lesson 7:

Ethnicity is becoming a secondary consideration in Sub-Saharan African politics. Kenyatta is from the dominant tribe, Kikuyu. He played the ethnic card to try and secure victory for Odinga who is a Luo but the people are more interested in honesty and competence than tribal considerations.

We hope the Nigerian electorates will be wiser as the country gets set for the all-important 2023 Presidential Elections.

We must embrace fresh young energetic God-fearing Leaders to lead us.