Up to now, we have more than 40 presidential aspirants. Most of these fellows have never been heard of. We have never heard them weigh in on national questions, and by so doing, contribute to the menu of views about the state of our nationhood.
And now, a few months to the election, they have crawled out of the woodwork, urging us to consider them as an alternative to the usual political diet. The problem with Kenyans — they ventilate dramatically — is that we are never willing to consider people for president other than the ones we know. But how on earth do we consider people we have never heard of except three months to an election, and even then once or twice on TV or radio?
The people considered frontrunners in the presidential race have been in the public space, debating national issues, giving their views — misguided or otherwise — on constitutional, economic and social issues affecting the nation. Some have, at some time in their lives, fought for the democracy that allows fellows today to wake up one morning — probably after a merry night — and declare they are running for president.
Other frontrunners have served in government, no matter how well or poorly. Still, others have been on the campaign trail since the last election.
In short, the frontrunners have been visible. What is ridiculous and amazing is to see these fellows expressing self-righteous anger on primetime TV for not being taken seriously by Kenyans. Surely, these Johnnies-come-lately must know that they stand as much chance of winning the presidency as a snowball in hell.
Some of them want to make a point to themselves; perhaps to be able to tell their grandchildren that they once ran for president. Others perhaps want to highlight issues they feel frontrunners never talk about. The first group is just vain. Those in the second group have some legitimacy.
In the 2017 presidential race, for instance, Prof Michael Wainaina, though almost unheard of before the election, was able to eruditely and passionately bring to the presidential debate issues that frontrunners shy away from, mainly because they have been part of the system that caused them. In the 2013 presidential race, Mwalimu Abduba Dida brought dignity and honesty to the debate, a contrast to the scripted and often hypocritical posturing of the frontrunners.
Instead of all the 40 underdogs being on the presidential ballot, why don’t they combine all their special issues into a single campaign platform and support one of their own to front those issues? Surely, their ideological and policy differences cannot be so fundamentally different as to exclude a broad-based coalition.
There are other issues such as legalising marijuana which can be canvassed in parliament. The man running for president on a platform of legalising marijuana should instead start a popular campaign movement for legalisation of the “holy” herb. People, let’s take elections seriously.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator