Kenya’s Presidential Election holds lessons for Nigeria, write Samuel Orovwuje and Armstrong Ongera

Kenya, the East Africa’s most populous country, gained its flag independence from her imperial majesty of Great Britain in 1963, and Nigeria in 1960. The colonial legacy of the divide and rule politics that has characterised Nigeria elections also took root in Kenya, often giving rise to conservative leadership, which appears populist in outlook, but far from realities of the majority of Kenyans. This year’s presidential election was indeed remarkable and unique in many ways and indeed a deep source of inspiration to nations in search of democratic practices and ideals.

The final verdict from the Supreme Court may have come and gone, the lessons from the elections are instructive and relevant particularly for Nigeria and INEC in the conduct of 2023 general election. In our view, one of the greatest imports from the Kenya elections is total commitment to a powerful fusion of women and youth engagement which has mobilised huge numbers of people to vote for change.

Crucially, Kenya has indeed demonstrated that she is a nation where, more than anything else, democracy rules. It is instructive to note also that Kenya with a population of over 50 million people has shown the way for us in Nigeria that Western democratic principles and values can be respected and sustained by the people irrespective of their ethnic, religious, cultural affinity and bias.

Instructive was the validation of the election results by the Supreme Court and it was far and widely accepted, in part, because they were substantiated by the Nairobi-based Elections Observation Group (ELOG), Kenya’s largest election monitoring coalition. ELOG deployed 5,000 observers in all 47 counties (states), covering 46,229 polling stations. The lesson is that it allowed Kenyan media to run their own tallies and release provisional results 72 hours before the IEBC- the electoral body. The proactive media initiative is worth replicating for 2023 General Election in Nigeria. The real – time online streaming of results allowed the political parties, civil society organisations, and ordinary citizens to trail the unfolding results.

This year’s election in Kenya is also a deep reflection of a nation that believes in the principle of the rule of law and the institutions of the state that are charged with the conduct of elections and, above all, in the sanctity of the ballot box and the inviolability of the human persons in electing a credible leader who may not be popular with existing political structure of Godfathers that has characterised the recruitment to public office and service in Nigeria.

Expectedly, the electoral process was led decidedly in a transparent manner and the democratic climate was better than previous elections in Kenya. Therefore, INEC must be seen to be transparent in line with the Electoral Law as amended.

For several weeks, issue-based politics was canvassed, rallied, and the social media was also awash with critical debates particularly for a new coalition party – Kenya Kwanza Alliance led William Ruto, whose campaign was hinged on the promise of tackling unemployment and poverty. Furthermore, Kenya Kwanza Alliance throughout the campaign offered the people of Kenya from all sides of the political divide governance that will play by the highest global standards while respecting ethnic identity.

The other three presidential candidates were Raila Odinga of Azimio La Umoja Coalition, George Wachakoyah of Roots Party and David Wahiga of Agano Party respectively. Interestingly, Deputy President William Ruto gathered 50.5 percent of the vote and Raila Odinga’s 48.9 percent – a meagre difference of 233,000 votes out of more than 14 million votes cast in the elections.

Particularly heartwarming in the 2022 Kenyan Elections is the election of seven Women as Governors in the counties (states) of Homa Bay; Nakuru; Embu; Machakos; Kirinyaga; Meru and Kwale respectively. Indeed, the elections of women have broadened our understanding of gender parity in political participation. This reinforces exceptional nature of women’s heroism in contemporary gender and development issues in Africa and it would forever inspire the younger generation of women particularly in Nigeria for public leadership.

The transparent manner in which the over 22 million registered voters cast their ballots in 46,229 polling stations across the 47 counties is worthy of note. It is a clear demonstration of democracy at work in Africa. Therefore, INEC must learn from the logistics and management acumen of Kenya to deliver exceptional elections in 2023.

Political elite and existential power mongers in Africa should also draw inspiration from the peaceful conduct of the Kenyan Presidential election, particularly on the maturity and the spirit of sportsmanship that were displayed by the two major contestants. We must learn as a people to play by the rules with a view to deepening democratic values and culture. The courts in Kenya are not overwhelmed by election cases and that in itself is the real hallmark of political engineering.

The Labour Party, and other leading opposition parties, must learn critical lessons from the coalitions on how to create and highlight alternatives campaign strategy and broad-based issues and other people – oriented benchmarks and successes to explore commonalities, build consensus with a view to seeking transformation for a new Nigeria.

On one hand, the APC like the Azimio La Umoja Coalition must be sensitive to issues of security, terrorism, national interest, corruption, cheap political arrogance of winner-take-all mentality and the grandstanding that have characterised its leadership at the centre since 2015. In addition, the political parties and indeed their leadership should not take actions that will plunge the country into violence in the years to come.

Furthermore, internal democracy within the parties and the process in the decision for the emergence of popular candidates from the party structure must be respected. The true emergence of candidates would nurture authentic representation from the people which in turn will ensure that the parties produce better policies and political programmes, which Kenya has demonstrated in the just concluded general election.

While Kenya celebrate this unprecedented triumph in Africa’s democracy and its breakthrough in inclusive governance and tourism, the challenge before the new cabinet of President William Ruto is that majority of Kenyans are poor. Therefore, the task ahead is creating wealth and jobs that would accelerate Kenya progress and development for her growing population that are looking for greener pasture abroad.

Fundamentally, Nigeria must choose the path of sustainable democracy and peace through credible elections in 2023. Indeed Kenya has shown the way and Nigeria should follow!

Orovwuje is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons & Ongera, Kehosa Foundation

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