Friday, January 29, 2021

How much money are you willing to burn?

Politics is a retail business and as some of you have discovered in your endeavours as private business people, some vendors engage in chicanery as you play it straight. First, let me digress a bit. When you walk into your Quickmart 24/7 (which is not open 24/7 anymore on account of the asinine night curfew policy being enforced by the headmaster-in-chief) in search of a six-pack of eggs, you will be confronted by a shelf that has seven different brands on offer - each displayed at different heights and with different degrees of prominence. I have heard told that some egg vendors will approach the franchisee and offer him a sweetener (a massive bribe to the clueless) to place their brands at the most advantageous space on the shelves so as to attract maximum sales from the gullible shopper.

I don't know if this is true - I am not an eggs' vendor. But the same rule applies when it comes to selling your political ambitions to the great unwashed. Some politicians play it straight and approach voters and potential voters with nothing but their silver tongues. Others piss on such "honour" and let rip with their wallets - hence the remarkably predictable supply of t-shirts, hats, umbrellas and shukas on offer whenever political realignments take place. The more ambitious burn their fingers supplying various kinds of foodstuffs - unga ugali, unga ngano, cooking oil and rice are very popular during the general election, all festooned with the smiling faces of the men and women who intend to rule you.

But even big-money spending on elections is not without a measure of planning or network-building. You can't just pitch tent in Harambee Ward, Makadara Constituency with a Canter-full of Jogoo No. 1, Elianto and t-shirts without having seeded the ground first unless you want to lose not just your deposit but your shirt in the bargain. Because many of us are on the receiving end of the political hard sell, few of us have taken the time to see how broken the political system is and labour under the mistaken belief that this system can only be salvaged by a few "good" politicians banding together to establish a political party that will lay siege to the existing scrotal corruption and put the country to rights.

In political combat, it is preferable to wage war with the army that you have - not the army you hope to get. The armies that are available today consist almost entirely of paid mercenaries - some are paid more than others but the vast majority are paid, one way or the other. True believers are few and far between - quite often are figures of pity and derision. If you want to effect any kind of change, then you must play the game that is being played not the one that you imagine should be played. It is not a fair world and anyone whingeing about how "some intellectuals are whores" are playing with their hands tied behind their backs in a game where the opposite side is wearing steel-toed boots and is not averse to career-ending two-foot tackles. Chobo ua is usually the rule, not the exception.

First of all, you must organise. It isn't enough to write long-winded twitter-threads or fatuous blog posts (such as this one). You must find the money to pay voters and potential voters to choose you over your rivals. If you wish to spend your money, then your foolishness is the reason why you will lose. If you can sucker the people you wish to rule to pay for your political ambitions, then you are halfway to changing the world.

Secondly, play the game that's being played. If the other side abides by the rules, so should you. But the moment they step one millimetre over the line, you should abandon all thought of a "free and fair" process and bring all your skullduggery and cunning to bear. If this makes you queasy, please withdraw from the field of play and engage in spirited games of online scrabble or something.

Third, you must learn to lie. Ninety-nine per cent of the voters don't really want to be told that the economy is in the toilet; they want someone who can delude them that tomorrow will be a better day. Political truth-tellers are renown for losing elections, again and again. Radical honesty is for bearded white nationalist millennials living in California and New York who believe that the United States is the Greatest Country In The World.

I have seen with wonder grown adults trying to shame Dr David Ndii for his political combat and I wonder whether these people are really Kenyans. That they will not acknowledge that in politics there are no saints is an indictment of them and all they stand for. These are the sorts of people to drone on and on about "implementing the constitution" without putting their money where their mouths are. Those who understand the game know that "constitutional implementation" requires moral compromises more familiar to mafia assassins than to infant sucklings. Even the ministers of religion know this to be true - if you want to achieve political nirvana, fuck the rules and fuck your precious honour.

You identify like-minded people and organise. You watch the field of play and give as good as you get. As Sean Connery drolled in The Untouchables, "You want to get Capone? Here's how you get him. He pulls a knife? You pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital? You send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone!" Third, if you're the one paying for the whole kit and caboodle, you're a fool. We will take your money and piss on your dreams.

In my opinion, so long as you think setting up new political parties is the way to win, you will always lose. The last fifteen years has been a study in losing by the political naifs: Thirdway Alliance is one among dozens of loser political outfits that go back to the Little General Election of 1969 that tried to infuse truth, justice and honour in a cesspit of black mambas, snake-oil salesman, witchdoctors and murderers. A new party only wins if it bribes and bribes well. The other alternative is if it builds a national grassroots network (through bribery and tedious back-breaking political organising). Dr Ndii has chosen his path and whether his side prevails depends on how hard his side tackles its rivals - and how much money they are willing to burn to prove their point.

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