LEVERAGING THE ELECTION OF YOUNG LEADERS TO USHER CHANGE
Kenya has progressively been electing young people to political offices. The 2022 general election was no exception and did continue the trend with an increase in numbers, especially in County and National Assemblies. This points to a maturing democracy that is willing to take chances in its youth. It is therefore crucial that the nation, and the youth, in particular, leverage this forward-looking atmosphere to push our country to the next level.
Young people running for office still face enormous challenges. Lack of finance within a commercialized political system remains a major hurdle; competing with older, seasoned politicians with deep pockets and social capital makes it even harder. Couple it with cultures that demand the fulfillment of certain obligations —such as marriage— before being deemed worthy, winning an election as a young person takes sheer sacrifice and temerity.
No doubt, the headways made thus far owe it to the courage and dare demonstrated by young people in seeking these positions. However, it would be much more difficult without the progressive Kenyan spirit. Not only are young people coming out in large numbers to support their peers, but the older generation is also demonstrably opening up to believing in, and embracing the idea of youthful leadership. This presents a chance for a shift in the status quo hence the need for young leaders to step up to the task. I delve into the opportunities that if exploited, could turbo-charge this process.
Getting down to action
The biggest responsibility lies with the elected, both individually and as a group. Being the ones who gave themselves for the positions, they are bound to the duty of midwifing the enticing future they conjured in voters’ minds. To do so they must roll up their sleeves and immediately get to work, fulfilling not only their manifestos but everything in between that holds the keys to unlocking the promises. Long-standing chronic obstacles between Kenya and her potential provide a wide scope that could do with fresh perspectives and approaches to solutions.
Unemployment, for example, is the single leading cause of runaway drug & substance abuse, gambling addiction, broken families, hopelessness, and mental illness across all age groups. Despite being a campaign agenda every other five years, unemployment and its consequences keep ballooning year after year; indicating the age-old line of action adopted towards solving it. Even more dispiriting is the fact that two decades post entering the technological era, little has been done to exploit tech know-how to edge it out.
The leadership of the country continually relies on traditional concepts where we could apply academic knowledge, creativity, and innovation to revamp them to create new avenues of income generation. A quick look at the internet reveals the exponential growth of thriving global markets. Goods, skills, and services can easily be imported/exported across the globe and we are witnessing go-getters aggressively hustle for the global cake as proof. Sadly, with little to no help from the government, markets become restrictive, risky, exploitative, and needlessly taxing. Additionally, the absence of a structured interaction with the markets limits the flow and collection of information; consequently locking the general population from venturing out.
Yet, smart legislation and cooperation with other nations can effortlessly open up spaces at home and abroad to place citizens in vantage positions to create and take up job opportunities. All we need to turn these possibilities into tangible enterprises is the imagination of bold uninhibited leadership. Young people’s unaldurated passion and unhinged motivation could just be the needed ingredient to steer us on the course.
Why we must get it right
Kenya’s present socio-economic state demands an urgent transformation. The situation cannot be sustained any further without severely jeopardizing the survival chances of the next generations. At this point, we have exhausted the luxury of trial and error and thus must rectify the path that brought us here with precision. Who better to drive this agenda than the very people affected by the problems of the day? Young people are the wearers of the pinching shoe and thus possess the raw desire to design a fitting pair.
The representatives sent to office also serve a much bigger picture beyond the apparent role of injecting new energy. Their election is a show of trust extended to them by an expectant citizenry. The direction faith in young leadership takes going forward, largely depends on the delivery of this cohort. They must therefore prove that they are worth their salt to send out the message that young people are capable and trustworthy. Without this, we risk losing the goodwill of the old and the inspiration of the young.
All of us on board
Having youth in parliament, senate, and county assemblies isn’t enough. The elected can only do so much. They are agents sent to set the stage so that citizens can in turn play their part. It is time to jump in and work with leaders to realize the Kenyan dream by putting ourselves out to take advantage of the resultant opportunities.
Similarly, we have an obligation of providing a support network that will amplify the youthful voice. We can achieve this by setting up other platforms young people outside political offices can use to entrench leadership from the grassroots to the top. So doing reinforces the power, will, and ability of the elected to speak and act on our behalf. Pulling the weight together comes with the bonus of spreading the burden so that the elected few are not overwhelmed by unreasonable expectations.
Pressure from an ignorant electorate often drives young leaders into corrupt activities in the misplaced quest to meet the people’s needs. For that reason, conducting civic education to help change the handout political culture could go a long way in creating a favorable working environment. Not only do hostile environments derail their actual job, but they also create wrong metrics for judging performance.
Young leaders must stay grounded by the vows they made, an oath to serve and successfully execute their mandate. Often, otherwise, well-meaning leaders are drawn off the path by the allure of power. One minute they are weeping with hapless voters on campaign trails, and the next, acting with reckless abandon due to “big man syndrome” that suddenly takes the place of heartfelt plans for mwananchi (ordinary citizen).
Future political ambitions can also be very distracting as the elected center themselves around party and personality politics hoping to secure the next election. While this is a tactic many a politician use to cement their relevance, it is certainly primitive and retrogressive. Youth have the power to change this skewed concept by being their very best and letting track record be the bargaining power rather than divisive politics of hate and sycophancy.
The next frontier
The last half century has been a period of reaping the fruits of independence and tailoring them to suit our autonomy. The young leaders who took charge back then helped the country navigate through tumultuous times of early self-rule; rejecting neo-colonization, fighting against one-party rule, and delivering a new constitution amongst others.
We have them to thank for the democracy whose backbone we are building upon to pursue equal representation today. As they finish the battle of their generation and exit the scene, it is our legacy to take up the baton and head out for the new dawn. We stand at the precipice of a transition and must, with unmatched patriotism and heroism, stand true as the warriors of the next combat —the recipe of pushing Kenya to the top of the world.
Brilliant and candid on contemporary issues on the quest for leadership by the youth. I am especially impressed by caution the piece gives for the youth when they get there-stand!