Yesterday, August 9, 2022, Kenyans marched to the polls to elect their new set of political leaders. At the time of writing this on the day of the election, winners are yet to emerge although the odds favour veteran opposition leader, Raila Odinga, to get lucky after four previous failed attempts. This is because he has the backing of his foe-turned-friend and outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, despite not belonging to the same political party. Aside from that, Raila was a former Prime Minister (2008 – 2013) in a power-sharing agreement after the 2007 electoral debacle that saw over a thousand people killed in post-election violence. Should the pundit fail in their prediction of a Raila victory, that will be the end of the road for the battle-weary opposition leader as this seems his last chance at clinching victory. He is 77-year-old and waiting for another five years will mean he will be recon-testing at 82. Definitely, he won’t be able to perform optimally even if he wins at that old age.
Apart from coming from a political dynasty established by his late father, Odinga Odinga, who was Prime Minster to Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru’s father, the fact that Raila decided to choose Martha Wangari Karua, a woman who is also the former Minister of Justice and a Kikuyu tribe like the outgoing president may work in his favour. William Ruto, who is the current Deputy President and a frontline candidate in this election, may however pull a surprise given his relatively young age of 55 and the resonation of his campaign of “Hustler Movement” with the Kenyan youths. Irrespective, my instinct favours Raila as his loss will be a collateral failure of both himself and the outgoing president with whom William has been locked in a bitter political feud in the last three years. A defeat of Raila is a defeat of the Kenyatta and Odinga dynasties. That will be a great political upset.
Away from that, there are quite a lot of things Nigeria can learn from Kenya and I will come to that in a bit but first a look at the factsheet on Kenya. According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ Frequently Asked Question information kit, 22,120,458 registered voters participated in yesterday’s Kenyan General Election. The country has 46,233 Polling Stations; the numbers of seats contested in yesterday’s elections are one Presidential, 290 members of the National Assembly, 47 women representatives in the National Assembly, 47 members of the Senate, 47 governors and 1,450 members of County Assemblies. Interestingly, in Kenya, there is no campaign expenditure and donation limits.
The August 9, 2022 poll is the country’s sixth set of general elections since the end of the one-party state in 1991 and the third set of general elections under the 2010 Constitution of Kenya. Worthy of note is the fact that in the last electoral cycle of 2017, the Supreme Court cancelled the presidential elections and ordered a new election to take place within 30 days. Frontrunner Raila Odinga decided to withdraw from the second race, allowing President Kenyatta to win a landslide with over 98 per cent of the vote.
As Nigeria prepares for her seventh general elections in this Fourth Republic in the first quarter of 2023, there are quite a number of lessons the country can learn from our East African brothers. First is gender equity. According to IFES FAQ on the 2022 Kenyan elections, “Kenya’s legal framework includes firm principles of gender equity. According to the 2010 Constitution, no more than two-thirds of the membership of any elective body in Kenya may be of the same sex. In this respect, the National Assembly reserves 47 seats for women and the Senate reserves 16 for women, with two more Senate seats reserved for women representing youth and persons with disabilities.” Interestingly, three out of the four presidential candidates chose female running mates. Similarly, the country believes in the twinning principle. For instance, out of the seven members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, two are women. While the head of the commission, Wafula W. Chebukati is a man, the vice chairperson, Juliana Cherera is a lady.
Another exemplary provision in Kenyan electoral law is the out-of-country voting provision. According to IEBC, out-of-country voting is allowed for the presidential election only. Kenyan voters outside the country may only vote from 12 countries, chosen based on the number of Kenyans who live there. The countries are Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, South Sudan, Germany, United Kingdom, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Canada and the US. A total of 10,444 diaspora voters, who registered for 2022 elections, are expected to have voted yesterday at their country’s consulates and embassies in those countries. It is quite unfortunate that despite the enormous contributions of Nigerians in Diaspora to the country’s economy and image laundry, they have no say in determining the political leadership of their fatherland except they take the cumbersome option of travelling down to Nigeria to register and later to vote.
It is interesting to note that there is a provision for independent candidacy in Kenya. Thus, you need not belong to any political party to run for political office in the land of safaris. Not only that but prisoners can also vote in Kenya, however, this is only in the presidential election. Information has it that 7,483 voters were expected to vote in prisons across Kenya yesterday. There you are! Kenya leads the way in political inclusion not only for women but also for her prisoners and diaspora population.
Unlike Nigeria where elections are held for just six hours, in Kenya, it is 12 hours. Elections held yesterday from 6am to 6pm! That’s still a feat my dear motherland dreams of. The Kenyan constitution stipulates that for one to win the presidential election, a candidate must receive over 50 per cent of the total votes cast and at least 25 per cent of the votes in at least 24 of the 47 counties. A runoff is scheduled within 30 days of the first election if no candidate receives more than half of the votes cast in the election and at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in 24 counties.
It is very interesting to note that Electoral Dispute Resolution is diffused across a range of institutions and processes in Kenya to handle different types of issues. Institutions include the IEBC, Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the judiciary. This is commendable and worthy of emulation because these multiple institutions will help to decongest the court, which is the only institution that resolves election disputes in Nigeria.
Similar to the US election, which is held on the first Tuesday in November of the election year, the constitution of Kenya requires the general election to be held on “the second Tuesday in August, in every fifth year.” This makes the election date known and sacrosanct. This is very much unlike Nigeria where the Independent National Electoral Commission is the body that determines the date of election, a date which is often not held sacred due to serial postponement of the general elections.
Another exemplary thing from Kenya is the five-year term of office, unlike in Nigeria whose term is four years. I am of the considered view that it is worth having the Nigerian term of office amended to be a maximum of two terms of five years each. This will save the country resources from holding too frequent elections.