Presidential elections: you have the power to hire, use it wisely

When regular people like you and I apply for a job, employers will look at our curriculum vitae and assess whether we possess relevant working experience or qualifications to warrant a call for an interview.

They do so out of self-interest: if we are going to trust someone to manage the entire finances of our company, then they better have a track-record to prove their case. The alternative of hiring anyone equates to shooting in the dark and hoping you hit the target.

And so, if we agree that such is the norm, why then should it be any different when it comes to choosing an individual to occupy the most important office in land – that of the President?

This column intends to contribute to the narrative that since the future direction of our country matters more with each day that passes, the same hiring principle must apply to ascertain whether the candidates before us are fit to lead us to bigger and better things.

It does not serve our best interests as a people to hire blindly and simply hope for the best, and neither is it a good stand-alone reason to vote for a candidate on the basis of conforming to the status quo of change for the sake of change.  

The purpose of elections, especially presidential elections, is to present us voters with the opportunity to choose a candidate who we believe is best placed to deliver on matters that are very dear to us. Off the top of my head, I can think of peace and security – a right that we have, and one that continues to elude more than half of the world’s population –; improved standards of living that can be delivered through factors such as improved income, quality and availability of jobs, reduction in poverty levels, and access to quality public services like education and health care; to mention but a few.

However, in the era where you are uninformed if you don’t read and misinformed if you do, as voters, how can we adequately prepare to interview candidates for the most important office in the land?

As Brexit recently demonstrated, it is not enough to simply rely on third-party information to make an informed decision. If it were that straightforward, ‘what is the EU?’ would not have trended as the second top UK question on Google Trends the day after the results to exit the EU were announced. So, prepare we must, and here is how we can start the preparation: by deciding what matters to us.

Earlier I mentioned two factors that I believe are dear to me: peace and security, and improved standards of living. Going forward, when the time comes and candidates begin to sell me their manifestos, I will ask myself; how seriously do they take the peace and security that I am currently enjoying – their seriousness towards the matter in question will be measured by their actions towards the very right that I want to continue enjoying.

Better yet, I will want to be convinced how they plan to maintain peace and security. I am not especially hell-bent on the notion that their contribution to peace and security has to be a direct one, I simply want to see a genuine desire, preferably a devotion to that end that puts any of my doubts to bed.

With regards to improved standards of living, I will not only look at the proposals of how they intend to improve my standards of living, and to add, that of my friends and family, I will also want to be convinced that they have a proven track-record of improving the lives of others.

This is because, it is not in my best interest as a voter to hire someone for the highest office in the land who may or may not intend to use me as their guinea pig.

And by the way, don’t get me wrong, I subscribe to the notion that every citizen has the same right as the next man or woman to occupy any public office in the land, but I also know that we have many other public offices where such underqualified aspiring candidates can exercise their prowess with enough room for innovations, mistakes, and corrections. I just don’t think that the President’s office is for such trials. That would be a step too far even for my liberal mind, and I won’t apologise for wanting to vote for the most qualified candidate.

Indeed, you too can begin the vetting process by deciding what it is that you want to see maintained, implemented, or changed. For instance, when you are considering policies that matter to you – whether it is improved employment opportunities, financial inclusion, better healthcare services, access to quality education, prolonged peace and security, or even other intangible or unquantifiable concepts such as Imihigo, Agaciro or Ndi Umunyarwada, think about how you, your family, and friends have gained from policies and how you would want to see them maintained.

Consider the impact of intended policies towards you and your loved one – how they would, for instance, improve your standards of living. Perhaps more crucially, also think about it what would happen if what you enjoy today suddenly disappeared the day after casting your vote.

You see, I haven’t been around for many decades, but the few years I have been around and followed politics, especially when elections are looming, I have come to grasp how easy it is for candidates to promise heaven on earth. So, it is upon us voters to be realistic and differentiate fantasy from reality. We can do so by asking candidates the all-important question: yes, but how do you intend to achieve a, b, and c?

To conclude, it is important to reiterate that I am a firm believer in the concept of every citizen who abides by the law to be able to exercise the right to self-determination, including the pursuit of the highest office in country.

That much is true. But, I am also a realist, and in this world of reality, I want to be fair to me, my future children, those that matter to me, and also to my country. If a candidate wants my vote, then they must have demonstrable qualifications or experience to seek to occupy the seat of the captain whose vessel is currently in uncharted territory – and whose vessel cannot, under any circumstances, make a U-turn or disappear off the radar altogether. It isn’t too much to ask for, is it?