Peace was a campaign promise; it must reign

In attempting to analyse the qualities of a president, writer John Dickerson of Slate Magazine explained that one word was missing from four main qualities he was suggesting. The word was leadership.
Gitura Mwaura
Gitura Mwaura

In attempting to analyse the qualities of a president, writer John Dickerson of Slate Magazine explained that one word was missing from four main qualities he was suggesting. The word was leadership.

He was writing during the 2012 Barack Obama and Mitt Romney US presidential campaigns, trying to coax the “measure for a president” on what to look out for, or expect of the winning candidate.

Kenya has just concluded its general elections, and the political decibels have gone down a notch awaiting a conclusive winner. But the principle applies of what qualities to look out for of the president-elect.

According to Dickerson, the four main qualities are political skill, management ability, persuasiveness and temperament.

For the sake of argument, let’s pick two of the questions he posed regarding the qualities: Is the candidate focused enough to follow an overarching vision, but nimble enough to tweak that vision when real-world events intervene to gauge his management ability?

What about temperament? Faced with a true crisis, does the candidate have the equanimity to handle the erratic and unpredictable pressures of office, and uncertainty?

These questions are not too late to ask of the presidential candidates, or of any sitting president in Africa. We can all agree, as Dickerson suggests, that a president should be a leader. But what does that mean?

Is it Gen. George Patton (who played a significant role towards allied victory in the Second World War) or Mahatma Gandhi (who preached non-violence and led India to independence from the British)?

It has been argued that these leaders were thrust by history to their roles, to which leadership can attributed to depend on the circumstance.

Yet, as Dickerson observes of the political twist, “what a president’s critics really mean when they say he “isn’t leading” is that he hasn’t announced that he is supporting their plan.

“Challengers vow to show leadership, but that amounts to little more than saying they’ll magically pass the vast programs they’re promising.” It is the norm that characterise election campaigns. Kenya was no exception, of which peace was a major promise for one and all.

It may not be forgotten that it was some of the leaders who underwrote the violence in the aftermath of the 2007 elections in Kenya.

Therefore, for all it means for the individual and collective security and socio-economic development, peace is personal; both for the Kenyan voter and his brethren in the East African Community in our inter-relatedness, in Africa and the world, as well.

But this was the Kenyan voter’s call to make. As Dickerson puts it: When voters evaluate a candidate’s character, they tend to be Manichean: Candidates are only one thing or its opposite. A candidate is either a leader or a ponderous professor, a man of the people or an elitist, the real deal or a phony.

As it is, the Kenyans have already spoken, though, as I write this, votes are still being counted to establish the winning presidential candidate, or whether it will be a  run-off.

We will hold the candidates, both the winner and the loser, to their word that each will uphold the Constitution. To their credit, they are insisting that peace must reign.

And since we know their manifestoes are not very different from each other in their expressed promises, only in manner of style and delivery, it probably may not matter much who takes it.    

We can also be pragmatic and give benefit of the doubt and observe, in agreement with Dickerson, that practically “it’s hard to say which attributes are most necessary for a president, if for no other reason than we don’t know what he will face. It’s also hard to put your finger on how to measure certain qualities that will be revealed only under the pressure of a presidency. There is no training for the Office.”

That, as he says, leadership is perhaps the sum of the four attributes—and probably a few more.

Twitter: @gituram

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