OPINION: Economy is politics, so no one should be surprised by ‘hustler’ politics

By Harrison M. Ikunda

Every sane and right thinking human being desires and deserves to live a good life.

Good life is embedded in the state of his/her personal economy and that of the state of the nation he or she lives in.

Economy is at the centre of how we live and how well healthy we are and even how well we relate to each other.

Good economy more often than not creates happy citizens. A poor one hardly creates a healthy person nor good relations.

For African continents countries, Kenya included, it is high time we worry more of our economies and that of the individual people.

If Africa happens to be left far behind this first half of this century by so many other nations of the world, with the fast surge of technological advances, it may never recover or may find itself in worse problems like before when it faced pogroms and calamities of slavery, colonialism, disease, poverty and ignorance.

It should not happen. So when in Kenya we see the complaints and concerns about our economy it should not be a surprise to anybody. Economy especially in current times can breed a lot of trouble in the society.

One should then not be surprised of the ‘Hustler’ politics being propagated and led by Deputy President William Ruto in Kenya at the moment.

It is the politics of the downtrodden and what some would call ‘Masufferers’ (people painfully struggling to make a live parlance). It’s catchy and reactive to the economic phenomenon gripping Kenya.

The people struggling economically are many and the majority in the country and we can’t wish them away.

DP Ruto himself is not a poor person by any standard but he has through political intellect and cunningness made himself to belong to them (the poor).

He has been catchy in words that he is a son of a nobody in economic pyramid and this enables him to blend with the poor bases in his political style and demeanor.

Underrate this at your own peril! Underrate the fact that most people living in Kenya have a tough and difficult economic paradigm at your own peril as well.

Anything even a promise that can change their fortune whether by some mystique or whatever is welcome. That is why anything that promises hope economically easily sells in countries facing the same challenge with Kenya.

Prosperity gospel has been here and will continue to thrive. It easily rhymes with the masses hopes and wishes. There is nothing wrong with religion making good promises but the conduct of characters is what has been questionable.

The same has been gambling that saw many young people and the hustlers (Masufferers) gamble their meager incomes or money they lay hands on with promises of hitting jackpots.

I’m not suggesting Rut by intent or design is playing in those leagues but you can figure out that his politics of promising to change the economic fortunes of the poor and the many eking out a living in a humble way is selling very well.

Today talk to any doing various hustles like bodaboda guys, the mama mbogas, the mkokoteni guys, the matatu crew , the micro traders and many earning low incomes or the unemployed and such, they believe in the message of the hustler .

They believe Ruto will liberate them from the vestiges of the said exploitation by the so called dynasties. They see a lot of hope in him. They believe they will gain power and economic empowerment through him. They believe that some guys have conspired to make them poor and to remain so.

The unfortunate part of politics is too many promises too little in delivery. Outgoing US President Donald Trump came into office with many huge and catchy promises. He promised to liberate the poor and to drain what he labeled as the Washington swamp.

By the time of leaving little evidence of this has happened. Memorably he has been a bit unpredictable and has been ably key in taming China in its global expansion (economically and militarily) appetite, though China will remain a powerful nation and whose economy will still grow in leaps and bounds it has seen a lot of checkmating by US under Trump and has had to reconcile with how the rhetoric against it has been sold.

I have seen so much promises by Kenyan politicians since independence but we have seen little changing in terms of behavior.

If Ruto could change the course of our history he has a lot to do. Well also two years to the next general election and Presidential one being part of it is a lot of time and a lot can change.

Nonetheless, his message of giving hope to the downtrodden is selling and growing like a dry bush fire. The message of hope is selling like a hot cake and looks unstoppable at the moment.

For long perhaps I have been one of those warning that we can’t continue with our economic dispensation without causing trouble. This I have faithfully done since the reign of late President Daniel Arap Moi.

With a surging population and growing unemployment and so many people into poverty, you can’t hold on for long. Something along the way revolutionary or even nasty can crop up any time.

That we are in middle of economic crisis is not in doubt and Covid-19 Pandemic has only made a tough environment worse. This is a perfect environment for political populism and revolutionary ideas and ideals of whatever shade.

I’m not sure who will hold the mantle to revolutionalize the economy. If we are not pacing our economy to change as quickly as Germany, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, China and such have done before, we are headed for a lot more populist or revolutionary politics.

The economy is hurting and the many poor have little or nothing to loose to seek whatever changes politically – desirable or undesirable. We failed to tame the tide and it is the time chicken are coming home to roost.

The politics of economy cannot be ignored and globally they will keep growing and becoming hotter.Kenya is not spared in this. Moreover, who loves poverty anyway?

We have to persistently and constantly keep our eyes on the economy. Economy is politics. Nowadays economic politics are no joke at all. They can mess up or cause revolutions – positive or even those that create more problems.

Many times human learn the hard way. I hope this is not the way Kenyans have to learn, but whatever is unfolding, we better watch out.

Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator, Researcher, Consultant, and Chairman Consumer Downtown Association.


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