One would be hard pressed to predict the outcome of the 2017 General Elections in Kenya given the twists and turns of political innuendo at the beginning of the year. While the 2002 elections were about the re-introduction of the multiparty democratic process, the 2007 elections were marred by ethnic violence. The 2012/13 elections were about devolution and constructional transition, the dominant agenda in the 2017 elections will be about “corruption” and character - without factoring in the voice of the millennial generation. We need to look around the globe to appreciate the accruing evidence that the outcomes of the 2017 General Elections will be far from the traditional form.
The millennials are a global citizenry of young people tied together by a common upbringing facilitated by tap water, color television, child rights, cell phones and all the Apps on the internet super highway. They are the “instant” – you want it you got it generation. The millenials were born and grew up into a near perfect world in terms of food, shelter, education, water and human comforts that were a high society privileges less than a decade before the year 2000. Kofi Annan’s MDGs have a lot to do with forming this generation. This generation did not want for anything neither do they want anything. Anything will do. However, the millennials are no longer children they are adults, have joined the workforce and have families that now dictate the sentiments of the largest bloc in national populations. The millennials command attention in alarming ways.
In 2008 the pre-millennial voted in Obama and later tipped the scales on the adoption of the new constitution in Kenya. They were also credited for what was labeled the Arab Spring. Eight years later In 2016 the millennials in full control of the voting bloc led the exit or Brexit of the British from the EU. It was a trending topic, not to mention that it was so sassy “brexit”. The Millennials went on to other remarkable upsets including voting in Trump as the president of the worlds most powerful nation. On the face of it there does not seem to be much going on here. However, once you look past the face of these events and the irrational decisions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, you come face to face with the millennial culture. The millennial culture is characterized by instant joy and short term gratification and “I will do it just because I can”. The millennial culture feeds of what’s trending, the insta-gram, texting and plugged-in. To be friended or to be unfriended is an instant traumatic decision that is more important than long term happiness. The millennium culture does not need to be rational, moral or even have reason to act, it just depends on what is trending. It is not conservative nor loyal to any value or virtue system or even itself. The millennium culture baffles conventional wisdom, defies logic and confounds pollsters’ right off the bat.
Many political candidates will be spending millions of shillings buying voter loyalty, drawing up posters, dishing out election promises, castigating their enemies and extolling their own virtues. Nonetheless, one viral tweet will destroy hopes and dreams of many candidates on the eve of the elections and bring into office a surprising mix of leaders who will ask themselves “how did we get here?” The successful candidates will be more surprised that their voters who will promptly unfriend them within 24 hours and leave the nation saddled with a new leadership challenge. The losers will miserably claim ethnic loyalty, rigging and produce pre-election polls data to support their claims. The electoral administration will be under siege to explain the faults of whatever voting technology will be in use, but there will be nothing technically wrong with the system. However, this is not the only surprise that the millennials will present the nation. In a few short years they will form the backbone of the nations workforce and take over leadership of the economy. With the millennials in charge it can only be surprising!