Miguna Mask Reveals Our Leadership Crisis
“Nobody in the history of Kenya’s multiparty democracy could spur and incite a mob better than Raila. In another life, he would have made a stellar trade unionist.” Those are not my words but Miguna Miguna’s at page 366 of his tome, Peeling Back the Mask.
Between calling him a vindictive and inconsistent flip flopper, turncoat and traitor, Miguna unintentionally credits Raila Odinga with substantial concessions that, everything considered, saved the country from further conflagration and kept the awkward Grand Coalition government going. He accuses Raila of recapitulating on his positions every time he met with an adamant Kibaki and ridicules PM’s negotiating skills which yielded heavy compromises.
But on the whole, Miguna comes across as a man who stumbled on to the corridor of power but got overwhelmed by his excessive zeal to exercise influence without restraint and obsessive desire to change things in a controlled environment. It inevitably turned into poisonous frustration that he ventilated on everyone around him. If Raila had done just one tenth of what exuberant Miguna pressed him to there would have been more friction, perhaps no coalition government and, who knows, may be more inter-ethnic violence.
Whether Raila should be applauded or condemned for his inaction or actions depends on one’s philosophy of leadership or political persuasion. The public can now judge Raila’s true character from two book-length accounts so far: Miguna’s Peeling Back the Mask and Babafemi Badejo’s “Raila Odinga- an enigma in Kenyan politics (2006), which profiled him in largely positive light.
But whichever way you look at it, no sympathy will be forthcoming for Miguna from both sides of the coalition —or even Raila’s foes. Which might explain why he sneaked out of the country on Monday night with his family after literally setting the house on fire. His memoirs will not be applauded even by allies of President Mwai Kibaki whom he savages in equal measure as conniving, sly, partisan, dishonest and receding in his dealings with Raila. In all probability, while some of his rants deserve a closer look, they will suffer because they are dressed in such emotionalism and vitriolic hatred. They also fail the test of basic morality; should a man you have taken into confidence spill the secrets of your dealings or relationship upon falling out?
Miguna’s book seeks to lift the veil on Raila and casts him as an untrustworthy, disorganized leader after power but who lacks the leadership mettle or nerve to stand up to pressure. It seeks to expose as a veneer the portrait of Raila as a reformist, principled, incorruptible and conscientious statesman. Which begs the question we posed last week: if the PM is such a weak-kneed wimp who kowtows to pressure, why the determination by foes to block him from ascending to State House? Why the proliferation of schemes to frustrate his presidential bid?
Notably, the State House response to my column last week did not categorically deny that Kibaki does not support Uhuru Kenyatta or Musalia Mudavadi, who enjoy obvious influence and goodwill from the Establishment. It simply repeated the refrain that the president is committed to bequeathing this country a legacy of peace and development.
In my view, the President has a right to support whoever he prefers openly but he cannot supply state apparatus to his preference. Indeed it is the democratic tradition in many places that outgoing presidents supports their deputies to succeed them which is why even here in Kenya, there was such furor when moves were hatched to change the constitution in 1976 to block Daniel arap Moi from succeeding Kenyatta. But Kibaki is not so lucky; the vice presidency is occupied by a tenant of convenience not his preferred choice.
In my career as a journalist I have had occasion to interview Raila at length about his politics and the milestones in his career from the 1982 coup to the first Kibaki administration. Suffice to say that Raila is just human with his fears, anxieties, and moments of wisdom like everyone else. He is at best when cast against heavy odds. His foibles could just be as graphic or even worse than Miguna paints them. But who is a demigod among the current crop of politicians?
Many are those who empathize with him because of his long struggle against the Kanu dictatorship, which some opportunists and beneficiaries are quick to trivialize or even criminalize as Kalonzo Musyoka attempted the other day. I agree with the PM that we cannot forget about our past, and the sacrifices of those who brought us to this happier, freer state. That’s an insult we reserve for ungrateful political vultures that would not hesitate to take us back to the dark past.
Dictatorship, injustice, discrimination and ethnic prejudice are alive and with us. Only a firm leader with high moral rectitude will take us forward from our present predicament of pretended success and accomplishment. Unfortunately, the choice will be limited to the candidates who will make it to the ballot paper, however bad.
Makali is a journalist and the director of The Media Institute. firstname.lastname@example.org