Skip to main content
February 21, 2019

Raila’s Two-Horse Mantra Is A Trap

Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/Elkana Jacob
Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/Elkana Jacob

Uhuru looks at the other presidential contenders not as human pundas but people with conviction

Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s characterization of the forthcoming presidential polls as a two-horse race is a thinly-disguised trap. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and other contenders must be extremely wary of the PM’s strategy of forcing a race between the Odinga and Kenyatta political brand names in the Kenya of the early 21st century.

Raila’s preference for Uhuru as his only realistic rival in the Kibaki succession is a strategy with many hidden trapdoors, some of which would take the DPM and the Central Kenya communities decades to recover from and in the process seriously hamper national development and peaceful coexistence in this country and region.

To begin with, Uhuru must be on his guard against any Raila offer or challenge that seems to suggest that the PM is actually risking possible defeat.

It is not in Raila’s nature or psychological makeup to offer anyone the “formula” for his own defeat. In fact, the PM has perfected the strategy of Rabbit in the Tar Baby children’s story.

We all know how cunning Rabbit convinced his captors to throw him into an open field (and escape) by convincing them that it was the last place on earth he wanted to be.

Raila scores several things at once by seeking to isolate Uhuru as the only halfway viable contender against him in the Kibaki succession race.

First he devalues and degrades all the other candidates, especially those who stormed out of ODM and left him to his own devices or fell out with him on the road to the 2007 elections.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka fell out with Raila in 2007. Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Mvita MP Najib Balala , and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, in that order, all fell out with the PM separately later.

By disregarding this field of presidential hopefuls as pundas who have no chance of making a meaningful impression, and roping in such other contenders as Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, Gichugu MP Martha Karua, Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, former minister Raphael Tuju, and former PS James Kiyiapi into this category, Raila is being disrespectful to a large number of fellow leaders and millions of their combined admirers.

While Raila is busy playing the politics of exclusion and at the same time seeing prospective candidates fleeing from ODM, in Uhuru’s corner, where the DPM’s message has been consistently one of inclusion and respect for all others, the traffic is moving into, not out of, The National Alliance (TNA).

Never, even in their wildest dreams, did the PM’s strategists envisage a scenario whereby, five months to the election, people would be rushing towards every available exit in ODM while, in Uhuru’s TNA, they are jostling for every available entry.

In Raila’s scheming perspective, the only viable strategy at this point in time is to highlight Uhuru, isolate him and then encircle him and choke him off in another attempted “41-against-1” tribal arithmetic formula.

This is the genocide-compliant mindset that drove the 2007-08 pre-election hate and post-election violence. But it is now unworkable (which is not to say that it is still not divisive and dangerous).

This was amply demonstrated in Kajiado when the PM and Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama tried to get the Maasai worked up on the land issue during the recent by-election campaign.

The move backfired badly, with Kajiado Maasai complaining loudly that there were malicious foreigners from Narok in their midst trying to poison the harmony in Kajiado between Kikuyu and Maasai.

The bridge-building and reconciliation work of recent years Uhuru has engaged in, even before the formation of TNA in May this year, have clearly taken deep root.

People are not rushing out of ODM and into TNA for nothing. For one thing, political intelligence has become very well-developed in Kenya and the masses are seething, yearning to be free of old and unproductive politicking and ways of doing things.

They want something they can believe in because it delivers tangibly and they are voting with both their belief and their feet, out with the old (read ODM), in with the new (read TNA).

Like Ruto, Balala and Mudavadi before them, Assistant Minister and Starehe MP Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Nominated MP Rachel Shebesh have read the signs of the times and they spell out three letters – TNA.

When Uhuru looks at the rest of the field of presidential contenders, he does not see human pundas whose role is only to fall by the wayside far behind him as he romps to victory.

He sees fellow young Kenyans, all of whom have their own vision, passion and supporters, some inevitably more numerous than others, and his main emotion and frame of mind is to be inclusive, not exclusive or contemptuous.

What’s more, Uhuru will NEVER go the isolationist and encirclement route; he will never seek to organize whatever number of tribes against whatever other number of tribes. It is not his way – and it should not be anyone else’s way either.

Uhuru is winning daily, inexorably, and doing so by sheer force of personality and goodwill. 


The writer is a strategy advisor for The National Alliance and the Uhuru Kenyatta 2013 Presidential Campaign

Poll of the day