The Kenyan media is awash with tensions and opaque schemes within ODM. Each time ODM is confronted with small democratic tests, challenges or task, its ‘Permanent Supreme Leader,’ Raila Amolo Odinga, resorts to strong arm tactics and intimidation of those he is scared of, especially members of his Luo community.
Mr. Odinga isn’t blocking Luos from prominent leadership positions in ODM because he is actually threatened with dethronement, which, frankly, is overdue. No, he only feels threatened by the prospect, no matter how remote that might be, of the possibility that his non-succession plans within Luo-Nyanza and ODM faces serious jeopardy.
Nor is he really interested in creating a national face and platform for ODM. All Mr. Odinga really wants is to consolidate power into his hands and to ensure that his position and authority is never challenged.
Let me do a partial retraction of the foregoing point: Mr. Odinga isn’t scared of being replaced as the Luo Paramount Chief. No. That might or might not happen in his lifetime. What really keeps him awake at night every day is the likelihood that his twin-competing non-succession plans might crumble.
The first one is to try and manipulate everyone – the west, the civil society, the media, Luos – name it – into supporting him until he becomes the President of the Republic of Kenya, if he will ever become one.
That’s the genesis of the false, falsified and self-fulfilling premise and chorus, ‘We need someone like Raila Odinga who has a long history of struggle in order to implement the new constitution, transform the political system, and uproot the culture of impunity, corruption, tribalism and cronyism.’
That song is bellowed incessantly without regard to Mr. Odinga’s 20-year blemished record in government.
And second, Mr. Odinga’s other aim is to pave way for his daughter, Rosemary, or son, Fidel, to succeed him either following the ‘successful’ completion of his two terms(s), or upon his inevitable demise, at least to both the Luo and ODM mantles.
In the pursuit of these personal and filial ambitions, Mr. Odinga is prepared to sacrifice anyone and everyone, but more especially members of his Luo community because he understands their deep-rooted historical, social and cultural psychosis that compels them to keep blindly supporting him even when they know that in the end he has never represented, reflected or would ever realise their ideals, dreams or full potential.
Virtually all educated Luos know that Mr. Odinga is a tragedy waiting to happen. They are aware of his numerous unfulfilled promises not just to the Luo Nation, but also to his constituents of Kibera slums. They know that he raises their hopes only to crush them as an annual ritual.
Deep down, they know that Mr. Odinga isn’t better than Moi. Not only is his formal education limited; his ability to manage a clean and incorruptible administration was tested and found wanting during the five stuttering years of the grand coalition government.
For instance, critics of the standard gauge railway line are aware that Mr. Odinga, as the Prime Minister, was largely responsible for this opaque and dodgy contract just as he was of the transparency and accountability issues in the Biometric Voter Registration Kits, Maize, Triton and Kazi Kwa Vijana scums.
Yet, the Luos still support Mr. Odinga, mostly out of historical fear, anger, frustration and deep resentment they have for the ‘system.’
They justifiably (and are entitled to) believe that the existing system has been conditioned to have unreasonable fear and apprehension of (and they believe the system has conspired against) - successive Luo leaders, preventing them from ascending to the pinnacle of political power in Kenya.
That’s primarily the reason why the Luo have stuck to or with Mr. Odinga even as he unjustly and viciously victimises anyone whom he suspects might threaten the above twin personal and filial objectives.
The Luo believe that given the unfair and dangerous political history of their struggles, they need a courageous street fighter as their leader even if he isn’t as well-meaning as he has consistently portrayed himself to be. That’s why they would castigate, scandalise, scorn, threaten and attempt to destroy anyone who challenges Mr. Odinga.
Over the years, their unyielding and blind support for Mr. Odinga has made ODM a typical one-man outfit. Undeniably, many believe that ODM has always been Raila, and Raila has always been ODM.
However, what is causing Raila indigestion is not how to conduct his rigging schemes within ODM. Persistent and consistent electoral fiddling, meddling and fraud long became a patented practice in ODM. Mr. Odinga learnt and perfected these practices under the Grand Master Daniel Toroitich arap Moi.
Under Raila, the only distinguishing characteristic that gets one elevated to a position of real and significant power, privilege and influence isn’t intelligence, ability, competence and one’s abilities and commitment to the national good; it’s the level of one’s lyrical sycophancy and filial relationship to Mr. Odinga.
That’s why ODM has distinguished itself as the only African political formation with a Permanent Supreme Leader. The ODM Party Leader is more permanent than Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe or Uganda’s Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Mr. Odinga is a leader into perpetuity; akin only to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. In a totalitarian outfit like ODM, competition and ambition is not just checked; it is purged before it can show its face.
This is the context within which to understand why bizarre scenes of raw threats, intimidations and pure blackmail have been used to scare a galaxy of timid Luo politicians like James Orengo, Dalmas Otieno and Evans Kidero from taking part in open, fair, transparent and democratic competition within ODM.
They ought to have known that there will never be free, fair and democratic elections in ODM as long as Mr. Odinga is the Permanent Supreme Leader.
And since Mr. Odinga considers Luo votes cheap, guaranteed and in his back pocket, he doesn’t think twice before he hurls abuse on all Luos who would dare challenge him.
Moreover, Mr. Odinga holds the gold medal for street brawls. That’s why he recently threw down the gauntlet before Dalmas, Orengo and Kidero, goading them into a fight. He hasn’t just publicly hurled abuse at them, calling them stupid; he has also launched a withering propaganda war against them, claiming that they had ‘sought his help to fence off certain party positions for them.’
It’s no longer material whether the allegation is true or false. Dalmas, Orengo and Kidero fell into his well-laid trap. “ODM is not a Luo party; it’s a national party,” Raila thunders in response to the trio’s political ambitions, as if the immediate ODM secretary general Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o isn’t Luo.
However, rather than allow themselves to be thwarted, outmanoeuvred and politically sacrificed, Orengo, Dalmas and Kidero must learn that Luos are naturally averse to cowardice.
Before Raila succeeded Jaramogi as the Luo Paramount Chief, he had to literally fight it out in Ford-Kenya with Michael Kijana Wamalwa, Orengo and Nyong’o. When he failed to forcefully take over Ford-Kenya, Raila bought NDP, resigned from parliament and faced a by-election.
Dalmas, Orengo and Kidero should publicly confront Raila to a duel and fight for their rights, or they should shut up. They should be ready to face the electorate afresh to test their mettle. Cowardice or any other strategy will play into Raila’s hands.
Mr. Miguna Miguna is a lawyer and author of Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya and Kidneys for the King: Deforming the Status Quo in Kenya.