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September 24, 2018

NO, AND NO AGAIN, TO RAILA'S FLIP-FLOP REFERENDUM

BACK AT IT AGAIN: Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka make a grand entry into Uhuru Park for the Saba Saba rally. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
BACK AT IT AGAIN: Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka make a grand entry into Uhuru Park for the Saba Saba rally. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

A referendum isn’t cheap. In Kenya, it often consumes tens of billions of shillings that can be used to transform Turkana County into Kenya’s breadbasket and thereby play a significant role in reducing youth unemployment and poverty.

Had the country been more stable, secure and prosperous than it currently is, I would have climbed Mount Kenya and shouted: Let Raila Odinga have his referendum tomorrow!

I would have done that unapologetically in order to rid our country of this persistent political stench that has fouled our homes, schools, churches, workplaces – name it – and still hovers over us like a curse.

However, since the country is haemorrhaging from the wounds inflicted by terrorists, impunity merchants and economic racketeers, we cannot participate in Raila’s unending political bungee-jumping. The sport is only suited for people – or countries - in tip-top (economic) health and solid constitutions.

The tens of billions of shillings Mr. Odinga is demanding we must waste on his tragic pursuit for glory but which he has cleverly disguised as “a national agenda” can comfortably provide tens of millions of children from modest families with a decent education - and positively change their lives; lives which Mr. Odinga has been playing lip service to for more than twenty years.

A referendum isn’t cheap. In Kenya, it often consumes tens of billions of shillings that can be used to transform Turkana County into Kenya’s breadbasket and thereby play a significant role in reducing youth unemployment and poverty – two of the thirteen laundry-list items Raila unveiled on Monday, July 7th. 

Instead of utilising our meagre resources to create employment for well-paid foreigners working at the United Nations whom Mr. Odinga - in an act of typical unpatriotism – has insisted should be in charge of running his Okoa referendum, we can use those funds to build and equip more schools, health centres and factories. That’s the surest way to “leave this world better than we found it;” a song Mr. Odinga has hypocritically been singing for close to thirty years.

Had Mr. Odinga left a squeaky clean record of his grand coalition tenure; had he scrupulously kept his hands in his pockets, his family and cronies out of the public till and pay roll; and had he eschewed nepotism and tribalism; I would have been the first person to enlist on his fledgling 2017 Okoa Army.

Instead, we have a tired, lazy, ungovernable, inept and completely compromised iron-fisted totalitarian that unleashed his “Men in Black” goons on his own party in order to stifle dissent and thwart organic succession; a man who has clearly run out of tricks but is still pretending to be the inevitable leader of this country – still trying to force himself on us.

Had Mr. Odinga conceded defeat and retired from politics like a statesman on April 9th, 2013 when the Supreme Court dismissed his petition; had he graciously exited the political stage; had he ceded ground for the Jubilee administration to either show its mettle or crumble within the first two years - and had he allowed a smooth transition in Luo Nyanza and within ODM, and limited himself to the onerous task of mentoring young visionaries to continue the battle where he would have left it – I would have joined his Saba Saba cavalcade.

Instead – and after only a handful of the unemployed youth and three out of Cord’s 24 governors – turned up for his most defining political moment – Raila has finally acknowledged that he was all along hankering for the laughable demands he made immediately following his electoral loss in 2013: a ‘half a loaf’ through a referendum.

Some of the key architects, strategists, thinkers and pillars responsible for Mr. Odinga’s political ascendancy like Ambassador Peter Rateng’ Oginga Ogego are blunt in their assessment: ‘Miguna, this Saba Saba nonsense is an attempt to recycle what we did for him after the 1997 elections. At the time, we felt that we could only defeat Kanu and Moi either through cooperation or intense agitation. But times have changed. But the man is either desperate or he has never moved on from that period…I’ve gone back and reread Babafemi Badejo's Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics in order to reconfirm that Raila indeed is a political conman…’

This view is widely shared by many of Raila’s former senior aides; people who advised, ran errands and heroically received all the blows and the police tear gas – even went to detention - on behalf of Mr. Odinga: The long suffering and stoic Israel Agina, Dimba Jakobuya, and Herbert Ojwang’. None of them was at Uhuru Park on July 7th.

Kenyans should ask themselves where Caroli Omondi, Mohamed Isahakia, Tony Gachoka, Dick Ogolla and all those characters who toiled for Raila for so long disappeared to, or why.

Even Gitobu Imanyara, Makau Mutua, Ngunjiri Wambugu, Samuel Omwenga and Barrack Muluka who persistently hurled abuse at Raila’s perceived opponents during the 2013 elections have vanished from his side.

Where was Budalang’i MP, Ababu Namwamba; Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero; Mombasa Governor, Ali Hassan Joho; Kakamega Governor, Wycliffe Oparanya; Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok; Migori Governor, Zackary Obado; and Machakos Governor, Alfred Mutua? Aren’t these supposed to be Cord’s chief defenders, strikers and heavy lifters? Or are they also suddenly deemed to be Jubilee moles?

Why is everyone of integrity fleeing?

Can a Field Marshall go to war against his most potent enemy without such generals and still emerge victorious – or is this Okoa rubbish – as I stated in my column last week, merely a desperate act of a suicide maniac?

Instead of working with Kenyans with integrity, commitment and discipline, Raila is surrounded by a funny cast of characters: Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula, Amos Wako, Johnston Muthama, Otieno Kajwang’, Jakoyo Midiwo, Charles Njonjo – name them - characters whose names and records elicit mirth from the Jubilee Army.

When I joined the University of Nairobi in September 1986, I found that Wetangula had left an unedifying record of having been the only student in the history of that illustrious institution who had had his room burnt to ashes by fellow students on account of prolific dodginess and uncomradely conduct.

Wetangula was subsequently forced to complete the balance of his university studies from outside. Yet this is now Mr. Odinga’s primary megaphone – together with Muthama – men whose source of massive wealth (like Mr. Odinga’s) few seem to comprehend.

Right behind Mr. Odinga is Kalonzo Musyoka; a man whose only known achievement is that he acquired the moniker “Watermelon” during the constitutional referendum of 2010 – a dubious moniker he continues to wear like a badge of honour.

One of Mr Odinga’s right-hand men is Amos Wako; the only person Professor Philip G. Alston called the embodiment of the culture of impunity in Kenya; the typical poisonous green snake. The less said about Charles Njonjo, Midiwo and Kajwang’ the better.

Kenyans should ask themselves why a leader who cannot have or keep friends, colleagues and aides with integrity should be trusted with power.

There is consensus among his former senior aides that Raila wants to be prime minister again. If he cannot be prime minister, Raila would rather replace Evans Kidero as Nairobi governor or join Jubilee in a government of national unity.

If Jubilee grants him his referendum wish and he were lucky enough to defeat them like he had defeated Mwai Kibaki in 2005; Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula would prefer to sneak back to power like Simeon Nyachae had done after the 2005 referendum. Raila would then try to repeat the feat he accomplished in New Kanu following cooperation and merger between Kanu and NDP. 

In other words, Mr. Odinga has never moved on. He never accepted the results announced by the IEBC, nor the Supreme Court verdict thereafter. He conveniently wants us to forget the fact that both institutions bear his DNA: he tirelessly rooted for them and literally installed the heads of both institutions. Raila was the architect and power behind the rot surrounding the procurement of the failed BVR kits. 

He regrets having campaigned for the current constitution against my solid advice that a constitution should not be moulded to suit our individual idiosyncrasies. I had implored Raila to insist on the inherent values and superior institutional qualities of a parliamentary system especially in a fragile multi-ethnic country like Kenya. But Raila wanted undiluted autocratic presidential powers. Let him stew in his own juice.

The current presidential system is the system Mr. Odinga chose – and which ultimately Kenyans voted for – in a national referendum. That was only four years ago. We cannot hold another referendum on the system of government too soon after the constitutional promulgation. Nor is the 13-item laundry list Raila unveiled at Uhuru Park on July 7th capable of being formulated into a referendum question. The “O” in “Okoa Kenya Movement” is for “Odinga;” and the “K” is for “Kalonzo!” There is absolutely nothing new there.

Just because Raila was defeated on March 4, 2013 cannot and should never be a legitimate ground for another referendum. 

Of course there is insecurity, poverty, unemployment, tribalism and corruption in Kenya. These are not new ailments. They were there when Mr. Odinga was Prime Minister, yet he did nothing to address any of them. Many observers believe he might even have exacerbated some of them.

Referendum – like Raila Odinga – is a highly polarising agenda. It forces the country to have only two choices: Yes or No; Raila or Uhuru. There is no in-between. No shades of grey.

You are either with Raila or with Uhuru – although the former has been desperately trying to pry a wedge between the President and his deputy so that in case of a fallout within Jubilee, Raila can either squeeze himself into an inclusive government deal with the President, or he can harvest from the URP zones in 2017 and defeat the President.

Yet life – like democracy - is much more nuanced. There are uncertainties, doubts, unexplored questions and unforeseen consequences. If one boxes himself into a corner like Raila has done, he might just become collateral damage.

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.

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