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October 23, 2018

Why political life is so addictive

Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga

THE average age of the US Senate is 62 years and that of the House of Representatives is 57 years.

The oldest serving senator is Dianne Feinstein of California, who is 83 years old. The longest-serving senator is Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who has been in office for 41 years now.

Of interest here is that the majority of these US senators are millionaires, who most certainly are not clinging to their positions because they need the money.

I quote these numbers to put into perspective my assertion that there is no such thing as being too old for politics. Indeed, what is clear is that the longer one is involved in politics, the harder it is to enjoy life outside that arena, no matter how rich you may be.

So it is no surprise at all that so many people previously prominent in the nation’s politics now seek a comeback. It might be more accurate to say that they are resuming their political careers interrupted when their ungrateful voters failed to support them at the last election.

I personally know of at least two former “senior politicians” (one from the Coast, one from Nyanza) who, in the 1980s or thereabouts, used to win their elections by overwhelming margins, in the tens of thousands. Before they eventually stopped running for Parliament they were losing by equally great margins, barely managing 1,000 votes to the winner’s 30,000 or so votes. That is how bad an addiction to politics can get.

Two reasons are usually given for this addiction to politics.

First is what may be defined as “the curse of anonymity”: Any of us, once having been a public figure who commanded a great deal of public attention and was accustomed to the status of a local celebrity, cannot find it easy to return to being a medium-scale farmer, or small businessman.

The second factor is hinged on the kind of person who seeks success in the political arena. Unlike the majority of us who are quite content to spend quiet weekends resting at our residence (or maybe travelling to our rural homes) there are actually quite a few people who simply cannot abide such tranquillity. They would much rather be out with Deputy President William Ruto, or with former PM Raila Odinga, addressing large crowds, and sending insults flying at their political opponents.

There are many who seek political office because any other mode of life is oppressively boring. As long there is the remotest hope of reelection, they will vie.


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