NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga has been defined as an enigma in Kenyan politics. An enigma is a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand. Raila is such a person — at least to most Kenyans who have not had an opportunity of working closely with him.
Of course most of this mystery comes from the contradictions around what he is. Raila is a socialist, who lives the life of a capitalist; a revolutionary who operates like a colonialist; and a reformist who thrives in the status quo.
He has been involved in a coup attempt and jailed for close to a decade only to end up working for the same man who jailed him as chief hatchet man as secretary general of Kanu, and as a Cabinet minister. He is the man who said ‘Kibaki Tosha’ only to watch as hordes of his supporters tried to destroy Kibaki’s legacy five years later.
However, one of the most intriguing things for most is how Raila goes about trying to be President of Kenya. One expects that by now, Raila would know that to become President of a primarily conservative republic such as Kenya, it is important not to rattle the system. Kenya is run by a public service that is built around the British system; an institution that is developed to be completely understated but ruthlessly powerful, and efficient.
There is absolutely no way anyone will become President in Kenya (or Prime Minister in the United Kingdom) against the will of this institution. (Not unless you are planning a coup).
But Raila has bucked this system at literally every point, as he tries to be President. He has attacked the Public Service Commission, the Judiciary, parastatal chiefs, security services, etc. He has attacked independent commissions as well as various aspects of the Executive. Essentially, he has made it clear to them that should he become President, there will be radical changes in the system. Then he has told the country that his first action if he is elected will be to amend the Constitution — to introduce a Chief Minister and re-organise government.
Then there is the ‘little matter’ of the military. I understand that, across the world, military institutions tend to have a serious problem accepting as Commander-in-Chief a civilian who has ever tried to manipulate them into a coup.
Second, and as I have explained above, there is the silent message to the non-political government infrastructure that Raila will very ruthlessly reorganise them en-mass; should he become the head of state. Finally, there is the private sector; a group that does not like radical change but hear this message Raila is selling; and, therefore, look at the possibility of his presidency with serious apprehension.
The above is what leads those of us who know Raila well to see beyond the different layers of deception that shroud his presidential bid. Raila is not running for President. He knows he cannot make it.
What Raila is doing is negotiating for power. He did a pilot with the IEBC last year, where he forced the government to negotiate with him; an unofficial opposition leader. He wants to do it again, but for a part of government.
Using the IEBC playbook, he will stall the election process, cause chaos on the streets and destabilise the government. This will cause a local and international crisis. Then he will be called in to negotiate terms where he will ask for ‘nusu mkate’ — half a loaf is better than nothing!
Unfortunately, those of us who know him well also know that he has no problem if, in the process, lives are lost and property destroyed.
It is something he has done before.