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September 25, 2018

They're afraid to fill Raila’s shoes

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands at Harambee House on March 9, 2018. /Jack Owuor
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands at Harambee House on March 9, 2018. /Jack Owuor

Raila Odinga has dropped the gauntlet, but no one, not even wannabe presidents, have the audacity to pick it up. Before the presidential handshake there were, possibly sponsored, calls for the icon of liberation and electoral justice to retire from active politics.

Orchestrated social media posts suggested Raila was clinging on to power, like other African presidents who have outstayed their welcome. Little attention was paid to the cost of speaking to power on behalf of the voiceless. Sacrifice and denial that come with a public cause are not considered.

No consideration was give to the burden of speaking to the insular power elite consistently for more than a generation, even when opportunities for collaboration existed. Even when the gravy train had space for more gullible passengers.

The burden of being the moral voice of restraint in a polity where public office is associated with plunder and eating was not considered. Not even the risk of the people's voice being misunderstood, in a polity where low civic consciousness turns liberators into enemies of the peace.

Democracy is under threat in a country where political deception follows tribal fault lines. The Luo against the Kikuyu; the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin against 40 other communities. National Super Alliance principal Moses Wetang'ula is the latest exemplar of ethnic deception:

How have the Bukusu of Bungoma gained from principal Wetang'ula's Minority leadership at the Senate for about six years? Now that the mutton is being pulled from his jaws, he is running to the tribe for solidarity. Personal ambition has been tribalised.

The greatest challenge has been keeping hungry opposition politicians on the starving side of the dining table against the tempest of State largesse. Such politicians usually sneak into the gravy train, playing double agents, while paying lip service to public causes. You do not have to ask any more why such politicians jump in and out of parties.

Without the leverage of public office, the power of reward and punishment, of the stick and the carrot, opposition leadership is largely a thankless responsibility. Much worse in a polity where principle, ideology, and integrity do not count.

Patronage blossoms. You need deep pockets, and leverage, to keep the loyalty of opportunists who consider every appointment a 'lunch' date. Proceeds of corruption circulate that way to sustain impunity.

The cost of sustaining a political harem is heavy. You need heavy resources to sustain change momentum is a polity that suffers low civic consciousness. The power elite has always exploited these challenges for survival.

The deceptive UK political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica's pre-election mind games were anchored on ethnic prejudices. Raila is a victim of these prejudices.

Miss Fiyah, a nondescript sage, exposes these suffocating prejudices: "Mental slavery is the worst form of slavery. It gives you the illusion of freedom, makes you trust, love and defend your oppressor while making an enemy of those who are trying to free you or open your eyes."

No one needs endorsement to inherit Raila's mantle in resistance politics. But the wannabes understand the cost and responsibility that comes with speaking for the people against a militarised and a handout-dishing status quo.

Raila's 'sabbatical leave' from resistance politics should have been an occasion for another ambitious politician to emerge. But potential inheritors of the oversize pair of shoes are sulking instead. Their hopes of Baba's endorsement are dwindling. Some are crying betrayal because of a presidential handshake whose implications are yet to unravel.

Before the call to peace, Raila was under pressure from those who want to inherit the alternative leadership mantle. But none, so far, is ready to pick up the gauntlet, which Baba has dropped.

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