LESSONS FROM MOI

Raila-Uhuru merger would be second rebirth

Ahead of 2022 polls, the ever-crafty Moi approached Raila and his National Development Party and enticed him to merge with Kanu.

In Summary

• It is more accurate to describe the emerging situation as a merger between TNA and ODM and what would emerge is an entity that will nearly sweep all elective offices.

• Moi believed by merging the smaller NDP with Kanu, the party would reinvent itself ahead of the 2002 General Election.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga share a light moment at Harambee House after their meeting where they resolved to work together and unite the country after the long protracted elections. March 9, 2018. /JACK OWUOR
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga share a light moment at Harambee House after their meeting where they resolved to work together and unite the country after the long protracted elections. March 9, 2018. /JACK OWUOR

It was the late Stanley Oloitiptip, a large and colorful minister during the Moi era, who popularised the expression “if you can’t beat them, you join them”.

It simply means if someone is too strong for you to defeat, it is better to be on the same side with them.

When keeping the opposition at bay in their clamor for political change, President Daniel Moi knew the ruling single party, Kanu, was in trouble.

 
 
 

There was no way Kanu was going to survive in the 2002 elections as it was widely hated, even in its then stronghold of Rift Valley.

So, as a survival strategy, the ever-crafty Moi approached Raila and his National Development Party and enticed him to merge with Kanu.

Raila had a choice to make: Remain gallantly and defiantly opposed to the Moi regime, a position that had already sent him to detention for nearly a decade, or throw in the towel and join Moi much to the chagrin of those who wouldn’t believe the about-turn.

He chose the latter.

Many scratched their heads and this writer recalls throwing a few harsh words in the then still emerging blogsphere aimed at Raila. The primary question was why, of all people, would Raila join in the by then truly hated Moi government.

Can Uhuru-Raila merger give Kenya it's second rebirth?

DESTROYING KANU FROM WITHIN

The immediate answer Raila had — and would become clear years later — was that he knew and believed nobody else could beat Moi and Kanu. The better option was thus to join Kanu and beat him from within.

 
 
 

For his part, Moi believed by merging the smaller NDP with Kanu, the party would reinvent itself ahead of the 2002 General Election.

The merger was agreed to on March 18, 2002, and Raila became Kanu’s secretary-generalMoi believed by merging the smaller NDP with Kanu, the party would reinvent itself ahead of the 2002 General Election. as the then little-known Uhuru Kenyatta filled one of the new four vice-chairmen positions. The merger was later approved by delegates at a conference in Nairobi. With that, NDP disappeared as a party.

The main casualty of the merger was Prof George Saitoti, then Vice President and a man Moi humiliated publicly in basically saying he didn’t see him as fit to take the presidency over from him.

Saitoti did not even bother to contest and defend his position as Kanu vice-chairman after key supporters abandoned him, perhaps reading Moi’s mood that he was headed nowhere near State House.

Although the merger increased Kanu’s chances ahead of the polls given NDP was the second-largest opposition party and commanded unwavering support from the Luo, this would not come to pass.

Moi and Raila fell out in July 2002, months to the polls after President Moi failed to endorse Raila as the Kanu flagbearer and instead opted for Uhuru.

His decision shocked everyone, especially those in the pecking order such as Raila, Saitoti and Kanu loyalist Kalonzo Musyoka, who all believed they were way qualified and ready to be President than Uhuru.

So, is history repeating itself? Are we likely to see a merger between Jubilee and ODM?

Yes, to the first question, but no to the latter.

The dynamics of 2022 succession politics are far much different, rendering themselves to a different posture and outcome.

It is more accurate to describe the emerging situation as a merger between TNA and ODM and what would emerge is an entity that will nearly sweep all elective offices, starting from the top, all the way down to MCA, following the impending promotion of BBI proposals and having its recommended referendum pass and become law.

It will be a second rebirth of the country we have been anticipating since 2010.