Raila should play up reform credentials in 2022 bid

Former PM has a record to speak of while DP Ruto has a fractious Jubilee on his neck.

In Summary
  • The hustler tag being bandied by Ruto should not scare Raila.
  • He should roll out policies and programmes in key speeches that will pronounce his intentions if he forms a government.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Image: FILE

Since the handshake a new certainty has been added to death and taxes in Kenya: Raila Odinga will run for president in 2022. It’s also certain that his key opponent will be Deputy President William Ruto. This will be Raila’s fourth, and probably last, bid.

For the ODM leader, this bid must be as strategic as is humanly possible. The former Prime Minister needs to be cautious on a few issues in order to galvanise support across the country.

First, he must tone down on the anti-Ruto rhetoric. He should focus on his record instead of lowering the presidential bid to contest between Raila and Ruto. After all, Raila has a record to speak of while Ruto has a fractious Jubilee on his neck. Raila should play up these differences.

 

The hustler tag being bandied by Ruto should not scare Raila. He should roll out policies and programmes in key speeches that will pronounce his intentions if he forms a government. These propositions need to focus on how to combat poverty and joblessness, an area that Uhuro and Ruto have dismally failed. To Ruto, the hustler tag is a political message that can easily sell. Raila should coin and sell a message that will equally endear him to the populace instead of fighting the hustler tag.

Raila must also focus on his greatest impediment—the electoral process. Through the goodwill that he has earned from the handshake, Raila should ensure that he puts in place a credible electoral commission that will preside over credible, accountable and verifiable elections, not just at the presidency level but at all levels.

He must be aware that he could win the presidency without majorities in the Senate, National Assembly and county assemblies, which would make governing a nightmare. This is because the concept of deep state exists in every county.

There are elites who have captured country politics through use of resources and power amassed at national and local level. They use these resources to micromanage the affairs of the electoral agency and provincial administration to rig elections cycle after cycle, thus, perpetuating corruption and cronyism. These cartels must be dismantled to enable voters to elect progressive and development-conscious leaders.

Raila lost considerable ground during the revenue sharing debacle. He needs to reach out on the pastoralist and Muslim community, and buttress his earlier record of fighting for their liberation after years of marginalisation and disenfranchisement.

Raila should also be conscious of grassroots structures. Elections are won and lost on the ground. Party structures at the ward, constituency and county levels need to be revamped, strengthened and staffed with technocrats who are able to craft policy and strategy that will help the party to win elections.

Party nominations and all processes that precede elections should be transparent and not handled by bigwigs at the headquarters in connivance with the elite at the grassroots. Nominations to county assemblies, Senate and National Assembly should be done in such a way as to attract diversity, expertise and votes. There should be some form of public participation in this process.

The former Prime Minister should also seriously heed the words of his son, which caused a storm on social media. He and his lieutenants need to tone down on insults. It demeans, degrades and denigrates the party and what it stands for. The party should appreciate and reach out to other entities and individuals who stood with them in the last election. Even where there is divergence of opinion, civility and decorum should prevail.

 

If every statement read by the secretary general is a missive, invective or insult aimed at a party or individual, what is it that you are offering Kenyans? ODM should take the moral high ground and seek solutions to problems bedeviling the country. The party should not appear as the greatest apologist for Jubilee misdeeds. Multiplying political casualties and destroying bridges is a sure recipe for political failure.

Raila lost considerable ground during the revenue sharing debacle. He needs to reach out on the pastoralist and Muslim community, and buttress his earlier record of fighting for their liberation after years of marginalisation and disenfranchisement.

Finally, Raila needs to be cautious of certain aspects of the BBI that will saddle Kenyans with heavy costs. The country is reeling under heavy debts in an economic environment that is performing dismally and unfathomable levels of corruption. Whereas expanding the executive might marginally attract political sympathy, a bloated legislature to take care of proportional representation may kill BBI.

Director, Northland Professional Institute