• As a country, we’ve turned a blind eye to the core issues bedeviling us and opted to fence-sitting in the hope that the political elite would solve them
• ODM legislators, especially from Nyanza, have hit out at critics, saying the opposition is not for members of the Luo community,
The much-touted handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga may have turned the perennial political rivals into conjoined twins, but not every cloud has a silver lining in a country that has for long been used to an active opposition. From views on social media and anywhere in the country, helpless and hapless masses blame a lack of opposition for their woes. Yet, some people would be accusing the opposition of destabilising the government had the handshake not occurred.
As a country, we’ve turned a blind eye to the core issues bedeviling us and opted to fence-sitting in the hope that the political elite would solve them. The opposition is seen as an Odinga’s enclave, without which no one can be trusted to offer checks and balances, while the government is viewed as a preserve of the Kenyattas and Mois. That’s why in the wake of the Housing Levy being mooted by the state and the recent trip by Kenyatta and Odinga to China, a vast majority of Kenyans turned the heat on the ODM leader, accusing him of abandoning his role as the opposition leader.
But in a rejoinder, ODM legislators, especially from Nyanza, have hit out at critics, saying the opposition is not for members of the Luo community, and challenged those miffed by Odinga’s dalliance with Uhuru to take up the role. Neither ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi nor Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, who initially said they would not go to bed with the state, have fit in Raila’s shoes in putting the government on its toes. At one moment they are pillorying the government; at another they are pledging their support for the handshake, much to the chagrin of Deputy President William Ruto, who feels that there is a well-orchestrated scheme to bolt him out of the government.
Mudavadi has even stated that being in the opposition should not be misconstrued to mean incessant street demos, but he has not offered any tangible alternative route that can see the government feel the heat. He has failed to galvanise the populace around a course that can awaken the government from slumber.
Thus the void in the opposition offers Kenyans with an opportunity to ask themselves questions pertaining to the state of the nation, not mere venting of frustrations on social networking sites. If Odinga were to be President, for instance, would they expect him to also offer checks and balances on his own government? What if he retires? Would Kenyans be recalling him from retirement every time there’s an issue that warrants opposition action?
Kenyans must be aware of the fact that they can organize themselves around a course without the input of the political class. It calls for walking the social media talk and putting aside the “our man is being targeted” syndrome because every moment there’s a price hike the billionaires who our politicians do not feel a pinch, but it is the masses who go without food and cannot take their children to school. France, a country with a bigger GDP Per capita and a larger middle class than Kenya, is witnessing the Yellow Vest movement, spearheaded by citizens, who find time out of their schedules to take to the streets. No politician is leading this movement, but a people who feel their country is not in the right direction.
Our bane as a country is that we have people who have a sense of entitlement. They feel that it’s the duty of others to ask questions and demonstrate on their behalf. While they do not enjoy the same privileges as politicians, this group somehow thinks that the mere fact that they have a monthly income, they are not part of a wider Kenya, yet the economic tribulations push them to whine on twitter. There are also those blinded by tribalism.
Once a tribesman is in power or in government, they do not see the need to point out the weaknesses of that government even if hunger and diseases are devastating them. They see every individual who criticizes their tribal kingpin as an enemy. Rather than demonstrate about bad policies introduced by their leader, they’ll seize every opportunity to protest against people picketing about the bad policies of their leader. It’s only in Kenya where people have elected MPs, who should be fighting for them on the floor on the House, but are quick to ask Raila, a non-MP to voice their concerns. Have MPs been turned into just joy-riders in the August House rather than true representatives of the MPs?
The flame that was put up by Human Rights Activist Boniface Mwangi in the Pig demonstration seem to have been put out by the scheming political elite. The “My Dress, My Choice” protest was also a proof that Kenyans can put aside their sectarian differences for a course, but seldom do we witness such actions of late. Instead, we see people endlessly say “Raila has left the opposition” every time they are pissed off by bad policies. We see people treating being in the opposition like a plague but feel the need for an opposition after being pushed to the wall by skyrocketing cost of basic commodities.
Kenyans must learn that there’s nothing wrong in being in opposition, and that a government exists for everyone, whether you voted for it or not. Hence criticizing the government does not mean bringing it down, and a member of your community being in government does not mean others are out of it.
Freelance Journalist and Writer