EGOCENTRIC

Why Raila is the creator of his Sisyphean curse

Raila has also shown himself to be a politician who does not keep friends.

In Summary

• Perhaps nothing better illustrates Raila’s propensity to betray his lieutenants than the fate that befell his former trusted general, Miguna Miguna.

• With the handshake, Kenyans expected Raila to stand by the man who swore him in as the people’s president. But Miguna is still in Canada as Raila enjoys the trappings of power.

Nasa flagbearer Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka hold raised hands during their rally at Uhuru Park on April 27, 2017.
FAST FRIENDS? Nasa flagbearer Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka hold raised hands during their rally at Uhuru Park on April 27, 2017.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Raila Odinga is a political icon who, for decades, has straddled the Kenyan political scene like a colossus. In fact, many have opined that the ODM leader is the fulcrum around whom Kenyan politics revolve.

In his political journey, Raila has achieved many feats that include international recognition.

However, there is one goal that has eluded ‘Baba’ as he is fondly known by his admirers and supporters – the presidency. Ever since 1997, when he gave his first shot at the top job on the National Development Party ticket, Raila has been on the presidential ballot a record four times, missing the seat by inches in 2007, 2013 and 2017.

Political pundits compare his relentless pursuit of the presidency to the feat of Sisyphus, an ancient Greek king who was punished for his self-aggrandising craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill -only for it to roll down every time it neared the top. He was doomed to repeat this task for eternity.

Here, now, is the question: Is Raila the creator of his own Sisyphean ordeals? The answer is a resounding yes and this is why:

History has shown Raila as a politician who is egocentric.

Although a renowned fighter for democracy, critics see him as a self-centred politician who only thinks of his own interests above those of others (particularly those who have aided him in his political battles).

In 2001, for instance, he abandoned Michael Wamalwa and Charity Ngilu, and defected to the then ruling party, Kanu.

Wamalwa and Ngilu, then Ford Kenya and Social Democratic Party leaders, respectively, derided Raila as a cheap politician who could be bought with ugali.

 

But, unbeknown to the duo, Raila was seeking more glory. The very thought that he could be the next occupant of State House, if Moi endorsed him, was too strong to resist.

Only after Moi endorsed Uhuru Kenyatta did Raila come out of his reverie, throw a tantrum and lead a mass walkout from Kanu, to rejoin Wamalwa and Ngilu to form the National Rainbow Coalition that won in 2002.

Fast-forward to March 18, 2018: Raila approaches Uhuru Kenyatta for a handshake. Again, this is done behind the scenes and in the absence of his 2013 and 2017 political pillars - Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang'ula, among others.

As in 2001, the handshake, according to Raila and his supporters, is expected to culminate in President Kenyatta 'anointing' the ODM leader for State House in 2022. Whether this will come to fruition, only time will tell.

Raila has also shown himself to be a politician who does not keep friends. By 'friends'. I mean those from outside Luoland who wield political power and influence. In 2007, William Ruto (now Deputy President) marshalled his troops in the Rift Valley and managed to get over 90 per cent of the Kalenjin vote for Raila.

A short few years later, Raila was to abandon Ruto for the likes of Henry Kosgey and Musa Sirma. By so doing, he thought he had performed a masterstroke that would keep his Rift Valley vote intact, only to lose it to Ruto (Jubilee) in 2013.

Fast-forward to 2020: Raila, apparently not having learnt a lesson from the Ruto debacle in 2013, decides that the likes of Kalonzo (his 2013 and 2017 running mate), Mudavadi, and Wetang'ula, are as disposable as diapers.

He and his advisers opine that working with governors will help retain his votes in regions hitherto politically controlled by his former political pillars. For Western, he discards Mudavadi and Wetang'ula in favour of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa.

For Ukambani, he thinks governors Alfred Mutua, Ngilu, and Kivutha Kibwana, will mobilise votes for him just as efficiently as Kalonzo did. Big mistake!

The Ruto example and voting patterns show that voters do not let go of their ethnic kingpins so easily. In fact, they take it as a huge betrayal if any politician from outside their region makes any attempt to 'replace' their leaders with political minions.

For his miscalculation of thinking he can replace regional kingpins with his handpicked lieutenants, Raila and his supporters should expect a backlash.

Perhaps nothing better illustrtes Raila’s propensity to betray his lieutenants than the fate that befell his former trusted general, Miguna Miguna.

With the handshake, Kenyans expected Raila to stand by the man who swore him in as the people’s president. But, alas, Miguna is now cooling his heels in Canada as Raila enjoys the trappings of power through his friendship with Uhuru.

Another victim of Raila’s misadventures is Wetang'ula who, despite fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Raila garnered a huge haul of the Bukusu vote, was removed as the Leader of the Minority in the Senate, ostensibly, at the instigation of Raila.

The seat went to James Orengo, Raila’s tribesman. Whatever message that move sent to the Bukusu community, only time will tell.

One very shocking trend, especially for those outside Raila’s Nyanza backyard, is the obstinacy with which the ODM leader and his sycophants (critics prefer to call them 'People Living off Raila Odinga') insist that their man must vie for the presidency.

This is in utter disregard for any past agreements concerning support for other leaders who have stood by him before. Any opposition to such a stand is met with jeers and dismissed instantly.

Do Raila and his supporters know of something called 'voter apathy'? Why do they think that voters who have been disillusioned several times with his poll losses will once again queue to vote for the man?

I have heard several voices telling me they would rather vote for someone else, or even stay at home, than to vote for Raila Odinga to still 'lose' in 2022.

I hope Raila and his supporters take these sentiments seriously.

The foregoing narrative is proof enough that Raila is the creator of his own Sisyphus troubles. What, then, should he do to stop this 'eternal' struggle for an elusive seat?

One, Raila can decide to be a statesman and retire from politics. He has had enough bite ofat the cherry. He should rest.

While he's at it, he can decide to return a favour to those who have stood by him in his past political contests. They include Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Ruto and Wetang'ula.

By saying 'Tosha' to any of these, just as he said for Mwai Kibaki, he would perhaps extricate himself from the curse of Sisyphus and have peaceful sunset years.

Onesmus Kilonzo is the head of communication, Wiper Democratic Movement.

The views expressed herein are his own and do not reflect the party’s standpoint