Ten reasons it won't be Raila's Mandela moment' in 2022

With the label of "the system's candidate" hanging around his neck, Raila's political statute has been damaged.

In Summary

• Raila should beware of the "silence of the lambs".  There is a high possibility that his opponents, if they feel he will be favoured by the "system", will close ranks by (or after) 202

• The hypothesis holds that, once Raila becomes president, he could refuse to leave offices

ODM leader Raila Odinga
ODM leader Raila Odinga
Image: FILE

When Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe proclaimed last week that Kenyans should brace for a Raila Odinga presidency in 2022, many expected instant responses of either cacophonous support, or opposition to the statement.

To the contrary, the general reaction to Murathe's "endorsement" for Raila was just a whimper.

While many may view the relative silence that greeted Murathe's "proposition" as good news for the former Prime Minister, I hypothesize that the response did not bode well for the four-time presidential candidate.


Here are the 10 reasons why the Murathe touted "Mandela Moment" may turn out to be just a farce for Raila:

One, beware of the silence because it can be a deadly weapon and strategy.Since Murathe spoke, Raila's main opponents for the 2022 presidential contest -- Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy President William Ruto, ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi, and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula (among others), did not file instance responses. Why?

A story is told of a young eagle who was sent by his mother to pick up chicks for a family meal. In the first homestead, the eaglet swooped on the compound and grabbed a chick, whereupon the mother hen clucked incessantly as she watched her chick being carried away.

In the second homestead, the eaglet noticed that when he grabbed the chick, the mother hen did not cluck but looked at the eaglet with malevolent eyes. When the eaglet later told his mother what had happened, the mother eagle said, "You should not be worried about the hen that made a lot of noise. Rather, you should be very concerned about the hen that stayed silent. That hen is angry and very dangerous! It could be planning a revenge!"

Raila should beware of the "silence of the lambs".  There is a high possibility that his opponents, if they feel he will be favoured by the "system", will close ranks by (or after) 2022 and connive to teach him a lesson, by denying him and his team the requisite parliamentary numbers needed to conduct House business. This will frustrate his leadership as a way of hitting back at him for past grudges. Remember, most of his competitors will be people whose toes he will have unapologetically stepped on, on his way to the presidency.

Second reason is voter fatigue, and the feeling that Raila's best years are over.

In 2022, Raila will be making his fifth stab at the presidency. In between, 25 years will have past since his first attempt. That is a very long time for Raila and his supporters. Voter fatigue is real, and he will face the daunting task of keeping his support base intact. That will be an uphill task, especially given he may not have the support of former regional kingpins. Of course his supporters may quote the very valiant attempts by Abraham Lincoln who eventually became US President after many fails but then, again, Raila is not Lincoln, and Kenya is not America.

Third is Raila's failure or inability to keep friends, which many view to be as a result of his self-centered (egocentric) nature. If there ever will be a record of Raila's political miscalculations, then that record will include his failure or inability to maintain friends with influence in political circles.

From former presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki to Ruto, Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Wetang'ula to Najib Balala and many others, Raila's political trail is littered with many former political friends whom he antagonised. This leads to the question, if he can do this to his friends while still in opposition, what can he not do as President? Almost needless to say, this trait has cost Raila vital political support and will continue to do so in future.

Fourth is the antagonistic/garrulous nature of his lieutenants. This is closely related to the third above. In their zeal to defend their party leader, ODM honchos, particularly secretary general Edwin Sifuna, have crossed boundaries of decency as they hurl epithets at Raila's hitherto political friends/co-principals.

Kalonzo, Musalia, Wetangula, and even DP Ruto have been victims of Sifuna's ruthless pen and acerbic tongue.  Could this be a reflection of the arrogance with which Raila's government will be run?

Fifth is fear by certain members of the deep state/system that despite his outwardly forgiving disposition, Raila could turn out to be very vindictive and hence, seek revenge against his former tormentors or their descendants, hence, upsetting the apple cart. With the memories of the many years in detention, his grouse over "stolen votes", and the perceived persecution of his core supporters, it would not be far-fetched to believe that he could take the opportunity to "lash out" when he becomes president, causing grief to many who could just have been "following orders".

The sixth reason is closely associated with the fifth. The hypothesis holds that, once Raila becomes president, he could refuse to leave office (despite the promise of transitional presidency) and choose to die in office as he battles those he would view as the greatest threats to his incumbency.

By a twist of fate, Central and Rift Valley could emerge as the greatest losers and sufferers. As a general trend, most so-called "freedom fighters" apart from Nelson Mandela, often turn out to be ruthless despots once they ascend to power, due to feeling of self importance and entitlement. Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Kamuzu Banda (Malawi) would suffice as examples. Could Raila be any different? Only time will tell.

Seventh is turning around the mindsets of the "brainwashed" Central and Rift Valley regions. It will be extremely hard to convince Central and the Rift Valley to line up behind a Raila candidacy, given the extremely bad blood in the aftermath of the ICC debacle and the resultant "brainwashing" in the two regions that he is an enemy of the two regions and their key leaders, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto. In fact, some political pundits believe not even the handshake can help remove the deep suspicions that persist from the residents against Raila's candidacy. And then comes the hustler narrative that portrays Raila as a dynasty. Will he get their votes? The verdict is still out there!

Eighth: Raila a Detention Hero? That's so, so long ago. Unlike Mandela, who was elected South African President hardly a yeat after leaving detention, Raila was last in detention in 1991, 29 years ago: More than half of the Kenyan population was not yet born and the youthful voters only read about Raila's Second Liberation struggles in history books. Therefore, his fight for democracy may not jell with many.

Also, unlike in South Africa where the Church, human rights groups, youth movements and Confederation of South African Trade Unions  were solidly behind Mandela, here in Kenya it may be very hard for Raila to marshal the support of the respective groups owing to varied vested interests.

Nine is his age and failing health. Though many Kenyans of goodwill wish the ODM leader the best of good health, many, too, fear he may not be able to withstand the rigours of the 2022 campaigns. 

Finally is the perception that he will be made president by the system/deep state. Whatever the intention of Murathe and his cohorts, the impact of his announcement has greatly dented Raila's image.

With the label of "the system's candidate" hanging around his neck, Raila's political statute has been damaged. In fact, his competitors will now label him as the candidate who cannot make it in 2022 without state assistance. This could essentially mean, at best, Raila's "win" in 2022 will only be viewed as phyrric victory - and an anticlimax of sorts for a man who would have wanted to claim the pride of being his own candidate. Many years and decades later, many will claim Raila never won fairly but was "assisted" by the Deep State. Of course his staunchest supporters will claim the end justifies the mean, but at what cost?

The best way Raila (as well as President Kenyatta) can manage the political transition in Kenya is to support a candidate who has no baggage, is unifying, and has the best diplomatic credentials. That candidate is none other than Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka. Kenya will be much safer under a Kalonzo presidency than under any other candidate.

Onesmus Kilonzo is Head of Communication, Wiper Party. The views expressed herein are his own and do not reflect the standpoint of the party.