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Raila's 'Mandela Moment' relies on people, not doomsday prophets

Raila continues to sacrifice his own ambitions to unite the country, while others make deals by night, waving a 'safe pair of hands'.

In Summary

• Wiper's Onesmus Kilonzo purported to give 10 reasons why there will be no “Mandela Moment” for Raila in 2022, and that the 'safe pair of hands' would be those of Kalonzo Musyoka.

• It is important to examine Kilonzo’s 10 points that purportedly rule out Raila from 2022 election.

NASA Principals Musalia Mudavidi, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka in a show of solidarity during the ODM Party national delegates conference at Orange House. February 23, 2018
NASA Principals Musalia Mudavidi, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka in a show of solidarity during the ODM Party national delegates conference at Orange House. February 23, 2018
Image: JACK OWUOR

This paper carried a piece last Friday, by one Onesmus Kilonzo, the Wiper Party head of communication.

Kilonzo purported to give 10 reasons why there will be no “Mandela Moment” for Raila in 2022, and that the “safe pair of hands” would be those of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

It is important to define what political brokers have christened a 'safe pair of hands'.

 

This essentially means a politician who never takes a firm stand, sits on the fence on critical national issues and therefore does not stoke fear in the 'sensitive' sections of the population.

Elsewhere, they would be called cowards.

Here, they assume that it is the most befitting profile for high office. We must debunk this myth of 'safe hands' as a country by insisting that those who do not provide leadership in times of crucial national issues, to avoid stepping on toes, can’t turn around and seek to become President.

Let’s do a quick examination of Kilonzo’s 10 points that purportedly rule out Raila from 2022 election. The first one is the most laughable! That because Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe and Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli have endorsed Raila - yet the latter’s supposed top opponents for the presidency have met this endorsement with silence - this should send Raila trembling in his boots.

There are many reasons for silence, including but not limited to being caught flat-footed. It is only in Kilonzo’s world where silence translates to an electoral magic wand.

The second is alleged voter fatigue and the feeling that Raila’s best years are over. The irony doesn’t hit Kilonzo that the man the voters are supposed to be fatigued with cannot be the one his party and everyone else talks about. I, however, wonder which scientific 'fatiguemeter' he deployed to come to this conclusion.

Third, in Kilonzo’s mind, is Raila’s alleged inability to keep political friends. Among those listed are late President Daniel Moi, Kalonzo, Musalia Mudavadi, Mwai aKibaki and William Ruto. Thank God that history does not live inside the head of one person, otherwise it would be easy to believe these shallow narratives.

 

What happened between Raila and each of the people mentioned is in public domain. Nearly all walked away when they thought they had better deals elsewhere.

Kilonzo obviously doesn’t remember his party leader fleeing with the ODM-K instruments in 2007. He wouldn’t remember Mudavadi leaving ODM in late 2012 ahead of the 2013 elections. He certainly hasn’t heard the conventional wisdom in our political streets that Raila made Kibaki president, before the former betrayed him. He may not know the widely covered insubordination by Ruto as a Cabinet minister in the coalition government, which led to him walking away to form his own party.

At any rate, Raila does not run a political pasture where he can tether allies and stop them from moving on to pursue dreams elsewhere. But while he's at it, it would be nice to hear Kilonzo mention Kalonzo’s antagonistic relationship with, among others, the three Ukambani governors, old allies such as Johnson Muthama, or even closer home to Nasa, the treatment of Kalonzo’s own representative at the Secretariat, Dr Temi Mutia. His mistreatment led him to walk away to join Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu. This is not even close to a pot calling the kettle black. It’s a pot calling the cauldron black.

Fourth, “the garrulous nature of Raila lieutenants”, with specific emphasis on ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna. Well, Kilonzo may belong to a party where not much really happens, but in real political movements, the secretary general is the party leader’s frontline attack dog. It would indeed be comical if opponents of ODM were to find Sifuna’s words friendly and agreeable, because the SG is not a church bishop. Neither is the treacherous game of politics a religious sacrament session.

Whereas Raila is a nationalist who believes the best of everybody and approaches every political transaction in good faith, it is only logical that he has warriors around him who call out the double-faced political saboteurs for who they are. If the manner of Sifuna’s delivery is disagreeable to sections of the political class, the bigger worry should be whether or not what he says is the truth. In fact, there is no friendly language by which one can say Nasa affiliate parties have been a burden to ODM.

I dare add that the main reason Kilonzo is even able to discuss Sifuna is because Raila builds people, networks and movements, giving a platform to young leaders like him to shine and express political views. I challenge Kilonzo to name the Wiper equivalents of Governors Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya, Sifuna, John Mbadi, Junet Mohamed, Agnes Zani and Timothy Bosire.

These are top ODM officials with strengths that shine bright on the national platform. That is what you call a political party, not a one-man hunting expedition that knocks on the doors of State House offering only a 'safe pair of hands'.

We can ignore the fifth, because Kilonzo talks about “fear by certain members of the deep state”, then on his tenth point, says Raila will be hindered by the perception that he will be made President by the deep state. One moment, he won’t be President because the deep state fears him, the second moment, it will make him one. Amazing!

The sixth, that Raila may refuse to leave office if elected, is also contradicted by the ninth: “advanced age and in ill health”. He is too old one second, then will refuse to leave office the next. Surprising logic!

That leaves out the eighth: that Raila’s detention was such a long time ago that it can no longer be an electoral issue. I can understand Kilonzo’s desire to have history begin only in 2002, because anything before that exposes his party leader’s role in entrenching a dictatorial system that tortured and murdered liberation warriors, as well curtailed freedoms.

But I remind him that we still hold expensive annual fetes to celebrate those who were incarcerated and tortured by the colonialists, as part of our national history. If we haven’t forgotten those, there is no chance we will forget the Second Liberation heroes of the 80s, even if latter day saints would like history to begin only from when they arrived at the 'liberation table'.

There are a million reasons why Raila stands head and shoulders above pretenders to the proverbial throne. He has, and continues to build a multi-tribal, cross-nation support of all communities and demographics, including his well-known love for the minorities.

Raila also continues to sacrifice his own ambitions to unite the country, while others make deals by night waving a 'safe pair of hands'. Indeed, by revamping his party, strengthening its structures and diversifying his networks across the country, Raila appears to be the only one doing the things that make one President.

Beyond that, he is consistent on fighting corruption that bleeds our nation, pushing infrastructural development that opens the country to trade and demanding electoral reforms that would return power to the people.

These are the real foundations of any Mandela Moment, not a political ideology that hopes 'niachie this time' can take one to State House.

The writer comments on topical issues