Canaan promise: Raila no longer after equity

Not many people may have noticed Raila’s subtle ideological whoring.

In Summary

• What is more astounding is that today, Raila has dropped his “distributionist” stance and adopted Kagwanja’s “productionist/growthist” ideology.

• Because of the handshake, it is no longer convenient for Raila to speak truth to power that Kenya is one of the most unequal societies on earth.

Raila Odinga in Kawangware on October 4, 2020.
Raila Odinga in Kawangware on October 4, 2020.
Image: MERCY MUMO

In January 2015, Jubilee ideologue Peter Kagwanja published an article in a local daily lampooning the Opposition Cord coalition led by Raila Odinga. Jubilee, Kagwanja wrote, pursued a “productionist” or “growthist” paradigm.

“The productionist ideology is prioritising a plethora of mega-projects in energy and infrastructure calibrated to reduce the cost of production, grow the economy, transform the country into a middle-income level state and pull the mass of Kenya’s poor out of poverty,” he stated.

Cord, on the other hand, championed a “distributionist” paradigm that rested on two ideological planks. The first was anarchism, based on the belief that everything about government is repressive. And the second, ethnocentrism that sought to polarise the country into ethnic-haves and ethnic-have-nots.

The distortion is obvious. Cord took part in the 2013 election with the intention of forming the government. How could the coalition at the same time espouse anarchism that supposedly rejects all government as oppressive?

What is more astounding is that today, Raila has dropped his “distributionist” stance and adopted Kagwanja’s “productionist/growthist” ideology. Not many people may have noticed Raila’s subtle ideological whoring.

Twice in as many weeks, the former Opposition leader has called for expansion of the national cake as opposed to fair distribution. “Our citizens and our leaders need to come to terms with the fact that boosting productivity is a prerequisite to having enough to share while driving economic growth and raising living standards. Nothing else will work,” Raila said on September 23.

The national cake, he stated, appeared to have got smaller over the years while the number of people waiting for a share continued to grow. That means the country does not have enough. The hope expressed in the National Anthem – “plenty be found within our borders” – is yet to be realised. Everyone should work harder.

Raila repeated the argument when he spoke at the Covid-19 conference presided by Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday, September 28.

This is an important shift in Raila’s ideological posture. It is a complete negation of the social justice cause.

For a long time, Raila has been associated with struggles for social justice whose primary premise is equity. It can be summarised in the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi that, “The world has enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

As early as the 1970s, the politician JM Kariuki said Kenya had created 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars.

Because of the handshake, it is no longer convenient for Raila to speak truth to power that Kenya is one of the most unequal societies on earth. A small political elite dominates all the major sectors – real estate, education, agriculture, banking, transport, hospitality, manufacturing, health, insurance – while the majority of citizens wallow in poverty.

Those millions of poor people are forever pre-occupied with survival. Their situation makes it impossible to engage in any production that would expand the national cake. Such structural injustice is of no concern to “productionists”.

One only needs to look at the throngs of young people seeking menial jobs for survival under the misguided Kazi Mtaani government programme. It is misguided because sweeping streets or unclogging blocked drainages is not a productive activity.

Those are not the kinds of tasks a serious nation assigns to potentially the most productive segment of its population. Cutting grass adds nothing to the national cake.

Kagwanja and his new disciple Raila fail to appreciate, for instance, the amount of national wealth lost through corruption and privatisation of the state. The World Bank estimates that up to a third of the national budget is stolen every financial year. The government of Kenya is manifestly a criminal enterprise.

“Productionists” are blind to the fact that mega-projects are conduits for corruption or, like the SGR, they often turn into white elephants. The “productionist” Jubilee government has mortgaged Kenya to the Chinese through loans. It will take a hundred years – and massive production of no one knows what – to repay those loans.

How does one even talk of expanding the national cake in a country whose manufacturing sector contributes a mere eight per cent to the GDP? What production when state policies allow importation of toothpicks? The textile industry has been completely destroyed by mitumba imports.

From the handshake to conversion to Kagwanja’s “productionism”, one is left in no doubt that Raila can do anything to get power.