• Of all the leading contenders for the presidency today, Raila is, not surprisingly, the only one from the Second Liberation fraternity.
• The greatest asset Raila carries today is his solid support bases outside his ethnic community. Defeating Ruto is far from best reason to choose Raila.
This paper carried a headline last week opening the lid on the then impending visit by Kikuyu elders to Raila Odinga’s Bondo home.
Below it was subheadline indicating the Uhuru inner circle had decided that Raila was the only one who could stop Deputy President William Ruto in 2022, explaining the decision to send elders to Bondo.
My first thought on this subheadline was that the Uhuru inner circle was being disrespectful to Raila by narrowing down the presidency to 'stopping Ruto'. Of all Kenyan problems the next president needs to solve, I just can’t see how stopping Ruto would be the biggest theme of Uhuru Kenyatta’s strategists. If they opt to support Raila for president, they would find that there are millions of reasons to pick him, and stopping Ruto isn’t even atop the card deck.
The visit actually happened a few days after the headline. My initial view was that the function should really have happened in a Kikuyu shrine deep in the mountains for it to make sense. But word on the street by the end of the day was that a reciprocal visit would be happening in Nyeri, which in a way would settle the query.
There are numerous things to celebrate from the Bondo visit, aside from the fact that this was a first between the two communities. The original sin, so to speak, of tribal divisions in this country happened between the Kikuyu and the Luo in the 1960s.
A Kenyatta and an Odinga were central to it. If 60 years later, a Kenyatta and an Odinga choose to lead national reconciliation and heal these wounds, it is a venture we must all support, hoping they are doing this with utmost sincerity and with no cards hidden under the table.
Indeed, the pacification needed from the original sin holds the key to better inter-ethnic relations across the country, for it was from the Kikuyu-Luo falling of the 1960s that the malignancy of tribal divisions emanated. On this score alone, a Kikuyu-Luo alliance in our lifetime is a brilliant way to retrace the footsteps of our forefathers and retrace the lost dream.
The political and historical landscape offers many reasons why Raila fits the bill as the perfect choice, not just for this renewed rapprochement between the two most active political communities in Kenya, but in attempting to unlock the potential of a country stagnated by years of retrogressive politics.
Every election since the restoration of multipartyism in 1992 has placed in power a person who was never remotely connected to the Second (or even the First) Liberation. This means those who fought to restore multipartyism and basic freedoms have not had a chance to assert the dreams and aspirations they fought for.
Of all the leading contenders for the presidency today, Raila is, not surprisingly, the only one from the Second Liberation fraternity. I remember the words of former MP Mwandawiro Mghanga while endorsing Raila for the presidency a few years ago. He averred that it was time to elect a shujaa if we wanted to correct the trajectory of our politics. That we constantly ignore this advice explains why are stuck in a rut!
In his 2007 presidential campaigns, Raila explained that his run would revolve around three core messages - Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure!
Five years later, in 2013, he modified it to 'Jobs, Jobs, Jobs'.
The import of these two themes was to address the basic foundations of economic growth in the country.
Subsequent to the infrastructure campaigns, and after he controlled both the Roads and the Public Works dockets in the coalition government, Raila has been largely associated with the widespread appearance of tarmac roads all over the country.
On a recent trip across the country on an unrelated business, I was surprised that even in remote corners of the country, residents think all the good roads they now see came from Raila. It is a reputation one builds over time, by action and credibility.
Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli has said something that rings true: That no matter what fault you may find in Raila, he doesn’t seek power to enrich himself, and he isn’t connected to the corruption networks that straddle this land, eating everything in their path, and easily transition between regimes.
In the battle to tame corruption, there can be no better choice.
More importantly, Raila is also a man who builds institutions, probably the only route to national stability. There are several examples to cite here, but I want to draw the reader’s attention to a political institution that Raila is currently revamping: his party, ODM.
In recent times, the party has established a new elections board, disciplinary committee, held conventions for its youth league, women's league and kept a colourful presence on the political scene.
Far from gathering youths to dish out handouts, the party is clearly building its grassroots infrastructure, making it by far the only political organisation laying the foundation by which to seek your vote!
Beware of presidential contenders who want to walk out of their homes straight into State House, without building real political parties and structures for hunting for votes, because they neither respect the modalities by which a people’s mandate is sought, nor build the public institutions that support good governance once in power. History is replete with examples.
However, by far, the greatest asset Raila carries today is his solid support bases outside his ethnic community. There are those who want to be President but whose influence cannot go beyond the sound of a flute in their villages, while the parties they run are mere shopping trolleys in the political supermarket, seeking favours and goods for subsistence.
It is this variety that seeks tribal kingpins from other communities for alliances, with these new kingpins slowly growing massive egos, and in subsequent elections, they multiply into small tin gods, thereby perpetuating the despicable culture of tribal politics that never ends!
But because he has proper support in many parts of the country, Raila has been uniquely positioned to promote reconciliation and relations between Kenyan communities, earning the moniker 'Baba' from all and sundry.
My message to the Kikuyu elders and Uhuru's inner circle is that they have made an inspired choice, for Raila offers the best chance for national stability, better ethnic relations, economic growth and the long held dream of a real bridge between our difficult past and a bright future.
These, it seems to me, are our biggest needs in the coming few years. Well, they can throw stopping Ruto in there if they deem fit, but the new dawn will come because the country trusts Raila enough to place this next delicate phase in his able hands.
It is utmost sincerity and moral probity that both sides must maintain if this dream is to be achieved.
Collins Ajuok comments on politics