• In a country of able-bodied men and women, I am not persuaded that we can all blame a 75-year-old man for our failures, after he gave the best of his years in our service, and great personal cost.
• Raila has been on the ballot four times since 1997 and the end result of each was that he was not the one who was sworn in as President.
There is a running joke in my vernacular that goes something like “I have arrived home to find my clothes have been rained on, yet Raila hasn’t said anything about it!”
It could be clothes getting rained on, a missing cat, or a minor headache, coupled with Raila Odinga’s silence, but it is all intended to show the petty and mundane levels the perceived expectations on the ODM chief can reach.
Over the years, it has become acceptable in a large portion of this country that it is okay to go to the ballot and make insane choices, and then Raila will clean up after us.
A doctrine was birthed from this perception, where elected leaders can get away with anything, but the country’s collective amnesia will angrily hang onto every word Raila says.
This is possibly the basis of the anger last week, when sections of the country went crazy over a statement he made asking health workers to suspend their strike as the country was still experiencing economic difficulties.
What I call “Fake Outrage Industrial Complex” immediately went live with hashtags condemning him for saying this, while at the same time pushing the “expensive” BBI agenda.
Quite incredibly, just four days later, President Uhuru Kenyatta, at the Jamhuri Day celebrations, used the national platform to rally the country around the BBI push, and tellingly, said nothing about the health crisis ravaging the country.
As a believer in “anger parity”, I went online for two days after that, looking for anger directed at Uhuru, especially because as President and unlike Raila, he has the budget, the infrastructure, the personnel and the equipment to resolve the health issues that grabbed headlines all week.
If people had been angry with Raila earlier in the week, with Uhuru, I was expecting that we would be called to the streets to protest and burn effigies. As they say in these streets, I only saw the anger on Viusasa!
The “blame Raila” brigade surprises me by its detachment from history.
The attempt to portray him as a sell-out based on his close cooperation with the government ignores the stellar path he took to arrive here. Raila was only 38, and with a young family, when he was first detained in 1983. After his detention, he firmly cast his lot with the Second Liberation warriors who we today credit with restoring multiparty democracy to Kenya.
Anger peddlers will forget that Raila’s first change of political parties in multiparty Kenya was actually informed by his desire to protect the country from the Goldenberg fraud.
Angered by Ford Kenya chairman Wamalwa Kijana’s attempt to sanitise the fraud in the Public Accounts Committee report, Raila left the party in a huff and joined NDP. From there, the then Langata MP instituted a private prosecution against Prof George Saitoti over the same.
In subsequent years, and in a long political career, he has been almost a lone voice in the quest for electoral justice, restoration and preservation of the Mau Complex, as well as nearly the only one seeking to uncover the truth behind billions lost in the Eurobond saga, NYS, the SGR and the phantom dams in Arror and Kimwarer.
In each case, Kenyans chose near- complicit silence, or blamed him for distracting government from its development agenda. Which philosophy is this in 2020 that then makes Raila responsible for our failure to live in a perceived paradise, while those who hold the instruments of power waltz around like peacocks?
I am from the school of thought that having done everything possible for this largely thankless society, Raila should spend most of his twilight years telling stories to his grandchildren around a fire, enjoying copious amounts of traditional fermented porridge, and once in a not long while, take a break to catch the obligatory sun tan in the Maldives.
In a country of able-bodied men and women, I am not persuaded that we can all blame a 75-year-old man for our failures, after he gave the best of his years in our service, and great personal cost.
Raila has been on the ballot four times since 1997. Even though three of those were disputed elections, the end result of each was that he was not the one who was sworn in as President.
It therefore goes that none of our public problems can be placed at his door. In fact, the ideal situation is that his words should be treated as the “normal rantings” of an opposition leader.
How one can blame Raila for policy failures must rank as one of the wonders of the world. If the expectation is that he should, in words and deeds, speak for us and defend our freedoms, then the this anger we purportedly feel should first be directed at those actually responsible for these failures.
Secondly, it should manifest in the ballot box, where we have had numerous chances to change the country, but threw them all away. I don’t know if Raila will run again in 2022, but I know the philosophy where you elect one set of leaders who disappoint you massively soon after, then blame a different leader for national failures, has been overtaken by time and events.
Anger is good. It is the catalyst for change in all societies. Misplaced anger is, however, the destructive force that keeps a voter’s aspirations stagnated, as elected leaders walk away scot-free.
The rule of the thumb is that anger should first be directed at those we elected and who hold custody of our national budget, before we find fault with those we did not. It is not difficult to see the source of this misplaced anger. Not many can align with the thought that the former rank outsider, the hate figure they had been trained to dislike from childhood, now perceived to be at the centre of action in government, must feel a little discomfiting.
There is also the small matter of the man who we all assumed would make all the sacrifices for and speak for us, as we toasted to our own long lives, suddenly not running on the streets “eating” teargas. That can be unsettling alright. But it is no longer fashionable to consistently elect bad leaders then expect Raila to do something about it.
If we want Raila to take responsibility for our lives and choices, we must go to the ballot and make him President! Simple as ABC.