BUYER BEWARE

Was handshake a pig in a poke sale to ODM?

The Orange brigade has expressed disenchantment with the handshake, threatened to withdraw support for Uhuru

In Summary

• In the context of politics and faith, a pig in a poke is a dishonest tactic or trick used by politicos, grifters and cult leaders.

• The trickster presents an appealing but incomplete story, or a partial position or policy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the handshake on March 9, 2018.
PIG IN A POKE? President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the handshake on March 9, 2018.
Image: JACK OWUOR

“I put lipstick on a pig.”

These were the words spoken by Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer of President Donald Trump’s 1987 breakthrough memoir The Art of the Deal.

Schwartz made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business in the book. It was a phenomenal success, spending 48 weeks on the Time's best-seller list. It expanded Trump’s renown far beyond New York City, thus making him an emblem of the successful tycoon. Tony helped create that image.

Later, as Trump’s presidential campaign was gaining momentum, the prospect of a President Trump terrified Tony. He regretted creating this image. He felt deep remorse, not because of Trump’s ideology, but because of his personality, which he now considered impulsive and self-centred.

Tony thought about publishing an article describing his reservations, but he could not, knowing he had already cashed in on the memoir. Hence, he felt that if he recanted what he had written in the memoir, his credibility and motives would be seen as suspect.

This remorse is known as ‘a pig in a poke’ It means accepting an offer or deal without first fully examining and understanding it first. Its origin was in the 1500s when merchants would sell piglets in pokes (sacks).

When an unsuspecting buyer got his poke home and released the piglet, a chicken, duck, goose or some other less valuable animal than a pig, would emerge from the poke. Since then, the advice given to anyone is ‘do not buy a pig in a poke.'

It means do not accept something or an offer without first assessing it or understanding it fully. You must ‘look into the poke’ to ensure that what you are buying is what you are being sold.

In the context of politics and faith, a pig in a poke is a dishonest tactic or trick used by politicos, grifters and cult leaders. The trickster presents an appealing but incomplete story, or a partial position or policy.

An incomplete story gives the trickster several advantages because its ending is like an inkblot that is open to a wide variety of interpretations. One, it provides him with an opportunity to adjust the story to make it more appealing to different audiences. This is because the politician deliberately withholds details so that nobody fully understands what he is proposing. It hides his true intentions.

Two, it makes it difficult for analysts to challenge the politician’s position or policy because they do not have the full details to attack what they do not fully understand. When criticised, it becomes easy for the politician to change the story and make claims that his critics are casting as false aspersions.

Three, when the politician’s critics attempt to interrogate where the politician stands on an issue and finds a flaw in it, the politician can quickly shift positions, because it is not defined. To deflect the criticism, the politician counters his critics with personal attacks, and by claiming they are unqualified to judge, or are biased.

In recent weeks, we have had our own rendition of pig in a poke. The ODM brigade has been expressing disenchantment with the handshake, which they said was their choice to support and work with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government. They have threatened to withdraw their support for President Uhuru and the now infamous handshake with Jubilee.

The threat came about when it accused the Jubilee Party of frustrating the BBI, which is a brainchild of ODM leader Raila Odinga, and President Kenyatta. This frustration was heightened following Murang'a Senator Irungu Kangata’s letter over BBI’s unpopularity in the populous Mt Kenya region. ODM has threatened that if Jubilee continues to provoke them, it will go to the trenches for the sake of Kenyans who look up to them.

On its part, Jubilee has made new demands on the handshake deal by requiring Raila to sign a formal coalition agreement, if ODM wishes to continue reaping the benefits of their political cooperation. This demand was expressed after ODM staked a claim on the Nairobi Deputy Governor’s position, citing its role in helping impeach former Governor, Mike Sonko.

Jubilee is reluctant on this arrangement, arguing that the law requires that the governor and the deputy come from the same party or coalition. These demands come at a time when ODM is trying to shift course to spruce up its image by distancing itself from the ruling Jubilee Party's failures.

Begs the question, did ODM buy a pig in a poke with the handshake? Did Jubilee put lipstick on the handshake pig to make it more attractive than it truly was? Now that the handshake outcomes are not unfolding in their favour, is ODM remorseful for taking up the offer without fully examining and comprehending its ending?

I submit that ODM bought a pig in a poke, but it is highly likely that Raila, and his innermost circle, unlike the rest of the ODM supporters, were well aware that the sale was not a pig. And now that it has become increasingly challenging to convince the ODM supporters of any kind of logical trickle-down handshake benefits, the backtracking has begun.

But this remorse and retreat is too little too late, especially now the President seems incapable of rallying, redirecting and ensuring that the Mt Kenya votes will be in Raila’s favour. And just like Tony Schwartz, it is immoral of ODM to now publicly express their remorse and reservations, make threats to go back to the streets, pretend to be protectors of innocent Kenyans, and try to distance themselves from the Jubilee administration's failures, after they have already cashed in on the handshake.

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to Raila. Even the finest sword, when plunged into salty water will eventually rust. Likewise, having gained a brand as a bastion against corruption, yet you knowingly accepted and defended the handshake, you cannot now distance yourself from the Sh2 billion lost daily through corruption, and other Jubilee failures, as publicly admitted by Uhuru. As they say on these streets, finish the journey together with your co-principal.

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been - Kurt Vonnegut