ENDORSED BY GOD, PEOPLE?

Political endorsement is legit, don't demonise it

An endorsement is a form of public support or approval and endorsements come in various forms and actors

In Summary

• Politicians are forever seeking endorsements from organised groups such as religious, elders, professionals, youth, women and boda boda organisations.  

• When Ruto frequents and donates to churches on Sunday, or Raila  hosts a splinter group of Kikuyu elders at his Oponda Farm in Bondo, both are seeking endorsements.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
OLD FRIENDS: Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: DPPS

Endorsement seems to be a word that scares the wits out of all Kenyan presidential aspirants.

From assumed frontrunners to pretentious minnows, no one appears ready to acknowledge the fact that aspirants crave endorsement as the stew of political engagement.

Yet, Wikipedia describes a political endorsement as a public declaration of one's personal or group's support of a candidate for elected office.

Perhaps they need to borrow a leaf from the US system where endorsements powder, power and oil the electoral campaigns of candidates. Candidates in the US presidential elections are forever yearning, craving and lobbying for every endorsement that adds a kick to their electability.

An endorsement is a form of public support or approval and endorsements come in various forms and actors.

In the US, the popular endorsements are sought from powerful news media, business moguls, film, musical and sports celebrities, and other significant individuals and institutions. The endorsement must carry favour with the electorate to add value to the campaign.

Least talked about is the financial support through donations and funding of campaigns that comes with endorsements. The gun lobby in the US is notorious for funding campaigns of their favourite candidates and also de-campaigning opponents of unregulated gun ownership.

Locally, politicians are forever seeking endorsements from organised groups such as religious, elders, professionals, youth, women and boda boda organisations. It is ironical that presidential hopefuls are now pretending to seek a safe distance from being suspected of seeking endorsements or having been endorsed.

Yet the reality is that endorsement is a normal occurrence in democratic competitions that is craved rather than disowned.

When Deputy President William Ruto frequents and donates to churches on Sunday, or Raila Odinga hosts a splinter group of Kikuyu elders at his Oponda Farm in Bondo, both are seeking endorsements.

Ruto is seeking to use the church platform and influence among worshippers to win over supporters,  Raila, on the other hand, is sublime. He uses elders as an optic message to reach out and announce that the Kikuyu have finally accepted him.

The optics could win over some Kikuyu voters, but is mainly aimed at creating a perception among legions of his supporters that he’s electable this time round.

Most current is endorsement taking on the hue of repayment of imaginary or abiding political debt. None of the top presidential wannabes should lie that they are never seeking and won’t welcome endorsements.

However, the trio of Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) who sparked debate on political debt repayment by Raila are just Johnny come lately to the game.

Raila long led the queue. When he narrates how his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga deferred to Jomo Kenyatta at Independence but received a backhanded reciprocation from Jomo in the form of detention, he speaks of being owed a historical debt by the Kikuyu that they ought to pay in 2022.

Most recently, Raila reminded the Kikuyu that he went against the grain to pronounce “Kibaki Tosha” in 2002. In his cosmos, the Kikuyu owe him the Mwai Kibaki presidency and it’s only decent that they must return a hand.

Speaking of which, Raila can’t help but claim a political debt arising from the 2018 handshake with Jomo’s son, which brought calm against potential mayhem after 2017 elections.

The oddity is that even as Raila clamours for unpaid political debts elsewhere, he’s averse to being told he’s a debtor to others, too. Indeed, in a rather macabre way, Raila fancies he’s politically owed a debt by all Kenyans for his struggle against dictatorship.

His temperament is such that he feels entitled to be rewarded by Kenyans for leading reform spats every time he lost an election. The endorsement will come if Kenyans made him president.

Ruto, for all his contradicting statements on endorsement, is clear that he’s owed political debts that need settling. Innumerable times he has  reminded the 2007 ODM Pentagon duo of Raila and Musalia that they owe him for ceding the Premier position under the 2008 truce Nation Accord to Raila and the deputy premier to Musalia.

His take is, “I was destined to be the premier had ODM won the 2017 elections. We didn’t. But instead of assuming my position as premier under the National Accord, the two short-changed me and took both the premier and deputy premier positions."

He clearly demands they reciprocate by supporting him in 2022. That’sthe  endorsement he hankers for.

However, Ruto’s latest claims to endorsement are couched in vague references about Uhuru’s alleged promise to serve 10 years and endorse DP for another 10. When that hit headwinds among the Kikuyu, who loudly denied permitting Uhuru to make a commitment on their behalf, it was time to change tack. 

Now, Ruto never tires of telling how he “helped” Uhuru ascend to power and even how they govern “equally”. He never quite says, “If it wasn’t for me”, but the implied message is he made Uhuru president twice in 2013 and 2017. Indeed, his acolytes have pulled no punches, accusing the President of ostensibly reneging on his promise and betraying Ruto. 

Ruto’s beef with the President is anger that Uhuru has reneged on  endorsing him, preferring his 'new brother, Raila. So, it’s quite extraordinary to hear Ruto, who’s miffed that he isn’t being endorsed by Uhuru, attempt to berate the trio of Mudavadi, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula for asking Raila to settle old political debts.

I would be remiss if I didn't say that individually, the trio has asked for repayment of political debts via endorsement.

Mudavadi has a long list of debtors beginning with Uhuru and ending with Raila. He rallied behind Uhuru in 2002 against the Narc juggernaut and lost his Sabatia seat in the process.

Then in 2013, deceit ruled the roost when Uhuru and Ruto signed an agreement ceding the Jubilee Coalition candidature to Musalia, but in an immediate gruesome way, recanted the agreement.

The ANC chief in 2007 and 2017 supported Raila. Kalonzo toed the line in 2013 and 2017. So did Wetang’ula.

In 2017, they consummated their endorsement pact in an agreement that barred Raila from contending thereafter. Raila wants to torpedo the agreement using epithets of cowardice against them. It’s called dirty tricks.

Strangely, they weren’t cowards when they stood by him all those years but only manifested cowardice when they wouldn’t support a strikingly illegal, mock and fake coronation. But there is a nagging question: If the trio are out of the equation, why wouldn’t the doyen of opposition politics cede ground and endorse any of his brave deputy party leaders – bubbling Hassan Joho or the mumbling Wycliffe Oparanya? They were at the mock oath-taking at Uhuru Park with him.

To wit, we must scold any attempt to demonise political endorsement. Integrity in leadership isn’t just what you promise, but what you do.