• Are Raila’s heart, efforts and agenda lock stock and barrel in supporting people from the last regime who might be pursued for various reasons?
• Will Raila support Ukur Yatani, for instance, if he is asked to address some issues considering the report by the Controller of Budget?
Some Kenyan folklore tells of a man who offered a certain creature his back to help it cross the river.
The river was flooded, the creature had no idea how to swim, and the assuming man had no reason to decline the request for assistance. However, upon crossing the river, the creature had dug its claws into the man’s flesh and commandeered the man towards a far land the man had not envisioned.
Azimio leader Raila Odinga carries great experience in Kenyan politics. He is a risk-taker but many times, he is considered reckless by critics. Sometimes, his audacious moves have boomeranged badly so that he has had to live with the consequences.
Raila secured a deal in which his National Democratic Party joined hands with Kanu in March 2002, at a time when the opposition was angling for unity to oust President Daniel Moi.
But in a matter of months, Raila was forced to leave Kanu together with other honchos who felt aggrieved and taken for granted by Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta, then a political greenhorn, as his successor.
Although the likes of James Orengo would opportunistically go on to credit Raila with this ‘implosion’ that lead to KANU and Kenyatta’s resounding defeat in 2002, one may be a little ‘pedestrian’ to believe that was Raila’s only intention.
As it turned out, Raila was weak in Kibaki’s government, almost powerless. While he had an agreement with Mwai Kibaki for the creation of the office of Prime Minister, the latter abandoned this idea, leading to an inevitable push and pull.
The famous “Kibaki tosha” commendation had meant that Raila’s popularity had hit the roof as he was widely perceived as a ‘John the Baptist’ announcing the coming of a savior in the form of Kibaki.
Although Kibaki began on a high note with measures that sought to augment Kenya’s economy, Raila caused a swelling of a dissent, making it hard for Kibaki to govern. Raila pushed for reforms to create the Prime Minster office and a parliamentary system of government. The elections of 2007 were chaotic and deadly as we all know.
In the 2013 election, Uhuru and William Ruto, who were at some point political neophytes compared to Raila, got power. Raila is again ‘throwing stones’ from the periphery in obvious frustration following 2022 surprise electoral defeat.
Raila’s current push will most likely not gain momentum, unless Kenya Kwanza makes a grave mistake. President Ruto is not viewed as elitist by many Kenyans, at least not yet, and it is difficult branding him an aggressor and turning the people against him. This is because he came into presidency on a populist platform where he mobilized the masses against the ruling class whom Raila accidentally found himself amongst.
Like the man in the folklore, Raila did not envisage a situation where a ‘handshake with’ Uhuru would have lost him his political bearing which he had worked very hard over the years to build his brand, the most valuable thing he had. One more ‘handshake’ had rendered his political standing feeble.
Losing popularity would not have mattered, if Raila had managed to take power at a time when conditions were considered opportune for him with the support of the incumbency then. The loss, the inability of ‘deep state’ to deliver again showed Raila’s incapacity to take power. We cannot lie to ourselves, ‘Power is not a material possession that can be given, it is the ability to act. Power must be taken, it is never given’, as William Powel said in the Arnachist Cookbook of 1971. Lacking proper plans to take power, Raila is where he is today.
Uhuru became quite unpopular among a section of Kenyans because of his crusade against Ruto and his endorsement of Raila. Apparently, people often side with those who are vilified, reason former Interior CS Matiang’i is getting a bit of sympathy for the latest confrontation with the Director of Criminal Investigations. However, there is not much to be gained by Raila from Matiang’i’s challenges because it will probably divide the supporters as was in the last elections, while many have grown lethargic and apathetic to political friction.
Sober Azimio enthusiasts must be wondering how, being at the centre of power, Matiang’i and others failed to deliver a Raila presidency. It is without a doubt that Matiang’i was involved in giving support to Azimio in the last elections and suppressing the Ruto wing. Are Raila’s heart, efforts and agenda lock stock and barrel in supporting people from the last regime who might be pursued for various reasons? Will Raila support Ukur Yatani, for instance, if he is asked to address some issues considering the report by the Controller of Budget? Not inferring that anyone has questions to answer, though.
Raila’s approach appears a little myopic and not strategic. As he threatened at the DCI gate, he believes he can mobilize the masses against the current regime. For many years Raila built up his image by vilifying other politicians and the public supported him.
His claims of rigging and power being used against him must now sound like an April fool’s day joke even to his most ardent of supporters. This bluff is similar in its vanity to some youths who are common speakers in Azimio Rallies donning combat gear because the same criticized him for failure to take power in last elections.
The current onslaught against the government might be Raila’s waterloo. It is not only a test for Raila’s popularity and mobilization capacity. His recent frustration at the DCI gate shows desperation and bitterness. There is surely no mercy in politics. The law is going to be Raila’s apprehender. At one point, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was more popular than Uhuru. today the former is barred by the law from contesting or holding public office by the courts. Raila might make a mistake that leads to a case that leads to a similar scenario.
The claims of economic sabotage are serious matters that must be solved because such impact can last generations. Raila’s politicization and appetite to leverage on the current goings-on is unwarranted because Kenyans want to see transparent government. Raila was not running the last government.
Paradoxically, as Raila runs amok, Uhuru, who appointed Matiang’i to various Cabinet roles, is dead silent. Raila’s entanglement in matters of the former regime is weird because he obtained zero benefit from it. If indeed they wanted him president, they could have ensured he ascended to power. Many of Azimio political class are clearly not with Raila at the moment.