Saturday, 15 February 2014



There is no denying it anymore, the game is over. The king of Luo-Nyanza politics and the high priest of opposition politics in Kenya is on his way out of the political arena, if recent events are anything to go by. Ever since the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy was run over in the race to State House by the Jubilee Alliance numbers, the writing has been on the wall for Raila Odinga. It was the third unsuccessful shot on the top seat for the son of the late post-independent doyen of opposition politics Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Raila’s first attempt at the presidency was in 1997 where he performed dismally, coming third.

He stayed out of the presidential race in 2002, backing retired President Mwai Kibaki to trounce Uhuru Kenyatta in elections that saw the then ruling party Kanu lose power for the first time since independence. Raila and his supporters believe that he was robbed of victory in 2007 when he ran on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket. For the last three decades, Raila has been a gadfly in the country’s political landscape, firmly in the footsteps of his father.
Ever since his name was mentioned in relation to the failed military coup of 1982, Raila has been the face of political anti-establishment. His name has featured both positively and negatively in all major political transitions in Kenya. Now, recent unwelcome movements in Raila’s seismic political world show that the ground is shifting drastically. The ODM leader is losing grip of his erstwhile assured pole position in politics. Why are political pundits prophesying the curtain falling on one of the most compelling political legacies in the country?
The first sign that should send alarm bells off the hook is the apparent revolt within the top ranks of ODM and other parties that coalesce around Cord. In a poignant depiction of ongoing party wrangles, newspaper reports had it that Coast politicians and Nyanza ‘Young Turks’ recently defied Raila in a common stand to back Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba for ODM’s secretary general’s position against the party leader’s preferred candidate. Definitely, this and similar vibes from Orange House do not augur well for the forthcoming party elections on February 28.A section of leaders from the Orange Democratic Party want the February 28th party elections postponed.
Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya say the ODM elections are dividing the party. Kidero wants party leader Raila Odinga to unify all party delegates before the party elections. Oparanya who is vying for the deputy party leader position says he will not step down for anyone citing that the elections have created too many rifts within ODM.
Then there were the recent riots in Kisumu town against the erection of a Hindu monument. It was unimaginable that ODM’s rank and file could go against the word of their leader even on non-political matters. Clearly, something has changed. Also, do not forget the recent peaceful demonstrations in the county where the youth said that they would like to work with President Uhuru Kenyatta for the sake of their development. Then there is the symbolism in the selection of Dalmas Otieno as part of the General Lazarus Sumbeiywo led team in the ongoing South Sudanese peace talks.
I do not think that there was any thank you message for the appointing authority from ODM. Now, which way Raila? As time passes by, the master schemer will find that his options of remaining in the limelight, let alone making an impact nationally, are also quickly fading away. Times are changing by the day and, to remain relevant, a leader must meet his people at their point of need. Kenyans today are faced with a myriad of challenges, particularly related to the high cost of living and rising unemployment. That is the talk people want to hear; how they can improve their lives for the better and not rhetoric that simply rises political temperatures.
Consequently, Raila must urgently re-invent himself away from his political molding. He needs to sincerely ask himself very tough questions. If he was really fighting for the betterment of the lives of Kenyans, what other significant role or roles can he play to achieve this objective? What experience and networks gathered over the years of strutting both the local and global arena can he bring to bear in his efforts to change this country? - By Stephen Ndegwa

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