Thursday, 1 September 2016

Raila Odinga: The Best President Kenya Will Never Have

Image result for raila odinga pictures

Raila Odinga

In the run up to the land mark 2002 elections, Nation TV (now NTV) run a fascinating news feature where they interviewed most of the presidential aspirants. This was before the advent of Narc.

Those who viewed the shows were left with no doubt as to who came out tops. It was Raila Odinga. Quoting actual figures, he displayed an intimate understanding of the situation in Kenya and what needed to be done to salvage the things.

Many people in Kenya today believe that he would make the ideal president.

Raila is the son of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s first vice President. A brief analysis of his father’s political career is in order. The older Odinga first came to national prominence in 1958 when the then colonial government gave Kenya it’s first elected African leaders in the parliament of the time (called Legco or Legislative Council). 8 leaders were elected to cover the 8 provinces of the country. From the word go, he was to constantly clash with fellow Luo - young brilliant Tom Mboya who was the representative for Nairobi and the mastermind behind the effective tactics used by the group of 8 to win more representation for Africans and ultimately independence for Kenya.

Odinga expected the younger Luo to respect him and look up to him, but Mboya was young arrogant and self-confident and had no time for Oginga whom he viewed as nothing more than a tribal chief. Mboya represented cosmopolitan Nairobi and was above tribal politics - most of the people who elected him in Nairobi were Kikuyu and Mboya had no problem defeating Kikuyu candidates like Munyua Waiyaki.

Had it not been for Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s first president would have been Tom Mboya - a fellow Luo. However on realizing that Mboya was unstoppable, Odinga launched a campaign to have Kenyatta released from detention. It was clear that the older Odinga preferred a Kikuyu President to any other Luo President but himself. Much less the young arrogant but brilliant Mboya.

Mboya whose main political support was from the Kikuyu could do little but join in the calls for the release of Jomo Kenyatta. And so Kenyatta ended up being the first President of Kenya. As fate would have it, the Luo community and indeed the entire Nation has suffered deeply just because of this small selfish act of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Kenyatta rewarded Jaramogi by appointing him the first Vice President of independent Kenya. However he did not last long and was demoted and thrown into political oblivion where he spent most of his life until long after Jomo Kenyatta’s death in 1978. The enetire Luo community has not been spared of the suffering. Luos have been discriminated against and looked on with deep suspicion by every government that has been formed in this country since independence. What a high price to pay for a personal move based on jealousy!

Oginga Odinga was one of the brave few who dared to go into opposition politics during the Moi era at a time when few other Kenyans would dare to say anything against the government.

Good points
Whatever critics say, Raila is the only major national politician since Tom Mboya who has been comfortable holding a cosmopolitan political base by representing a multi-ethnic Nairobi constituency. Raila has been the MP for Langata for a number of years now (even Mwai Kibaki fled from Nairobi’s Bahati to the more comfortable Othaya in the 70s.)

So his national credentials are more credible than most people would want to admit. Probably his big undoing is the fanatical, blind following he enjoys from the Luo community.

What we need in Kenya today is somebody who can make decisions. Raila has proved that he can not only do that, but he is also an excellent organizer. His managerial abilities in the Roads ministry, when he was minister, were clearly evident.

Sad Facts
Two strong facts undermine Raila’s Presidential bid in the next elections.

Firstly the call for a clean fresh start (see our other story in this edition) is picking momentum fast. This would favor a much younger presidential candidate with a national appeal. Secondly in his enthusiasm he has made too many enemies to be able to get the consensus among his peers that he needs to stand for President. Raila likes to make decisions and has never sat on a fence in his life. (It is instructive that one of the advantages Kibaki had in 2002 is that despite having been in government for so long, he had made the least number of enemies amongst the entire group of presidential hopefuls. When you make decisions you tend to make enemies - that is the sad but true fact of life. President Kibaki has thrived throughout his political career on not making decisions.)

If there is a person that deserves the presidency, then it is Raila Odinga. However it seems that sadly, fate is not on his side.

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