Raila Odinga is Visionary and Fallible

Published on 14th January 2020

Having interacted closely with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, I'm glad to state that Jakom, as he is popularly known, lives and dines as a democrat. He projects himself as a smart soccer coach who guides his team to use their skills to score goals.

For Raila, it doesn't matter if the ideas you have look different from what he has put on the table. If he sees light in your idea, he will support it without questioning. To seek for an audience with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader if your idea is geared towards achieving the goal is a waste of time. Call him and explain your idea. He will tell you an outright yes or no.

I guess this is how revolutionaries work for change. They don't micro-manage their fellow revolutionaries or the people they want to liberate.

For Raila, it will be hard for him to dismiss your idea so long as it's in tandem with the pursuit of liberty, equality, social justice and democracy.

The pain Raila has gone through in the pursuit of liberty for Kenya has been tortuous and even humbling. Raila sees hope in even step of the struggle irrespective of who is behind it. His uncanny ways of interacting with ordinary Mwananchi has enabled him to remain in the political apex for a long time.

Don't be surprised to learn that Raila, was enthralled by Musician King Kaka, whose controversial song castigated Kenyans for contributing to the mess we are in. Revolutionaries admire revolutionary songs, ideas, and writings.

If you can recall, lawyer Miguna Miguna, who is currently embroiled in a tussle to return to Kenya from Canada wrote two slanderous books about Raila. Despite that, Raila forgave Miguna who ended up swearing him in as the people's president after the controversial 2017 presidential election.

BBI misgivings and murmurs

Since Raila entered into a political pact with President Uhuru Kenyatta through the famous handshake which birthed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), most of his ardent supporters have become extremely vicious, unreasonable, and hateful.

There are those who say that, since Raila has been fighting for democratic space for many decades, criticizing his political moves even when they appear unclear is like a taboo. The supporters often forget that even the wisest man God ever created-King Solomon made a lot of blunders during his reign.

Some arguments in social media currently are inscrutable. A friend of mine puzzled me recently when he said that Luos cannot be in the opposition forever and that they should also access the fruits of government. The friend further argued that sustaining opposition politics by Luos has been so painful since independence. Encouragingly, not all Luos are thinking this way.

Whilst it's true that many Luos have sacrificed a lot in the pursuit of freedom for the country, we can't just wake up one morning to conclude that a mere handshake made by the ODM leader and President Kenyatta will drastically transform the lives of Luo Nyanza overnight.

Indeed, there is no clear picture of whether Raila, is in government or not. What Kenyans know is that, the Jubilee government is shared in a 50/50 version between President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

In the Jubilee government led by President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, inclusivity is a myth. Key government appointments only favour their henchmen.

It therefore remains to be seen if the BBI which is Raila's signature political move with President Kenyatta, will pave the way for inclusivity, unity, equity, equality and fairness in Kenya today and the future.

Besides, the BBI is looked upon as the clearest avenue to liquidate electoral injustice which was the reason why the handshake happened.

Kenyans who think that Raila should slow down when the country is embroiled in a myriad of challenges merely because of the warm chemistry between him and President Kenyatta need to stop. The late freedom icon Nelson Mandela never got tired. Mandela focused on the ultimate prize and delivered it with gusto for South Africans. The mess which is engulfing Kenya is gigantic. It requires Raila to keep the fire burning to lift the country from the abyss.  

Remaining at the top for long is a calling

Those who want Raila to conform to the status quo when millions are looking up to him must remember that we are still in Egypt. Moses is still "challenging the Pharaoh" as he seeks God's direction to deliver Kenyans to the promised land.

In any generation, God will raise a leader who may not be perfect, righteous or most knowledgeable. He will use the leader as a vessel to guide his people. That's why Raila has been blessed with strength not to detour or falter to shape the leadership of Kenya.  

The devotees of the ODM leader must contend with the fact that Kenyans have a right to grumble when the leaders they TRUST make political miscalculations. For sure, Raila has not played his game right since the handshake. That's why we have murmurs from his ardent supporters.

In the book of Exodus 16:2, the Israelis grumbled to Moses in the Wilderness because they knew that it was only him who could tackle their challenges. Leadership is a calling with synclines and anticlines.

The biggest challenge Raila faces from millions of Kenyans who believe in him and rely on him is whether the BBI will pave the way for a new dawn for the country. Their ambivalence is borne of the fact that the ODM leader has been betrayed before by Kenya's two retired President- Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki.  

To calm the doubting Thomas's isn't easy. There are those who feel that one ceases to be a revolutionary when he or she warms up to a regime which has been tormenting his or her supporters.

To some of Raila's supporters, joining President Kenyatta and supporting the Jubilee government agenda sounds like a betrayal. Others think that, signing a political pact with the President wasn't a well-thought idea since it has brought confusion in Parliament and Senate where one cannot decipher which section of legislators are for government and opposition.

Telling the person, you respect the truth when they are wrong is a show of maturity. After all, a good butler must remind the King to zip up his pants before leaving the palace.

It is indeed true, the handshake has diluted multiparty politics in the country and jeopardized government oversight in the two chambers of the legislature. Most ODM legislators and those from other smaller parties are defending the Jubilee government more than those elected in the ruling coalition ticket which adds insult to injury.

For instance, the Jubilee Party majority leader in the Senate Kipchumba Murkomen, is critical to the Jubilee government more than honourables Junet Mohamed and John Mbadi who are ODM MPs.

Finally, many have come but are vanquished before even making a single political stride. Raila is still standing strong because of his unparalleled political charm and consistency.

He remains Kenya's best for the final push for emancipation. However, we must be ready to point out his political miscalculations when they don't augur well for the future of Kenya.

By Joseph Lister Nyaringo

President of Kenya Patriotic Movement, a diaspora lobby based in the USA.

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