Politics is a strange discipline and those who venture into the political realm more often than not surrender their privacy and open themselves to public scrutiny.
Former US President Bill Clinton is a living testimony of how politics can suddenly undress one in public, causing psychological pain and odium. Clinton admitted to having an “inappropriate relationship” with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to impeachment proceedings against him. This single lapse in judgement almost cost him the Presidency. His poll ratings fell to an all-time low.
Paradoxically in politics, what’s good for the goose is often not always good for the gander. Why do I say this? At about the same time Clinton was undergoing these tribulations, another scandal broke out on the other side of Albion’s shore, across the Atlantic, when it was rumoured the occupant of Number 10 Downing Street was also involved in a sexual affair. John Major, known by Brits to be as “straight as a pin”, confounded the British, as most doubted the credibility of the expose on account of his past record! Amazingly, his political poll ratings shot up as Clinton’s plummeted!
Back home in Kenya, all indications are that NASA leader Raila Odinga has “sold his coalition principals down the river” by abruptly abandoning his colleagues and cutting a sweetheart deal with the ruling Jubilee Party. He, however, remains the darling of his party and followers and had any other Kenyan politician attempted to betray Baba, they would have been subjected to a public lynching. At a recent NASA Summit meeting, Raila patronisingly told his seething co-principals that the Uhuru Kenyatta deal was good for all of them!
Kenya has been abuzz with excitement in some areas and anxiety in others regarding the recent ceasefire and détente/rapprochement between President Uhuru and Raila. It is expected to be a panacea for conflict in Kenya and just what the doctor prescribed. To those with an in-depth knowledge of Kenyan politics, the surprise is not that Raila embraced Uhuru but the opposite.
Uhuru has played hardball with the Opposition for so long that only a select few, who understood the Kenyatta-Odinga family dynamics held out any hope for dialogue. I can reveal that the Opposition leader has always had the President’s personal number and vice-versa. In fact, it goes further than that, as Ida, the late Fidel and perhaps Rosemary Odinga are privy to that number. An exasperated Uhuru once stated during the clamour for dialogue that he didn’t understand what the hullabaloo was about as Raila had his number and he had never changed his!
That Raila has changed horses in midstream, leaving his faithful colleagues to the wolves is not novel/new. Upon the death of his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, in 1994, he attempted to wrest the chairmanship of Ford Kenya from Kijana Wamalwa, who had faithfully stood by his father. Wamalwa refused to cede ground, whereupon Raila abandoned him after a vicious, bitter fight. Raila proceeded to join the National Development Party (Kenya) an outfit founded by Stephen Wilfred Omondi Oludhe. A once moribund party gained national prominence when it captured 21 parliamentary seats mainly from Luo Nyanza. In 2000, NDP began a co-operation pact with the Kanu government of President Daniel Moi. In the spring of 2002, NDP merged with Kanu and Raila became secretary general of the united party. This union was short-lived as, later that year, it became increasingly clear Moi intended to nominate Uhuru as his preferred successor, with then Vice President Musalia Mudavadi as running mate.
Raila and a number of disgruntled Kanu politicians, who included Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti, known as the Rainbow Coalition, led a walkout to join the Liberal Democratic Party. They all joined the National Rainbow Coalition under Mwai Kibaki and went on to win the 2002 presidential and General Election by a landslide.
Kibaki appointed many top Narc leaders to his first Cabinet, but a maverick and eccentric Raila became difficult to contain. In short order, he demanded that Kibaki honour an MoU to appoint him Prime Minister and nominate him for the Presidency after the constitutional first term. The old man balked and the Young Turks, now under the umbrella of the Orange Democratic Movement that included Uhuru and William Ruto, opposed Narc in the 2005 referendum, which they won. This gave them confidence to oppose Kibaki in the 2007 election, which led to the post-election violence crisis.
The National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 midwifed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan temporarily established the Office of Prime Minister with two Deputies in a coalition government. The Office of Prime Minister went to Raila as Uhuru and Mudavadi became the deputies. By this time, Uhuru had strategically abandoned ODM and returned to the Kibaki fold of the Party of National Unity. Raila and Uhuru faced each other in 2013 and last year. The two men have now reconciled and all indications point to Raila joining government.
This curious new arrangement, and given Raila’s history of joining political parties and causing them to implode, is a matter of concern for some Jubilee honchos. DP Ruto, in particular, who is currently putting on a brave face, has cause to worry. He is involuntarily yoked with an ambitious and extremely popular politician, whom even Moi could not contain! What does this portend for the future? If, as they say, the enemy of one’s enemy is a friend, then what does this make the friend of your enemy?
WSR is in a situation akin to what the Ameeru of Tigania consider akin to walking with a “snake” in one’s pocket in the full knowledge that it will bite sometime in the future. A very uncomfortable situation indeed!
The writer is a communications consultant