By: MAGESHA NGWIRI
Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) leader Raila Odinga has at least three things going for him.
First, he is a mass mobiliser of note. He certainly has the knack for pulling in the crowds, which means that he not only has that elusive trait known as charisma, he also has the common touch which allows him to communicate with the mob at a very basic, even primal, level.
But, perhaps, that is one and the same thing. Mr Odinga’s second attribute is his consistency.
He is always at the centre of movements claiming to liberate his fellow men and women from the afflictions visited on them by governments of the past, including the one in which he served as Prime Minister.
But one can understand that reaction due to the personal travails he underwent during the Moi regime, and the fact that no one can really question his reformist credentials.
The problem is that he seems to regard all governments in the same light — as thieving, oppressive, dictatorial, and non-inclusive. Whether these charges are true, only history will judge.
Nevertheless, the majority voters have consistently disagreed with that view, which is probably why he has never won the prize, a very frustrating experience for an ambitious man.
He came close in December 2007, but as the venerated South African judge Johann Kriegler sagely observed, it will never be clear, who between him and Mwai Kibaki, actually won the contested election, since both sides cheated – massively.
The issue became even murkier when the election results were immediately followed by massive protests and bloodshed.
A CENTRAL ROLE
Deep inside, Mr Odinga does not believe he has ever lost an election fairly, except the one in which he came third in 1997.
This one, as he himself would acknowledge, was scuttled by the opposition because each party leader wanted to become president, and the parties were so many they ended up handing over the final victory to Moi on a platter.
It was only when the parties merged and the Narc coalition came into being, that the opposition won handily under Kibaki.
Of course Raila played an instrumental role in the victory, but he also played an equally central role in the break-up of Narc.
Whether he was justified in so doing is another issue altogether, for it is a historical fact that Kibaki reneged on the MoU in which he was to be a one-term president, giving room to Mr Odinga to take over.
All this is now so much water under the bridge, but a common thread runs in all of them: Mr Raila Odinga does not believe that any of those who have in the past been entrusted to run the government either deserved the job or were competent enough to do it.
In 2013, to his great chagrin, even after proving his mettle in cobbling together yet another formidable coalition, he was to lose to a new-fangled outfit formed by Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr William Ruto, the Jubilee Alliance.
Since then, any semblance of dialogue between Cord and Jubilee leaders has been rough, non-accommodating, and a decided non-sequitur.
For some reasons, Mr Odinga has come to believe that the two leaders are failures, and said so often.
He may have his reasons for such lack of respect, and it is true that too many issues have been extremely challenging for the administration this year, but I don’t believe he should continue treating the President and his deputy like callow adolescents who must be told what to do every day.
Surely, the Jubilee leadership cannot be as clueless about statecraft as he depicts it to be.
If an opposition appoints itself as the official gadfly, forever opposed to everything the government tries to do or every word its leaders utter, then something must be very wrong.
The inescapable fact is, if you do not respect those in power today, there is no way they will respect you if you ever form your own government.
For instance, Mr Odinga has no business telling the President to join a movement for a referendum specifically designed to show that he has failed.
Millions of Kenyans showed their faith in Jubilee three years ago, and there is no reason to expect they will change their minds in 2017, wooed by demagogic opportunism.
In any case, five-year political campaign cycles cannot be healthy for any country, especially one buffeted by so many economic crises.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION