Will Miguna book ruin Raila?
Posted Saturday, July 21 2012 at 23:30
- Analysts agree memoirs unlikely to affect the election because the majority of voters have already decided how they will vote
Hardly anyone has dominated a news cycle this year the way that Miguna Miguna, the Prime Minister’s former aide turned bitter critic, has done in the last week.
His sensational memoirs stole the headlines, animated social media and seemed to be the central discussion everywhere two or more Kenyans gathered.
But the unresolved question in many people’s minds is whether Mr Miguna’s book, Peeling Back the Mask, will have any impact on Mr Raila Odinga’s quest for the presidency. Will the juicy, albeit contested revelations, in the memoirs dent Mr Odinga’s bid to be the nation’s fourth president?
It is a contention that is dismissed out of hand by supporters of the ODM flagbearer. Mr Hassan Omar, a member of the Friends of Raila lobby group who aspires to the Mombasa County Senate seat, says Mr Miguna’s book is little more than a highly entertaining collection of gossip and street rumour.
“This is not a factual account. It has no evidential value. It is not like (John) Githongo’s report on Anglo Leasing which was heavily laden with facts. Miguna’s comes out as a very dishonest account. It is an attempt to cast the PM in very bad light. He’s very selective. A memoir points out both the good and bad. Miguna’s ego overtook him and combined with his wild public theatrics and TV appearances, it is clear most people will not take this book seriously. It will not hurt Raila at all.”
University of Nairobi political scientist Dr Joshua Kivuva takes the view that the Miguna book has the potential to damage the PM. But he argues that Mr Odinga has the good fortune that his rivals in the G7 have an unsophisticated communication strategy and are unlikely to make any political gains from the recently published memoir.
“This is obviously something very serious, raising weighty issues, and you can tell that from the behaviour of the Raila camp in the last 10 days, including the customary exiting from the scene by the PM. But the question is whether Raila’s competitors have the capacity to take advantage. My view is that they don’t. Kalonzo (Musyoka) is incapable. I don’t think Uhuru and Ruto are inclined to take this up. So Raila might survive, although I will not be surprised if these issues are revived closer to the election season in an attempt to put Raila on the defensive.”
The image of the PM Mr Miguna depicts sometimes borders on the comical. He tells his readers that Mr Odinga is singularly unprepared to lead the country, a man “who cannot even manage a group of squirrels”.
“… I know Raila very well,” he writes. “I know that he is a very weak leader. I also know that he doesn’t believe in, is not committed to, and doesn’t represent the new dispensation … He isn’t dedicated to the fight against corruption. He has no loyalty but to himself and his immediate circle … Through the numerous preferential treatment of his family and relatives, it’s obvious that Raila is a nepotist.”
Mr Miguna’s book met with a robust response from the PM’s team. Sarah Elderkin, a long-time confidante of Mr Odinga, wrote a scathing critique in the Daily Nation.
“It is from the turmoil of (his) ‘mental darkroom’ and out of his ‘relentless sense of fighting back’ that Miguna decided to do his very best to destroy the man for whom he had previously and fervently declared his ‘love’, and whom he revered. Miguna is a man of wild extremes. His actions have nothing at all to do with Raila Odinga. They have everything to do with Miguna Miguna, his lack of balance, and his distorted sense of self,” she wrote.
Communications consultant Kwamchetsi Makokha says the PM’s office overreacted. He says the PM’s team would have been better advised to paint Mr Odinga as the victim of an uneven relationship with President Kibaki, a dynamic many Kenyans had suspected and on which Mr Miguna offered the first detailed insider account.
“Getting a raw deal is not bad PR because it paints you as a nationalist. The very strident response was uncalled for. There was near-panic. What was the crisis? In my view the biggest charge was that he had people around him of questionable values. The same can be said of Miguna. He is a man of questionable judgment.
“When I look at the Sarah Elderkin response, it’s very detailed, but Miguna’s book is not.”
Most analysts agree that Mr Miguna’s memoirs are unlikely to meaningfully affect the election, principally because the bulk of the electorate has made up its mind which way they will vote.
But the PM might be faced with the challenge of having to adjust his campaign platform, which had been built around the claim of being a reformist and a relatively clean politician.