It is early days yet, but Raila can’t be happy with the dwindling figures
I wonder whether Prime Minister Raila Odinga took time off on Sunday from watching the Safaricom 7s rugby at Nyayo Stadium to cast his eyes across the Atlantic to New York City.
No, our cousin Barack Obama did not have any event in The Big Apple, it was the New York Marathon that should have captured his attention.
Mr Odinga would have seen that from early on, Kenya’s Mary Keitany had the women’s race by the scruff of the neck and seemed a certainty to cross the line first and smash compatriots Mary Okayo’s course record.
That would have earned her a bounty of some US$200,000 in prize money, not counting additional sums from her appearance fee, bonuses from kit sponsors and so on.
By halfway Keitany was running a solo race more than two minutes ahead of the chasing pack, and was on course to challenge the world record held Britain’s Paula Radcliffe.
She slowed down somewhat in the fourth quarter of the race, but still more than a minute ahead of the nearest challenger with just five kilometres of the gruelling race to go, seemed to have built up an unassailable lead.
I had to rush off somewhere at that point and took my eyes off the small screen confident that New York, New York, was Kenya’s once again.
Imagine my shock and disappointment when I learnt shortly afterwards that Keitany had been overhauled by her two Ethiopian pursuers, Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba in the dying minutes of the race.
I really felt for Keitany, and I imagine the heartbreak she felt was akin to what Mr Odinga might right now be contemplating.
If he watched the Kenyan ace run the marathon too fast too early, Mr Odinga might have in mind now that not too long ago, he too looked like a certain winner. Pundits had him a shoo-in to capture the presidency come 2012.
Now the latest opinion poll by that ever-mutating firm recently christened Ipsos-Synovate, but better known by its original name, Steadman, confirms that the Prime Minister has been steadily losing ground his rivals.
The poll released on Friday show that Mr Odinga is still well ahead of the chasing pack, with 34 percent of the vote to Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s 24 percent, Eldoret North MP William Ruto’s 10 percent and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s 9 percent.
However one year ago Steadman—to use the familiar moniker in case there is another change of identity by the time this hits the press—had Mr Odinga with an unassailable 48 percent of the vote, just two points shy of the 50 percent-plus needed to clinch outright victory at the first ballot.
Mr Kenyatta was at 14 percent while Mr Ruto and Mr Musyoka were still just scratching double-digits.
Now, what is interesting about the latest poll are the permutation that jump out if the if the three G7 allies in the chasing pack unite and throw their weight behind one candidate.
If Mr Odinga fails to clinch outright victory at the first ballot and is forced into a run-off against his nearest rival, her would lose to Mr Kenyatta , 44 percent to 41 percent. I believe that is the first time a credible pollster has recorded such an outcome.
I suppose Mr Kenyatta must have had a celebratory weekend instead of the usual fulminations against opinion polls he always expresses cries lean towards his opponents.
I can bet that this time it will be Mr Odinga’s camp complaining about ‘biased’ polls.
Still, these are early days. A great uncertainty about the latest poll is that it comes with a whopping 15 percent undecided, enough of a vote to make nonsense of the findings.
Still the numbers, and the trends seen in the past year, cannot be discounted even with allowance for the shifting alliances of Kenyan politics.
The biggest imponderable is whether the G7 alliance, united only by common antipathy towards Mr Odinga, will hold together and present a united front when push comes to shove.
I would not be surprised if instead celebrating confirmation that Mr Odinga is beatable, Mr Ruto and Mr Musyoka are separately looking on with resentment at Mr Kenyatta’s surge.
The polls show that if either of two other G7 leaders are the alliance candidate, Mr Odinga will capture State House.
A piece of conventional wisdom holds that the alliance would be foolish to front Mr Kenyatta to succeed President Kibaki, another Kikuyu.
That has been Mr Kenyatta biggest Achilles heel because it presents the spectre of the rest of the alliance walking away in protest at the extension of Kikuyu hegemony.
And it is not lost on many that he is a son of the founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who happened to have done rather well for his family in seizing a large chunk of the national economy.
The same ‘it’s our turn to eat’ mindset also complicates things for Mr Ruto, whose candidacy might be seen to represent a comeback for the ruinous years of the Moi kleptocracy.
That is what gives Mr Musyoka the right to expect that he be given the G7 nomination since the top two candidates represent the groupings that have ‘eaten’ at State House.
The Vice President might also be the ‘Last Man Standing’ if Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto are in the not too distant future carted off to The Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity arising out of Kenya’s savage episode of post-electoral violence.
Supporters of the two look at Mr Musyoka with barely disguised suspicion because of that.
There have been suggestions that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto might try to resolve the uncertainty by throwing their collective weight behind a handpicked ‘third candidate’.
That is where the names of fellows such as Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa and former cabinet minister Raphael Tuju come into the fray.
The former is a lightweight who in all those months on the stumpings has barely been able to raise his head above water.
Mr Tuju is a recent entrant, but his chief appeal seems to be that he hails from Mr Odinga’s Luo bastions, and there is nothing yet to show that he can get a toehold in his home constituency.
Backing an alternate candidate sounds like a good idea, for G7, but it still has to be a candidate sellable candidate, and so far Mr Kenyatta looks like the only one capable of taking a strong fight to Mr Odinga; and that comes with all the aforementioned complications.
Outside Mr Odinga and the G7 challenge, what other potential candidate looms?
Steadman just seems to confirm that candidates such as Ms Martha Karua and Mr Peter Kenneth, ahead of a whole lot of jokers, excite the media more than they excite the voters.