When the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) charged in its state of the nation address on Tuesday that the government planned to steal the coming General Election, I told myself it had handed the Jubilee Alliance an escape valve in the propaganda war.
Second, I told myself, it was now clear that Kenyans would not know what exactly the state of the economy is, for example, because the government would go to the trenches for a political war and hit Cord with everything at its disposal.
Third, I confirmed to myself that the state of the nation address and the coming rebuttal by Jubilee were the opening shots in the long campaign to the next General Election, which is slated for August 2017. Why?
Because the government needed desperately to shift attention away from graft, which Cord has identified as its Achille’s heel and rubbed it in during its news conference by variously accusing Jubilee of perpetrating grand, unprecedented, unapologetic and blatant theft.
The Jubilee strategy was threefold. One, portray Cord chief Raila Odinga as a man who knows he cannot win the next presidential poll and was, therefore, preparing his supporters for the failure and planning civil strife to force a coalition government on Kenyans.
Two, Jubilee after taking a beating for the better part of last year over graft, was keen to respond in kind and portray Mr Odinga and his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula as corrupt too and target Mr Odinga as the king of corruption.
Cord targeted Jubilee over graft and electoral fraud; Jubilee returned fire with its own charges of graft against the Cord troika, but also used the poll theft claim to tie Mr Odinga to the election violence (PEV) of 2007 and 2008 that followed disputed presidential poll results.
It must not be forgotten that President Kenyatta is on record as saying that while he cannot assign Mr Odinga criminal responsibility for PEV, he must bear political responsibility for it. Jubilee calculates that PEV is a potent political weapon against Mr Odinga.
The Jubilee rebuttal was a clear sign from State House that PEV will be used as a weapon against Mr Odinga.
Indeed, he may contemplate that in the lead-up to the 2013 General Election PEV may have cost him the presidential poll. Why?
Cord refrained from hitting Mr Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto over their arraignment before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over PEV.
Indeed, they did not have to; opinion polls showed most Kenyans had faith in ICC process and justice.
That was before Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto embarked on the anti-ICC so-called prayer rallies.
When the next opinion polls were published the mood of the country had turned against ICC and, ominously, Mr Odinga’s rating was declining.
Panic hit the Cord camp. That is when Mr Odinga said Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto belonged in jail. It was too late! The mood of the country had changed! He was now seen as betraying fellow Kenyans.
Supporters thought he should have targeted the rallies much earlier and replied blow for blow to everything coming out of them.
Three, Jubilee may have hit Mr Musyoka over grabbing of public land and Mr Wetang’ula over alleged bribery by a cigarette maker, but what pleased the governing coalition to no end was to portray a vilified Odinga as the opposition and the opposition as Mr Odinga.
That is not entirely misplaced; throughout last year Mr Odinga appeared to operate as a one-man opposition.
He alone appeared to be unearthing the scandals and to galvanise the opposition around any given issue. Indeed, he alone appeared to be doing opposition work!
So, at the end of the day Jubilee diverted attention from matters of grand graft and public confidence in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to a discussion of Mr Odinga, thanks to Cord’s claim that it planned to rig the next General Election.
Perhaps, Cord should shift to what I want to call the politics of evidence; make a claim and back it up with solid facts and evidence.
Because Cord set the tempo on Tuesday, it would have forced Jubilee’s hand with hard evidence of its claims and less invective about theft.
So the ball is back in Cord’s court. First, Mr Odinga must show he is mweupe kama pamba (as white as cotton), ditto his co-principals.
Second, Kenyans still want to know about the alleged stolen Eurobond billions. Last, Kenya needs an active opposition to check a ravenous government.