When President Uhuru Kenyatta asked opposition kingpin Raila Odinga to accord him time to work, I thought to myself the Head of State was unwittingly tying himself up in public relations knots for he had just publicly identified his political nemesis not only as a one man opposition, but also as a thorn in his government’s and his own flesh.
Why? The President cannot ask the same of Parliament.
They say in Westminster that when you have a parliamentary majority, the only thing you cannot do, as a government, is to turn a woman into a man. The President’s governing Jubilee coalition has a crushing majority in both Houses of Parliament.
There is, therefore, no way the President’s legislative agenda can be delayed, let alone stymied, by the hapless opposition in either the National Assembly or the Senate.
In both Houses of Parliament the opposition has its say and then the government its way.
And, notice that the opposition’s best leaders, that is Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, are not Members of the National Assembly or Senate. Of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy’s (Cord’s) three principals, only Mr Moses Wetang’ula is elected and sits in the Senate as Minority Leader.
Because the President’s frustration must be emanating from outside the Legislature, I surmised that the source of his frustration is the political arena and specifically the fight for the hearts and minds of the public.
The all-important question, then, is how does Mr Odinga make it difficult for the President to work?
For the better part of last year, Mr Odinga did everything possible to tie the President and his Deputy William Ruto to grand corruption or paint them as a duo complicit in the corruption that has run rampant in government.
Mr Odinga famously typified the DP as the chief priest in the temple of corruption and, in a clear reference to Mr Ruto, asked the President to finger those who are closest to him if he was serious about fighting corruption.
Then Mr Odinga sought to drive a wedge between President and DP by implying that the former could easily get the latter off the International Criminal Court if, as custodian of state intelligence annals, he chose to do so.
As 2015 drew to a close, Mr Odinga had indicted Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, also the President’s right and left hand person, as corrupt in the court of public opinion.
In the new year, he called out State House Chief of Staff and Public Service Head Joseph Kinyua in alleged disappearance of Eurobond billions. By targeting Mr Kinyua as a person of interest to be investigated, Mr Odinga once again traced alleged theft of public money to the President’s inner sanctum.
Here’s the President: “We must all deal with what is important for Kenyans and we cannot manage this if we keep fighting one another every day.” Mr Odinga’s political body flows, the President was affirming, affect his work.
I doubt they make it impossible for him to work; I think they make his work a little more difficult or slow down his pace. It is the issues that require tough decisions that land on the President’s desk.
An under-fire and under-pressure Cabinet Secretary and or Principal Secretary or one of the President’s aides looking for direction and comfort adds to Mr Kenyatta’s in-tray or interrupts his day’s order of business or leads to emergency meetings.
But when asking Mr Odinga to give him time to work, the President appeared to suggest that the Cord leader fights him personally and unfairly.
Mr Odinga disagrees, pointing put that he knows when to join the President and when to take him on in the interests of Kenya and Kenyans.
The President’s corner disagrees, saying that when Cord operatives are mentioned in connection with graft, Mr Odinga either goes awol or finds a comfortable fence.
Not surprisingly the two corners were split about the President’s give-me-time call to Mr Odinga. One blogger asked: “How has Raila stopped him from fighting corruption?”
The President’s men pointed to the clearance of Ms Waiguru of corruption by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission as proof Mr Odinga has politicised the war on graft.
However, if the President wants to know how somebody can make it difficult for another to work, let him study how Mr Ruto mobilised Kalenjin MPs to fight Mr Odinga when he sacked him from the Grand Coalition Government. My take? Mr Odinga is keeping the President on duty.