If BBI is Raila’s path to presidency, it cannot claim to unify Kenyans

ODM leader Raila Odinga addressing people during BBI rally in Kitui County on February 1, 2020. PHOTO | POOL | NATION MEDIA GROUP



What you need to know:

  • The Odinga-Kalonzo Musyoka presidential ticket lost the ballot to the Kenyatta-William Ruto partnership.
  • With prophetic authority, Atwoli says the elected Deputy President will not be on the presidential ballot.
  • Tilting of the political play field in the run up to a poll, is a rigging strategy.

Politicians love a crowd and a microphone. But circumspection has never been their strong point. Yet words always carry considerable weight in freight. They will, by themselves, hold speakers to account.

In the 1960s and 1970s, with breathtaking arrogance and sense of entitlement, two colonial era agitators for our freedom namely James Gichuru and Paul Ngei, who were in independent Kenya’s first cabinet, mocked the futile stupidity of running against them.

Each would boast that he needed, or was assured of, two votes that would take him to Parliament. Those votes were President Jomo Kenyatta’s and First Lady Mama Ngina’s. The implications of this for Kenya’s fledgling responsibility of managing itself were grave.

By presidential fiat, these two implied, the first couple would have circumvented or sabotaged the will of the electorate had they voted against either, or both, of them. It is highly unlikely they were saying that all their constituents needed to be persuaded to vote for them, was encouragement from the first couple.

Fast forward to July 2020. Per Oburu Oginga, a nominated Member of the East African Legislative Assembly – his younger and better known brother, Raila Odinga – is a shoo-in for the presidency in 2022. Why?

Because one, the unstinting loyalty of his bedrock support. Two, the assumed solidarity and support of President Uhuru Kenyatta and, three and crucially, the say-so of the system epitomised by the intelligence community.

The import of Oburu’s statement is massive and its implications grave for his brother, the President, security apparatus and Kenya’s democracy. Rewind to 2013 for background and perspective. The Odinga-Kalonzo Musyoka presidential ticket lost the ballot to the Kenyatta-William Ruto partnership.

An embittered Odinga accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the military, the National Intelligence Service and the courts of rigging the poll. He fingered just about every institution of government.

Put differently, what is Oburu saying in 2020? Surely that Mr Odinga’s investment in the March 2018 handshake, the private contract with the President, and its issue, Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), is huge and meant to ensure, by all means, an Odinga State House.

And the implication of Oburu’s statement is that his brother has learnt in his twilight years that if you cannot beat poll cheats, join them. At best Oburu is rephrasing “if God is for us, who can be against us” to read “if the President and NIS are for my brother, who can beat us?”

Then, there is labour boss Francis Atwoli. A loud and proud supporter of Odinga and BBI, he unfailingly reiterates his 2018 declaration that Kenya’s next president will not be elected at the ballot but picked at a boardroom.

And he boasts that the top three dominant forces in Kenya’s political ecosystem are Uhuru (the elected president), Odinga (an unelected powerhouse) and himself (elected union dynamo, but unelected politico).

With prophetic authority, Atwoli says the elected Deputy President will not be on the presidential ballot. He does not say Ruto will be defeated at the ballot.

So, will the 2022 General Election in general, and presidential poll in particular, be fought on an even play field?

No. Already BBI, that is the now on-hold weekend festivals of kerfuffle and cacophony, of vilification of those critical or opposed to it and lionisation of its principals, has already tilted the playground. Tilting of the political play field in the run up to a poll, is a rigging strategy and here, per Oburu, the President, Odinga and NIS are complicit.

Yes, at the same function where Oburu claimed the NIS fix is in, Alego MP Samuel Atandi was categorical that the handshake, and by extension, therefore, BBI, is the route to power for Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement. So much for the high-principle claim that BBI seeks to unite Kenyans.

If BBI is about national unity, why would Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata threaten withdrawal of central Kenya support for it if the Senate rejected a one-person-one-shilling devolution revenue allocation proposal?

Handshake and BBI are about the transfer of power in 2022, that is, the Kenyatta II succession.

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