Raila’s challenge in pursuit of power

Tuesday March 7 2017

ODM leader Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses mourners at the burial of Nderitu Gachagua in Hiriga, Nyeri County, on March 6, 2017. Raila and others formed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2005. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Too many similarities exist between today’s real-life situations and the accounts of the lives and times of both ordinary and extraordinary individuals in the holy books.

The biblical accounts of Jacob, later known as Israel, depict him as a sly interloper, who succeeds in stealing his older twin brother Esau’s birth right as well as their father’s blessings by cunning and deception.

The bad blood between the twins had been prophesied to their mother Rebecca during a difficult pregnancy.

She had been told when she went to enquire of God the reason for the turmoil in her womb: “The one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger,” (Genesis 25:25 KJV). In the Kenyan pre-election context there are many lessons.

One voice is as consistent as it is loud in the cacophony of the opposition voices.

What makes Raila Amolo Odinga, a charismatic, larger than life individual, tick?

He has a personality that endears him to his fanatical followers, and instils dread in others.

When his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, died on January 20, 1994, it was Siaya Senator James Orengo, and neither Raila nor Dr Oburu Odinga, his older sibling, who stood at his bedside.

In a symbolic and ironic sense, none of the Odinga siblings inherited their father’s mantle.

Jaramogi left a formidable opposition party, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya (Ford-Kenya) in the hands of Orengo and Michael Kijana Wamalwa.

Could it be that the old man could not trust his biological son to manage such an enterprise?


This did not stop Raila from wresting Ford-Kenya from the safe pair of hands that his father had placed it in, though he eventually lost the battle for the party’s leadership to Wamalwa.

Raila then took over the National Development Party (NDP) from Stephen Oludhe.

Raila used NDP in 1997 to seek the presidency, finishing third after Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.

In 2000, his quest for power led him into a marriage of convenience with Kanu.

President Daniel arap Moi appointed him Energy minister, a portfolio he held until 2002. He also served as Kanu secretary-general.

Just before the 2002 elections, Moi anointed Uhuru Kenyatta as Kanu’s flagbearer.

Outfoxed, Raila regrouped with Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti under the Rainbow Movement.

Raila and Kalonzo moved to the Liberal Democratic Party. Kibaki won under Narc, having been famously endorsed by Raila in the ‘Kibaki Tosha’ declaration, ending Kanu’s 39 years in power.

In 2005, Kibaki’s government faced its biggest challenge yet, a national referendum on the Constitution. Raila and others formed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

For the 2007 elections, Raila assembled a formidable team that would have assured him of victory if only he played the role of a good captain.

There was an implosion and Musyoka left ODM with a million votes that would have assured Raila of victory.

But he retained a strong team that included Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto and Najib Balala.

He would later push them out of the house they had helped him build.

Two recent books, Against all Odds, the autobiography of Kalonzo Musyoka and Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya by Miguna Miguna, Raila’s former political adviser, aptly capture his restless character and betrayal of allies.

As he prepares for the August 8 elections, he might need to clear the air about his intentions for Cord and Musalia Mudavadi’s National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Prior to the 2013 elections, the Cord principals, Raila, Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which he agreed to support Musyoka in the 2017 presidential race.

By rushing to bring Mudavadi on board, it is obvious that Raila is no longer keen on honouring his word.

The writing is on the wall for them. At 72, Raila might find favour in history by placing his hand of blessings on one of the co-principals to become the president.

Those close to him say Raila rarely takes advice.

Though he is known to seek out voices of wisdom, he eventually returns to his old ways.

My Bukusu people have a description for this behaviour. They say: “Kekhalila kamaru (he has a plug in the ear)”.

The elder Odinga’s spirit will surely grieve over his son’s propensity for throwing the spanner in the works come August 8. Raila has no one but himself to blame.

Mr Wambilianga is a commentator on social and political issues. [email protected]