The name Raila Odinga provokes irrational fear among some people. Odinga traumatises those who have the capacity to frustrate his dream to ascend to power. And they have stopped him before, regardless that they were only peasant voters, or power barons in strategic positions.
This, above everything, makes Odinga a bad choice for National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate. The man may be the most popular choice within Nasa strongholds, but the least acceptable everywhere else. This matters.
When you have been close to him, you will discover that deep fear of the Orange Democratic Movement party leader rules even the sycophants around him. They will fawn over him not because they love him. They do so because they consider it dangerous not to follow him. Some of these nervous souls are the ones pushing actively for him to be named the Nasa presidential candidate.
Even his most zealous political adversaries pray he makes it to the ballot paper. They seek to use fear to effectively mobilise against Odinga and Nasa. Appalling apocryphal narratives have previously been successfully woven against Odinga in Jubilee Party strongholds. He has been demonised so much that he is the Jubilee Party’s best campaign tool against Nasa.
There is the perception that Odinga is anti-wealth, and especially wealth in the hands of people from Mount Kenya. This alone galvanises the region against him, to a man. They vote for Uhuru Kenyatta massively not because they love the Jubilee Party, but because they have been told horrifying stories of what would happen to their property should Odinga ascend to power.
In the last election, Odinga’s nemeses spread propaganda that his supporters would not pay rent to landlords from certain communities.
This is not to say that without this dark propaganda, Jubilee Party strongholds would vote for Odinga. The issue is that people in these vote-rich catchments will turn out in hundreds of thousands to vote against him. The recently ended mass voter registration has suggested that Jubilee Party voters are unhappy with the coalition and would probably stay away from the polling stations if the Nasa candidate were anybody other than Odinga.
Odinga also worries powerful people – the people who own Kenya. He has a penchant for opening up many war fronts with them. There is also some level of Odinga fatigue, even among his keen followers. Their lethargy goes hand in glove with creeping apathy and cynicism.
If it should be true that Odinga is always rigged out, some feel, will he not be rigged out again? If the Jubilee party plans election fraud, why would a disillusioned electorate want to engage in the futility of voting?
Even without rigging, a ticket that puts Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka on the ballot paper breathes freshness and excitement in the Nasa effort, regardless of who plays which role. They stand a better chance than a tired Odinga candidacy.