Raila’s move was prudent; those stoking tension are the cowards

Saturday December 16 2017

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga talks to his supporters at Mumboha stadium, Vihiga County, on December 17, 2016. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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After a long and fatiguing political season when common sense fled through the widow and hate talk crept into the room and started ruining our lives, I had resolved to give politics a wide berth. But this is not an easy thing to do in a country whose political fragility has, of late, become legendary.

We have become a captive State — captive to political shenanigans which have left us little time to do anything else.

One day, historians may tell us whether this was an especially difficult phase in the life of the nation which we eventually overcame, but we are not living in the past; we are in the here and now and our fabled resilience is rapidly unravelling.

This is sad. We are not a nation at peace with ourselves and quite a huge number are seemingly attracted to violence the way a moth is attracted to a burning candle.


How else can one explain the vitriol poured on the head of Mr Raila Odinga for declining to be anointed as the president of a phantasmagoric entity known as the people’s republic of Kenya?

This was a wise decision that Mr Odinga made. Indeed, he deserves praise for refusing to plunge this country into an indeterminate period of chaos, destruction and death.

This is surely what would have happened had Mr Odinga agreed to be sworn in a week after Mr Uhuru Kenyatta succeeded himself as president. In my view, this would have been a blunder of monumental proportions.

Not everyone agrees that Mr Odinga was robbed of an electoral victory for the umpteenth time. However, a huge number does, and giving them false hope would have been ill-advised.

The reason is simple. Those in Jubilee would have resisted and the resulting confrontation would have been bloody.


After all, the new-fangled contraption known as the National Resistance Movement does not have any control over the forces of coercion while Jubilee does. Therefore, it is not clear how such an astute move by Mr Odinga could be described as a betrayal. And why is scorn heaped on him? When did giving in, for whatever reason, constitute cowardice?

No, Mr Odinga is not a coward. Those who hide behind him and advise him to try out impossible solutions to imponderable problems are the cowards.

They are craven theorists who are willing to set the country on fire while at the same time digging a pit in which to bury Mr Odinga’s impressive legacy.

Theories abound as to whose advice Mr Odinga followed eventually. Some say the Western envoys played a major role. Others say it was the clerics who implored him to reconsider his plans, while still others say it was Mrs Odinga who intervened. But it really doesn’t matter who was responsible for the last-minute change of mind. What matters is that the swearing in didn’t happen.


Certainly, the hot-heads among Mr Odinga’s ‘advisers’ lost to those who called for prudence in a situation that was both volatile and pregnant with probabilities of conflagration.

It is also possible that the Nasa co-principals could not see their way through the constitutional quagmire, and they backed out, leaving Mr Odinga isolated.

Having come so close to the precipice, we must pause and ask ourselves what brought us to this pass. Has electoral justice been denied or is this just a case of the right election campaign strategy prevailing over a poorer one? Was Nasa really cheated out of victory, or is it just a case of a bunch of politicians promising more than they could deliver?


There is no possibility that Nasa, whose leaders believe the whole Jubilee government is illegitimate, are about to let the matter drop. It is now well-nigh impossible to remove it constitutionally or through the courts, but if there are people foolhardy enough to believe what they are told by demagogues – that it can be done through armed struggle – then they are in for great disappointment.

Many of the Nasa loud-mouths preaching this doctrine only want to use the masses as canon-fodder, but when things get ugly, they will retreat to their mansions to watch on TV the bloody scenes unfolding in the streets. These are the sort of ‘revolutionaries’ Kenyans can do without. As matters stand, too many people have already died in pointless confrontations.

 Magesha Ngwiri is a consultant editor. [email protected]