He’s been called the “enigma of Kenyan politics.” Others call him Agwambo or Tinga. But he may perhaps have vindicated those who call him Baba after he humiliated DP William Ruto in Kibra. Like a literal baba, or dad in the English language, last week ODM supremo Raila Odinga swatted Mr Ruto out of Kibra as though the latter was a fly.
Mr Odinga had warned Mr Ruto, whom he bitingly referred to as Arap Mashamba on the campaign trail, that Kibra was Baba’s “bedroom.” The message was clear – you don’t just barge into your dad’s bedroom uninvited. It’s bad manners. Hyperbole aside, let me tell you why the Kibra by-election is a harbinger of things to come.
The Kibra parliamentary seat, once held by Mr Odinga, fell vacant after the death of MP Ken Okoth from cancer.
Immediately the seat was declared vacant, a number of party kingpins including Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetangula saw an opportunity to show Mr Odinga they weren’t his political children. They would run their own non-ODM candidates.
Mr Mudavadi offered ANC’s Eliud Owalo, the one-time erstwhile protégé of Mr Odinga. Mr. Wetangula took Ford-Kenya’s Khamisi Butichi to the altar. In a surprise development, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka threw his weight behind Mr Wetangula’s candidate.
Nasa was at war with itself as three of its principals threw down the gauntlet on Mr Odinga, Nasa centre of gravity.
For his part – after ODM nominations – Mr Odinga backed the little-known Bernard Imran Okoth, the brother to the late Ken Okoth.
It was a no-brainer. The younger Okoth may have been a political greenhorn but he is a Kibra native. The man was born and raised there. What’s more, he was his late brother’s trusted confidante and the man who ran development projects when his brother started ailing. The people of Kibra know him as hardworking, honest, and an upright man who understands their tribulations. He’s one of them.
ODM couldn’t have picked a better candidate. He clearly stood to benefit from his brother’s “sympathy” vote. More importantly, he was Baba’s candidate, the man who’s an icon in Kibra.
The biggest shocker came when Mr. Ruto decided to “enter” Baba’s “bedroom” by fielding renown ex-footballer MacDonald Mariga as the Jubilee candidate.
Mr Mariga, an otherwise innocent chap, allowed himself to be a political football in the service of Mr Ruto’s gargantuan ego and unbridled ambition. It was clear from the outset that Jubilee’s supremo Uhuru Kenyatta wouldn’t cut his nose to spite his face by running a candidate in Kibra.
Such a move would’ve been nonsensical given his historic political covenant with Mr Odinga. Only a fool doesn’t know that Mr. Kenyatta instructed his wing of Jubilee to openly campaign for Mr Okoth. But Mr Ruto, his precocious deputy, saw an opportunity to embarrass Mr. Kenyatta. That’s how, in spite of opposition from Jubilee’s Secretary General Raphael Tuju, Mr Ruto inserted – by hook but many believe by crook – Mr Mariga into the contest. Mr Ruto even managed to sneak Mr Mariga into State House whereupon Mr Kenyatta planted a Jubilee cap on his noggin. But that was the extent of Mr Kenyatta’s involvement in Mr Ruto’s dastardly scheme.
Instead, Mr Kenyatta instructed his Kikuyu lieutenants in Jubilee – MP Maina Kamanda and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, among others – to go to Kibra and campaign for Mr Odinga’s candidate.
This was the “handshake” between the scions of Jomo and Jaramogi at work. Mr Ruto, the self-proclaimed hustler, was publicly abandoned at the altar by Mr Kenyatta.
Bedroom politics aside, what really was going on? If you live in Mars, let me define it for you. Not only did Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta come together in Kibra, but the former roped in the three Ukambani governors – Governor Charity Ngilu, Governor Kivutha Kibwana, and Governor Alfred Mutua. That’s a masterstroke.
Methinks Mr Musyoka, until now the Ukambani kingpin, may have been politically injured. Why? Because the three governors defied him and instead linked up with Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta. If that sounds like a bourgeoning political alliance, then your guess is as good as mine. Importantly, Governor Waiguru, a shrewd operator, is emerging as the heir apparent to Mr Kenyatta in the House of Mumbi.
As we know, Mr Okoth crushed – utterly obliterated – Mr Mariga in Kibra. But the loser was actually Mr Ruto, not the clueless Mariga. He was simply a pawn in a bigger game. Mr Ruto wanted to test Mr Odinga’s political strength and put Mr Kenyatta against the wall by exposing him as the leader who abandoned Jubilee.
I think Mr Ruto lost on both counts. Everyone knows that Jubilee is dead, and so the question of exposing Mr Kenyatta doesn’t arise.
Further, Mr Odinga’s political acumen is legendary. No quixotic adventurism, like Mr. Ruto’s ill-conceived fool’s errand in Kibra, can dent Mr Odinga’s standing. And as he said, it was his bedroom, stupid!
Prof Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.