Picture: Prime Minister Raila Odinga getting a hand to climb stairs up the podium to address Kisumu residents who have been protesting for the last three days over erection ofÂ a Hindu statue in the town.
By Rashid Wanjala
I have taken time off my busy schedule to respond to a matter of media confabulations that Raila was heckled in Kisumu.
I watched the video footage, and nothing can be further from the truth. Raila wasnâ€™t being heckled. It was just an impromptu meeting or an open air Town Hall if you like where speakers were not moderated. Itâ€™s the reason we raise hands in class or town halls. Thatâ€™s because human beings tend to behave in a disorganized way when there arenâ€™t rules set down to governing them.
First of all Raila is Kenyaâ€™s most popular leader.Â He is the reason the Ipsos Synovate Directors were threatened with the revival of a matter of more than 10 yrs ago in which the company was acquired without the Competition Authority being notified.
Jubilee has been in power for 1 yr now, but itâ€™s only after Ipsos did a poll that puts Raila and ODM in a commanding 54% lead, and Cord at 63% that TNA decided to counter that by enlisting the services of Strategic PR, in a poll whose sole intention was to portray Raila and ODM as waning political entities.
Raila despite being rigged out of office continues to be a decent, dignified and globally respected leader whose foresight and Mandelaisque persona earned him a place as the keynote speaker at the star studded Liberal International Convention attended by the whoâ€™s who. Railaâ€™s diary is fully booked.
The Liberal International invited him to officially open its convention held in South Africa because with Mandela gone, Raila remains the most celebrated African visionary who has gotten it right on matters that the world Liberal movement cares deeply about.
And the Sikh Monument was a major test on Railaâ€™s cool. He could have chosen to be a populist and just yell â€œhii monument tutachoma keshoâ€ but as a responsible leader, who understands the dictates and tenets of freedom of religion and the rights of the minority, he maintained his cool, portraying a man who chose to endure what was fodder to the media all in defense of religious freedoms.
The world and even the US went through numerous upheavals which culminated into this concept called Religious freedom, through the agitation of folks like Thomas Jefferson- a man I respect for getting it right in all his major writings even at a time when his positions would not have been popular in the 16th C America.
And for Jeffersonâ€™s fidelity to what is right- his push for religious freedoms was repulsed by the media and religious fundamentalists as â€œthe views of an infidel who “writes aghast the truths of God’s words; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, and without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians.”
3 Centuries later Raila Odinga- a Kenyan leader is like Thomas Jefferson confronted with a similar challenge of telling his people the truth about religious tolerance. Because religious freedom is about letting Rashid and his Muslim brothers sing in the streets during Hajj so long as we stay out of terror, or Christians erect a â€œMary mother of God holding Jesus statueâ€ outside their church in my home town of Kitale.
The $80m Question is- would the Christian supermajority in Kisumu have protested had a â€œMary Mother of God statue holding baby Jesusâ€ or Jaramogi statue been erected at Kondele? The answer is No!
Folks thatâ€™s tyranny of majority analogous to the evil of â€œtyranny of numbersâ€, by an arrogantÂ people who are currently victims of the same Jubilee doctrine, ramming their beliefs down the throats of minority Sikhs. So what will they tell the majority Kikuyus and Kalenjins who continue to impose their illegitimate domination on them driven by their appetite for what they without apologies call tyranny?
You see. Itâ€™s bad when itâ€™s you the victim, but OK when you are the villain. At this rate Luos are taking away their moral authority to complain against â€œTyranny of Numbersâ€ because they have demonstrated by this small act that they too can be vindictive should they craft a Tyranny of Numbers like Coalition.
I think this Sikh Monument debacle portrayed vintage Raila as a leader who can stand up to his people when they are wrong and avoid the temptation of playing to the gallery.
Instead he appeared to say â€œI donâ€™t worship, wont bow before your â€œgodâ€ but will respect and uphold your dignity and respect to worship the god of your choice, but I will seek a way out, if in the expression of your religious rights public peace and harmony will be affectedâ€.
Thatâ€™s a perfect mix of Jeremy Benthamâ€™s Utilitarianism and Immanuel Kantâ€™s deontological ethics. That yes I will be consistent because am guided by certain progressive principles, and live with the consequences, but I will also seek a middle ground solution that addresses the concerns of the â€œgreatest numberâ€ of disparate parties.
Thatâ€™s what leadership is. Standing firm for whatâ€™s right, and even paying the media consequences for it, even when the political cost is too high. Raila is the man in whom Eldorobos, Jemps and even Kikuyus alike can entrust their lives to. A once in a lifetime political leader willing to rise above the ethnic chauvinism of his ODM Luo Nyanza leaders in embrace of a national image for the nationâ€™s single largest political and most national party, ODM. A leader who can not only unite the nation but also defend the rights of the minority Sikh population even when it means losing his own base political support. A leader whose election to office for 2 consecutive terms has been vetoed by the incumbency, but still accepted to move on in the interest of peaceâ€¦who else can have a larger than life heart like you Agwambo? Can any other leader ready to pay the price for consistency, like Raila Amolo Odinga, please stand up? Zero! Watch this space
Rashid Wanjala- Canadian Based Legal Analyst