By Dikembe Disembe
Recently, the mainstream media discourse in opposition party politics has seen the re-introduction of the tribe-party social complex as a political unit in our national conversations.
More precisely, the Luo tribe and ‘their place’ in the Orange Democratic Movement, has seen mainstream media reframe, at different instances, the forthcoming ODM party polls as first, a fight pitting the ‘rest of Kenya’ against the Luo, and, when a battalion of Luo leaders successively quit the poll’s race; the media has now changed the story, and “now warning” on this massive “walkout” of leaders of the Luo community from the Orange polls.
I belong to the school of civic journalism that believes if ‘democracy, in its practised form, is poorly understood by citizens of a republic, it (democracy) can still fail’. The tribe-party social complex sums up a discussion potentially engaging everyone and allows a society to come to a common mind about important matters. To me, the party-tribe social complex, and its attendant identity politics, is summed up in what I call the Pentagon Mentality – When ODM decided to reify its ethnic publics by elevating political demigods as representation of the ‘face of the nationa-tribe’ country.
William Ruto, Najib Balala, Joe Nyaga (with no following) Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga were the then ‘national face’ of ODM politics. Charity Ngilu would later jump in. It can be argued that this worked until it was met by impunity at the ballot of 2007. Its Machiavellian dictum was “41 against 1”.
In my view, the normative status of the Pentagon Mentality can no longer be re-enacted. Time, we all know, tames human ingenuity. But I digress.
The gnashing by Luo MPs who quit the race with pathologically infuriating excuses, from ‘giving way to younger leaders’ to ‘obeying party leadership wishes’ to Mbadi’s blatant take that the environment had been ‘poisoned for Luo candidates’ has a host of dependent issues that will ultimately play out in the post-NDC Orange party.
Choices will have consequences, and this polls may again create an irredeemable legitimacy issues around party office bearers who shall be elected.
The reason why Luo MPs will remain in ODM is precisely the same reason why they cannot shout loudest, despite the vexatious manner in which they have been short-changed and ‘traded’ for other communities in the next polls.
Most Luo MPs are beneficiaries of the mess that engulfed ODM Party nominations. Put more succinctly, most of them owe their candidatures to the direct intervention of Raila Odinga (politically the Planck Constant of the ODM politics) and as such, high octane rebellion, such as we saw with Ruto towards the last ODM NDC where he forced himself to Deputy Party leadership, and later the eventual mass walkout of the Kalenjin community, cannot be staged by these MPs.
Those who were confident with the people in the last elections defected to other parties, and, like Olago Aluoch or the Awendo MP, still won their seats.Â It is therefore safe to say that for now, Luo MPs will remain in ODM and peddle their loyalties as if nothing had happened.
However,Â the very idea that they ‘gave way to the wishes of the party leadership’ and still claim to be loyal to the party with the vigour and gusto to in future expend their energies in invigorating ODM, is, to me, only achievable among mindless robots. With such trade-offs, ODM of the future will have to marshal the whole of heaven on its side to remove this wasteful and clueless Uhuru government. If not, a decade it is in the cold.
Party polls, such as ODM has committed itself into conducting, are not merely exercises in public relations. For a party that conducted shoddy nominations towards the last general election – which it lost- the hopes of many supporters had rested on massive re-engineering of the party. It must be seen that the party learnt something.
To re-engineer an organization is to rethink it wholesomely. To radically transform it in a manner that uproots, if any, all earlier cartels and status quo that made re-engineering inevitable in the first place. To say it primitively, it is not to bandage pus in the wound. When done, it should ‘dramatically’ shore up the fortunes of that Organization. This is a tested science of business management strategy.
If by ejecting Luo MPs was to achieve this, then our focus, as ODM party supporters, should be to look into the facts. Did Luos dominate ODM? How many party positions existed in the past and how many were occupied by Luos? What were the relative strategic importance of such positions? Finally, how did holding such positions benefit supporters of the party in those regions? If, in the last question, there is no benefit that electing so-and-so to that position benefits any particular region – and by region I mean the ethnic coocon – then the rancour caused by removing Luo MPs worries.
This is the simple question: How did Luos gain from ODM by the mere fact that Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o was the Party Secretary General? If the Sec Gen post goes to Zani or Namwamba, what benefits accompany it that the two leaders will deliver to ‘their people’? What benefits have the people of Kipkelion recieved by the mere fact that Magerer Langat is the ODM Executive Director? If none, why this natural selection of Luo MPs, or Luos?
When Luo leaders like Ken Obura, John Mbadi, James Orengo, Dalmas Otieno, Evans Kidero, Millie Odhiambo actively indicated their intentions to vie; the party positions were framed as ‘favours to regions’. The whole hullabaloo about the ‘national face’ was pegged on this premise.
Now, what is the “meaning” of this national face that ODM seeks to built? What is its strategic worth minus the media buzzed ‘perception of inclusivity’ that has been thrown in our faces? When you say “ODM is not a Luo party” what do you? If you replace the word “Luo” with “Luhya” or “Somali” or “Digo” will the meaning remain the same? More than the meaning, will the reactions remain ‘muted’ as Luos have done, opting to ‘quit’ and let go?
This Pentagon mentality – that top party shots must be seen to come from wherever – is so old school. Heck, this is 2014 after the election of Uhuru and Ruto on a ‘merely’ two-tribe tyranny. Having tens of Â party demi-gods can’t bring that magic. Sadly, after the NDC, ODM will again expend a lot of energy and resources ‘healing’ the wounds caused by the ‘pentagon mentality’. Already, I can see the jitters of mashemeji and their lot.
In an earlier post I argued that no community should see their lot in ODM as doing another community a favour. No community should be ‘firewood’ for others in ODM. The Luo have always have the same stake, sometimes even lower stakes, than the other communities which form this party. You only need to look at the party when it was part of the government and the direction the ministerial flags took.
Party affirmative action ended up seeing Prof Nyong’o – an indefatigable economist – spend half a decade as medical minister, fighting out strikes with nurses and doctors! Oh, and Orengo’s Lands ministry was more of an IDP Lands ministry.
What I am saying is that ODM polls do not benfit communities but individuals. One only hopes that these individuals have the political capital to bring to the party, like Joho did in Mombasa, otherwise, just cobbling up a ‘starving face of Kenya’ in ODM will condemn it to where that animal humanity called “Dodo” ended up – historical oblivion!
Of course, ODM is not a Luo party. [laughing out loudly]
Dikembe Disembe comments on topical political and ethnicity issues in Kenya.