By Dikembe Disembe
Don’t tell me words don’t matter. I have a dream â€“ just words words. We hold
these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal â€“ just words. We
have nothing to fear but fear itself â€“ just words, just speeches.Â
It’s true that speeches don’t solve all problems, but what is also true is that ifÂ we can’t inspire our country to believe again, then it doesn’t matter how manyÂ policies and plans we have – Barack Obama
I want to be the guy in charge of the ‘political script’ of the Orange Democratic Movement. Before I tell you why I want to get hold of that script, I want to tell you a story about two great men who ever lived.
William Henry Seward and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga were born a century apart. When Seward was born, America grappled with ending one of the worst atrocities on humanity: slavery.
In the next century, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga would be born in another human pathology: colonialism.
Seward and Jaramogi, separated by a time and geography, grappled with the future of their countries past these dangerous human inventions. Henry Seward, in 1858, had predicted that America, sooner or later, would have to face an “irrepressible conflict” – that of having a united states half enslaved and half free.
“Hitherto, the two systems have existed in different States, but side by side within the American Union. This has happened because the Union is a confederation of States. But in another aspect the United States constitute only one nation. Increase of population, which is filling the States out to their very borders, together with a new and extended network of railroads and other avenues,, and an internal commerce which daily becomes more intimate, is rapidly bringing the States into a higher and more perfect social unity or consolidation. Thus, these antagonistic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results.Â Shall I tell you what this collision means? They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation”.
Exactly a century later, in 1958, it was Jaramogi’s turn toÂ labour with the question of post-colonial Kenya: ‘what future our country should take’ – ubuntu or capitalism. Bombarded constantly by the question of communism, Ajuma Â told a divided Legco in Nairobi this of communism: “those worried about communism to behave in such a manner that they did not by their actions or lack of them help the development of those communist ideas in Kenya”.
So it is fair to say the 19th century defeated Slavery. The 20th humiliated colonialism. What role therefore remains for the 21st century?
Already, in most of the world, capitalism has endured. In Kenya, runaway capitalism (what has been variously referred to as capitalism without human face) is the bane of our politics. Kenya’s ideological state apparatus is constructed in such a way that society functions to keep capitalism alive.
From the school system, church system, family system, the media Â and the professions, the most successful of these is the man, or woman who skilfully, often ruthlessly, pursue the ends of capitalism.
What this means is that the 21st century will be the century of ‘arresting capitalism’. It will be the century of giving capitalism a ‘human face’.
You saw it in Othaya, Nyeri, the other day. You see, when a society claims it understands the workings of the stock market more than the fish market, or the mboga market, that is capitalism without a human face! Increasingly, we see in Kenya, living side by side, two different social issues: abject penury in wasteful spending; shining intelligence in shocking ignorance; excruciating pangs of hunger amidst a people who belch after overeating!
This is what I see as the work cut for the ODM party. As we build these mega structures; roads and rails; airports and seaports; skyscrapers, shopping malls and formula one lanes (the latter exclusive for the dry Machakos City), on the flip-side is whole communities whose purchasing power is increasingly getting lower and lower.
It is like these constructions and structures, when completed, should be used by zombies and aliens. The independence era enemies of kenya: poverty, disease and illiteracy have either conveniently been given a back-seat in the current statecraft, or there is a general consensus that they have been overcome.
Yet we know hunger still bites and so many still sleep in shelters worse than those used at the beginning by ancestors like Zinjanthropus. Folks who can’t get their kids to school; folks who can’t get specialised medication, young folks who work so hard and so long for so little.
As ODM goes to the ballot to internally regroup, these are the bigger issues affecting this country. If you ask me what I see as going on when we get to the ballot, I will tell you this: ‘The people talking among themselves’. The polls will have to be about the old and the young; the insiders and the outsiders; professionals and students; everyone anywhere in this country who see this century’s greatest call as that on responsibility to ‘arrest’ this runaway, wasteful and uncaring capitalist system.
To do so is not to merely change faces. ODM must conscientiously end the charade of mocking internal party democracy. That’s why in this coming elections, the leader of this leftist movement must see beyond 2017 and build a new ideology, like Jaramogi, of a century and beyond.
When you dream way ahead of those you lead, you allow different generations to live within that dream. Jaramogi’s dream about Kenya continue to shape the country’s political discourse two decades after he breathed his last and so long as so many people in this country slid each day to poverty, Jaramogi will endure.
This dream was not just shared about the ageing group of Jaramogi’s peers at that time. The ‘young turks’ were part of it. School going children were part of it. One of these children, Ababu Namwamba, remind us what wonder it is to inspire young people to join causes.
As a high school student, Namwamba joined FORD in the 1990s, he’s is a testimony of the resilience of young people.
As this grand party goes to the ballot, the danger would be to be content with those already in the stable. There is an urgent need for new recruits to add fire and words and meaning to the struggle. Why is this necessary? Because we’ve seen how our friends on the other side can also change.
You know, they also have their dreams and strategies and immutable interests. Â The other day, a cartoonist conceptualised this Orange movement as “rotten”. Did you see that?
As Publicity secretary, I want to be part of the great new recruits joining what is arguably the oldest struggle of freedom and progress in our country. I want to help develop a new script for the present conditionalities.
We’ve been casualties before, including now, but the left has proven that it is no pusher-over. Even as a minority, one thing is certain, the ideals which this side of the political divide fight will endure. But we need a new identity.
Bringing the very young to be part of the party ranks is good for the party’s future. Young people admire traditions and legacies. We want to be part of the oldest party mass movement in Kenya with true chance at forming a government. We are so many, so energised and so ready. The danger is to assume the contribution of my generation towards the grand struggle ahead. We will give meaning to ODM and the left’s struggle to make Kenya a middle income knowledge economy.
We bring to ODM new stories borne on a new media age and networked among a constellation of young people who need not to meet to agree; we will spread ODM as the only hope of this hemisphere. We will recruit new members and make party communication a hobby. ODM campaigns will not be boring in our watch. I and my friends promise to run this party as an iHub.
We are the millennials and we are here to stay. Of course, we are dreamers too! So you know why we must ‘arm-twist’ Jakom to yield and give this post to the 20-somethings of the party: Â to ‘us guyz’.
Dikembe Disembe is vying for ODM post of secretary for Information and Publicity. He is a former student leader at Moi University and a finalist undergraduate student of communication and public relations. He studies history as a favourite pastime activity.