By Dikembe Disembe
Why is Raila Odinga Father of modern democracy in Kenya?
Soon after losing the 2013 presidential petition at the Supreme Court, Raila Odinga, it is said, banned any discussion of that electoral race around him. Those who accessed him around that time, mainly his trusted loyalists and long time friends, got the impression that Odinga would call it a day.
This fallacious impression excited the Jubilee Alliance just as it excited a section of CORD leaders. Â In CORD, Dr. Evans Kidero would take the bait, declaring his own intention to ‘take over’ the mantle and ‘inherit’ Odinga’s sweltering masses.
But for a politician of Odinga’s stature, the choice of ‘quitting politics’ was never going to be his own. In fact, even those who were happy to see him off were doing so in the hope that he, Odinga, would perform his quintessential miracle and hold their hands up: you are endorsed!
Those who had hoped for this forgot one thing; that Raila Odinga is an enigma, and, for all their naysaying, history was and still is, on his side.
If Democracy still combine (dÃªmos) “people” and (krÃ¡tos) “power”, then no politician in CORD today has that combination than Raila Odinga.
Wafula Buke, a long time ally of Odinga with his own history of personal struggles and national sacrifices, including five years of detention under Moi, adds a third factor which still makes Odinga lethal in Kenya’s politics.
To Buke, Odinga has what he calls ‘bourgeois credentials’ necessary for power take-over in Kenya.
This isn’t rocket science.
While Odinga’s financial net-worth is a matter of personal conjecture, no one doubts the former PM’s networks both locally and internationally.
One of the challenges of the Uhuru regime has been that the two leaders had no peers outside the country prior to their ascendancy. Locally, their friends were and remain folks Â like Sonko (Nairobi Senator) or Duale (Jubilee Majority leader). Now, with such characters, you rule by ‘local examples’. Â Outside the country, they had to hurriedly get used to people like Museveni and Kagame who clearly have their ambitions and intentions well-known.
‘Bourgeois credentials’ is the politicians ability to marshal political resources and support across any section of a country, or world elite, especially, in capitalist nations. Â This definition isn’t standard, just contextual to this narrative.
I share, deeply, this view. And here is where Raila Odinga differ with most politicians.
In essence, he is peerless in Kenya currently. For the last 9 years, Odinga has managed to build the largest political machine in Kenya which, even though he lost the presidency, remain the biggest political representation in both houses of the national assembly.
Not only is the Orange Democratic Movement a political colossus, geographically, it has managed to capture the widest citizen imagination being the party of all but 2 regions.
The problem of ODM is the challenge of time. Here is the biggest single political party in a country yet it isn’t the ruling party. It cannot share spoils. It cannot satisfy all.
Within the context of a leader of modern democracy, Odinga is faced with the challenge of ensuring the Orange party’s voice is still loud enough to stop, or tarry, the jubilee government in its mindless ruthlessness when it comes to grabbing – current pastime – as well as a host of other ills: insecurity, high cost of living, assault onÂ communities, disregard to private property, corruption, theft and runaway tribalism.
The other challenge is to make ODM a ‘modern democracy’ party – the party that fights for the twin basic principles of 21st century democracy: Equality and Freedom.
These principles are reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to power, and freedom is secured by legitimized rights and liberties, which are generally protected by a constitution, and guaranteed by the state to which all citizens pay their taxes.
Freedom, a founding value of ODM entails the belief in universal adult franchise as the best and secure way to maintain the state. At its simplest, it is an idea that Â all adults have right to vote – one man one vote, cast and counted.
When we say Raila Odinga embodies “modern democracy”, we mean heÂ Â is fighting to create a form of government, where the Â constitution, not official fiat, Â guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law.
Jubilee Alliance has realized it cannot win the next election based purely on their message of a youthful energy. For all the hullabaloo, the digital dream has pendulumed to an analogue nightmare, to paraphrase Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba.
Weakening the opposition, so that it gets to the next polls disjointed and quarrelsome, with most of its members either bought off or hired, seems to be the current, and longtime, jubilee strategy. The only person in their way is the leader of the opposition – Raila Odinga.