By Cliff Kodero
Raila Odinga is the Engine That Drives Kenyaâ€™s Politics
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once remarked that â€œhistory will be kind for me for I intend to write itâ€. Churchill was perhaps one of the believers that a strong individual influence could shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation as big and influential as the United Kingdom during the period before 1945. In the study of Politics, particularly the facet of foreign policy, there is a constituency that believes that the role of the individual strong leader is perhaps one of the â€œmost micro of all explanatory levelsâ€. There is also the school of thought that reasons that the individual plays a very influential role in the shaping of a nationâ€™s political agenda. The perceptions of the individual leader on the facets of life such as beliefs, religion, place of family and ethnicity become paramount in the decision making process.
Individual leaders passionate on issue would be most comfortable making decisions that generate passions from them. For example, the Third Republic in Germanyâ€™s foreign policy under Adolf Hitler implemented the foreign policy that declared the German people the ultimate race in the human world. Hitlerâ€™s republic also had issue with the United Kingdom as well as the Treaty of Versailles and the Jewish people. Subsequently, Hitlerâ€™s foreign policy that culminated to the Second World War was a resulting effect of Hitlerâ€™s personal beliefs. Hitlerâ€™s charisma and personal opinions had led the whole world to a war. In Kenyan situation, Raila Odinga is perhaps the most observable play-maker in Kenyan political shenanigans.
A Nigerian Author, Babafemi Badejo, the writer of the Railaâ€™s other biography, Raila Odinga: An Enigma of Kenyan Politics, unequivocally gives Raila the title â€œenigmaâ€ a fancy word that means â€œmysteryâ€. Is Raila the mystery of Kenyan Politics? I do not think that I would classify Raila as a mystery. I see Raila as critical ingredient in shaping of Kenyan political discourse. As such Kenyan political culture resolves around and about Raila Odinga. Even out of power, his influence still instigates a cold amongst the ruling individuals.
Argued correctly, Railaâ€™s continual jostling for power and reforms have generated a great deal of enthusiasts as well as haters. Indeed there is a popular saying in Kenya that Kenyans are politically inclined to be Railaphobic or Railamanic. For that matter, Kenyan politics graduates from party issues, which are mostly based on class concerns or experiences and captures the feelings and sensibilities of Raila Odinga. For clarity purposes, it must be understood that Railaâ€™s influence extends beyond the normal realms of ethnicity. His following is nationwide; his ideas resonate with the rich as well as the poor, and are hated by equal measure on the opponent sides. If Raila says the glass is half full of milk, the Maniacs would say yes- sir, while the phobicâ€™s would go, â€œno- its half empty.â€
Kenyan politic as seen by the formation of CORD coalition and Jubilee coalition are shaped by the idea of/ against Raila Odinga. Upon Railaâ€™s exit, Kenyan political culture might perhaps be as devoid of substance just like Uganda or Tanzania or might be as constructive as those in western democracies.