By G O
It looks to me that Martha Karua joining forces with the opposition has unsettled a lot of people. And I understand where they are coming from.
You cannot discuss ‘the only man in PNU’ without replaying the scenes that evening inside KICC when Samuel Kivuitu was confessing to his men cooking results, and William Ruto bringing to the attention of the nation that the returning officer in Molo, his former teacher, had communicated to him about some grave happenings at his polling stations. The anger in that room, that day, could boil my grandmother’s yams.
Until Martha Karua stepped up from the bench.
Standing up to the ODM infantry at the KICC ballroom, the Gichugu MP, on a demolition mission, let rip. Wearing a long-sleeved black and white stripped cotton blouse and a matching sunhat while balancing a light brown handbag on her left arm clutching at three cordless microphones, the one-man-army with a shiny face and a hawkish stare, said some very unflattering remarks regarding Raila Odinga ruling this country that brought the simmering tension between pro-Kibaki and pro-Raila supporters to a boil.
James Orengo he even crossed the red line going for Kivuitu’s microphone, or throat, depending on who you ask. People say Martha became an iron lady the day she walked out of a political rally when President Moi was on the podium. That was ballsy, no doubt, but if there was a day Martha’s true colours came out for everyone to see, that day was on the 30th December, 2007. The very day Kenyans decided to let the shit hit the fan.
Yet Martha Karua is not the only politician in this country who has vocalised, and actualised, their undying support for their party bosses. Moses Wetangula was on the government side of the negotiating table when Koffi Annan came to unclench our fists, and he wasn’t there to hand ODM some candy.
But if there is one person ODM should find difficult forgiving, that man is Steven Kalonzo Musyoka. Anyone who runs away with your party certificate and joins forces with your rival at a time you needed his support the most should be on top of your hit list. But look at Kalonzo and Wetangula now, you’d think their current bromance with Raila Odinga was brewed from birth.
So why is the bile being directed at Martha Karua?
Kenyans, by and large, are a vengeful people. This is an unnecessary baggage we carry, with shame, from our colonial past. History teaches us that when European powers were busy abolishing the death penalty, Britain held the discussion of that subject in abeyance until it was no longer tenable to play cat and mouse with it.
Part of the reason Britain held that the death penalty was justifiable, says David Anderson, was that the British public morality, then, held that there was virtue in the desire for vengeance. While advising the House of Lords in 1956, the Archbishop of York declared that ‘retribution was a necessity in our penal code’, while his fellow clergyman – the Archbishop of Canterbury – reassured parliament that the death penalty was not ‘always un-Christian or wrong’.
Kenyans growing up during the emergency period were socialised to believe that anyone who did you wrong deserved a taste of their own medicine. Instant retribution, ultimately, became the bedrock upon which this nation was founded. It is, therefore, understandable to see people calling for Martha Karua’s head on a plate. Yet, even those with a forgiving heart would tell you that Martha Karua is a very uncomfortable character to have as a party hero.
I, however, like Martha for her straight talk. While many a politician would rather lace their emotions in flowery and politically correct language, Martha’s gloves are always off. She shoots straight, and waits for the backlash later. For a country full of hypocritical mass, listening to Martha makes you cringe and clap at the same time. Cringe because he speaks some very unpalatable truths (I could list the names of people here who called William Ruto a murderer, and are now singing his praises after joining forces with Uhuru in 2013), clap because her courage and steel is one in a million.
This country is still learning to develop a stomach for strong, free-spirited women. For a long time, confrontational and antagonistic politics has been associated with male members of our society. Those women wishing to join politics have always been advised to play it ‘motherly’ while appealing to the emotional conscience of the voter. Martha Karua, therefore, belongs to that loathed group of articulate misfits who cant, and wont, massage egos for political gains.
At the Kilimani Primary queue during the 2013 elections, I overheard two voters in front of me discussing their choices for the presidency. One of them who refused to vote for Martha in 2013 expressed her reservations saying that under Martha Karua’s presidency, the rule of law would be replaced with the rule of fear.
It is China Achebe who said that ‘memory can play tricks on old men’, and when that old man is in the form and shape of Raila Odinga, you get comfortable knowing that he has been in such a situation before and that he is best placed to convert the loathing of Martha Karua by his supporters into something productive and beneficial to the party.
And ODM needs Martha Karua now more than ever before.
When party loyalists are chickening out and leaving Raila Odinga unprotected from Jubilee hawks, Martha Karua has shown that she has the stomach for the fight. Ababu Namwamba stirred the waters yesterday with a proposal to slash MPs pay by half and, while you expected him to remain on the ground lobbying MPs to support his motion, he knows which side of his bread is battered, preferring to hop onto the plane with the President to New York.
That the Secretary General of the largest party in the land will not be present during the Wednesday rally speaks volumes about his commitment to the cause. Instead, he chooses to drop the papers at the Speaker’s door, and chase after per diems when he is trying to convince Kenyans to take a pay cut. This is where Martha Karua steps up to save the opposition’s face.
She will walk onto that podium with fire under her belly and talk straight to the Presidency for manhandling the current education crisis. She will gain admirers, albeit slowly, some of which have been ambivalent about her canoodling with opposition figureheads.
My late English teacher taught me that ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush’. I wont be surprised if Ababu came back and found Narc Kenya had already signed a coalition pact with CORD and that Martha was now the official coalition spokesperson.
And he will have himself to blame.