By Dorcas S
Back in the late 70s during the twilight years of Jomo Kenyatta’s presidency in the throes of the “Change-the-Constitution Movement”, then-Attorney General and anglophile extraordinaire Charles Njonjo dictated to all that it was illegal to talk about the death of Mzee, Motongoria Jamba; Kenya’s “Eyes” as the authoritarian and ailing father of the current president was variously called.
Contrastingly, stateside, Americans openly talk about “The Designated Survivor” i.e. the person who would assume the presidency were a catastrophe to befall the nation’s capital, Washington DC, during the State of Union.
Politico, an online political publication writes this of President Obama’s first inauguration in Jan 2009:
“….Defense Secretary Robert Gates was the designated presidential successor, James Clapper – then the undersecretary of defense for intelligence – waited out the swearing-in at the Pentagon’s secret Cold War bunker in Pennsylvania known as Raven Rock, ready to step into Gates’ role as defense secretary if the need arose.”
And this is in addition to the relatively well-defined succession planning embedded in the US Constitution.
This past February (2017) the vanquished Democratic Party just elected, as their Party Chairman, Mr. Tom Perez. Mr. Perez’ role as party chair is to steer the party’s disparate interest groups and their myriad oftentimes conflicting agendas towards a coherent overall strategy that supports Democratic Party candidates throughout the country for local, state and national offices.
A year earlier during the April 2016 demonstrations over the incompetence and bias of the IEBC commissioners, Raila Odinga had to be whisked away to safety when the police lobbed teargas canisters into a crowd of protestor including RAO. Images of the indefatigable leader of Kenya’s opposition holding a handkerchief to his face while being helped away by his security details; his face contorted in pain; were splashed across the media.
As much as I tip and continue to tip my hat to RAO for “leading the troops into battle”, I was left wondering:
Where are RAO’s lieutenants and why are they (still) allowing the face and heartbeat of Kenya’s multi-partyism/democratic space to risk life and limb?
Let me cut to the chase:
Does ODM have another RAO waiting in the wings? And I ask this question, not as an affront to Musalia, Kalonzo, Moses, Joho or any other aspirants out there. I ask this because 2022 is five years away – a lifetime in politics that sneaks up very quickly – and these individuals, with all due respect, don’t seem to have the heft to successfully branch out on their own. I’ll also add that in light of the furor over the “direct nomination” of the 400+ candidates, it wouldn’t hurt to start thinking about (any) lessons learnt to wit:
– Was the messaging over Raila’s prerogative effectively and clearly disseminated to all stakeholders – candidates AND supporters?
– Were all internal (and external) candidates/aspirants given a chance to vie for the “direct nomination” mantel – and beyond i.e. did they understand the rules and deadlines of the nomination process?
– Were all “direct nominees” seasoned on how to comport themselves in the new, frankly elevated position?
These are just a handful of questions that ODM should consider given the reality that Raila is nearing retirement. Who would take over stewardship of ODM or whichever entity succeeds it once Enigma exits Stage Left?
Is there anyone with the gravitas and sway of Raila A. Odinga, waiting in the wings, able to unify, not only Luo Nyanza, but Kenya writ large, while simultaneously befogging the status quo and opponents alike?