Luo Nyanza politics for quite some time now has not been so much issue based. Much of it has been ‘Raila based’. This is what I mean: People of course care about issues but the difference is that those issues have for a long time had Raila Odinga as the “issue bearer”.
It was argued that because the issues were complex, much of the thinking on the issues was (expected to be) done by Odinga. Ahead of the 2010 referendum you would hear people quip/say “Raila osesomo katiba moyudo ni ober” (Raila has read the draft constitution and found it to be good) and with that the support(ed) it. Earlier, Raila had read another draft Katiba – Wako/Kilifi Draft – and found it to be bad. So the people voted against it.
Now the challenge is: much of the “issues” for which Raila Odinga was the sole “issue bearer” have been resolved. Raila himself has presided much of the resolution on these historical issues.
Luo Nyanza no longer has “issues” to pick with the national government. For example, “Luo underdevelopment” for long was seen as a result of successive regime economic isolation policies. To solve this, a way had to be found to ensure national resources reach Luo Nyanza. Then devolution happened. So devolution killed the “issue” of unfair resource distribution.
Even before devolution, CDF had started correcting resource distribution imbalances as constituencies across Kenya received nearly the same allocation.
Short stints in government (2003-2005) and 2007-2013 saw government re-enter Luo Nyanza with critical road infrastructure. In the Civil Service, Luo professionals served productively, with little on or reason to worry about disruptive consequences of Luo rebellion. But the greatest equalizer was the new constitution.
A constitution that provided the broadest rights and freedoms killed the “issue” of state arbitrariness and affront to fundamental rights. So the issue of “detention without trial”, was removed. The issue of “forced into exile” was eliminated.
Repeal of section 2A of the old constitution killed the “issue” of “constrained and narrow political space”; so now people could exercise their right to politick anyhow: to air their opinions, to believe their idiocy, to form and identify with political parties of their choice, etc. And the issue of “single party state” with its attendant infractions was eliminated.
Freedom of the press became a reality. This included freedom to publish and publicize whatever information you wanted to air. So the “issue” of slanderous publications (mwakenya) and attendant state restrictions was eliminated.
Universities became open. Intellectual freedom was respected again. So no Luo professors and other academics were being picked from lecture halls. This was an “issue” in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It isn’t an issue anymore.
I can go on and on.
My point is: in much of the last three decades, Luo politics has revolved around big issues that had particular relevance to the Kenyan society as whole, but which tended to be conflated to assume even broader relevance in the life of the Luo, however poor, however sick, however hungry, however diseased, however jobless, however ignorant/illiterate so much so that it appeared any real ‘development’ of the “economic” and “social” infrastructure of the Luo was abandoned.
The result is that as the community fought for the “higher ideals”, the culmination of which would be the ascension to the presidency of the “issue bearer”; politicians totally forgot the people also needed to “stay alive”.
In my view, it’s time the economic pillar of the Luo existence becomes the central theme of the next stage in Luo development. The “issues” have been achieved. See, selling “issues” worked.
Luo politicians must dauntingly begin the task of economic and social development of Luo Nyanza to tally with its political development.
Politicians who are going to win the next elections of Luo Nyanza will be those who have realized that the “issues” platform no longer wins the election.
Your support for the “handshake” which is perhaps the only “issue” now; is immaterial so long you don’t build schools, you don’t give bursaries, you don’t improve health facilities, the roads in your constituency are impassable, no real economic activity going on etc.
To survive, you’ll have to learn. Or unlearn.