By Gabriel Oguda
You all watched Raila Odinga sprinting towards the exit door last night. He was attempting to save Miguna Miguna from deportation, in the end an exercise in futility. Raila Odinga turned 73 this year, and while he gyms everyday to keep fit and improve his immunity, the Raila Odinga we saw limbering full steam at JKIA last night is not the Raila Odinga of 1991.
The Raila Odinga of 1991 would have reached that door at the speed of light and blocked the security hooligans from passing the man-mountain through it. Age failed Raila Odinga last night, and I think I saw something like a bad knee too. If you ran a scan on his face after the door was slammed shut, you could see a fiery dragon struggling to withhold his fire from consuming those agents of human rights violations. He was visibly angry at his sense of helplessness.The Raila Odinga of 1983 would not have watched helplessly as Miguna Miguna was being dragged like a thieving Onyalobiro reptile through that rickety airport door. The revolutionary fire is going, and we need to cut him some slack.
The average age of a political revolutionary is 34 years. Joe Slovo rose to head Umkhonto we Sizwe at 35. Chris Hani led the ANC military wing at 21. Sam Nujoma was elected president of SWAPO at 29. Amilcar Cabral led the PAIGC to the bush at 38. Patrice Lumumba became president of MNC at 33. Ernesto Che Guevara launched the Cuban revolution at 29. Raila Odinga was first detained over his political activities at 36.
None of those guys I mention over there are currently involved in politics, other than Raila Odinga himselef. Joe Slovo died, I must have read somewhere, of cancer, at 68. Chris Hani was assassinated outside his house at 49. Sam Nujoma is currently 88 and is resting quietly in his Okahao village, North of Namibia. Cabral was assassinated at 48, Patrice Lumumba suffered the same fate at 35, while Che Guevara was also assassinated by the Bolivia president, at 39. If you look at that crop of revolutionaries up there, it takes a special breed of any man to push governments to the wall and still keep their lives intact; and for those who manage to avoid the assassin’s bullet, they are left with a beaten body and a weary soul. Ask Kenneth Matiba.
The backbone of any political revolution rests with the youth. Young people have time on their side, they have the energy to bulldoze governments, have the panache to keep banging the door of change for as long as it takes; and the intelligence to innovate new ideas each time status quo catches up with new technology. The retirement age in the Kenya Defense Forces is pegged at 55, and for obvious reasons. At 55, your brain begins to freeze, new ideas become alien to you, and no country can entrust you with military hardware that requires tip-top shock absorption. At 55, the only thing you can control is an automatic doorknob, and only with an engineer’s manual. When you attain the age of 40, the military begins to slowly pull you away from the infantry division, preparing you for lighter duties behind an office desk, as you wait for your discharge at 55, or your death, whichever comes first.
No 73 year-old human being, whether he’s fitter than fiddle, or with blood cleaner than a whistle, can be entrusted to sustain a revolution, of whatever kind. My father is Raila Odinga’s agemate, and even though he rides his bike to attend the Kamilando Welfare Group meetings, down there in Alwala, 10 kilometers weekly, I know the limits he can go and sprinting 100 kilometers to confront an enemy is not one of them.
This is someone who has never stood on neck-deep icy waters even a second of his life. His gonads have never been squeezed by anyone, the closest he has come to being tortured is when I came 10th in one of my end year exams and he almost thought someone had bewitched his child. Today, if a night-runner was to patrol my father’s compound at night and kick his main door in bemusement, my father would rely on his sons to come out and confront the madman, because his heart cannot sustain a 400 meters sprint down the Jimo village meandering bends chasing after someone clearly having three set of lungs, and in an ogrish birth-suit.
Like my father, the young people of this country are the ones who should be defending Miguna Miguna. If Miguna Miguna is held up at Kenya’s main port of entry, and security forces are using their brains as mjengo helmets, it is upon the young people of this country to rise up and defend the sovereignty of the people and the rule of all law.
A huffing 73 year-old limper cannot take any of the cops man-to-man, even if you were to give him an improvised sniper rifle, because he is challenged, in strength and in grit, and the best he can do is to make futile phone calls to the cockpit whose captain has left the plane on autopilot. If anyone was to attack my father’s homestead today and bruise any of his goats, it is me who shall be blamed for aimlessly belching in Nairobi and failing to protect him from dangerous rogues. To whom much is given, much is expected.
You cannot be sitting on your couch insulting a 73 year-old struggler who have already done all he could with the little available to him. At 73, Raila Odinga qualifies for the government cash-for-the-elderly social protection programme given to all Kenyans who have attained the minimum age of 65. It is actually shameful that an under-35 year-old youth, with a clever mouth and panel-beaten English, would in his right senses choose to insult a 73 year-old veteran from the comfort of his living room, sipping a bootlegged bottle of scotch whiskey watching news powered by a screaming box of prepaid tokens.
You have said everything you ever wanted to say to old people not defending human rights in this country. This is your time to get out of your sinking couch, go out there and face the state machinery one-on-one. Until your name is written in the anals of this country’s history as having constituted to the struggle for the expansion of the democratic space, kindly stick to your measly lane;
And stop bothering us with your infectious pettiness.