By: Eric Ng’eno
Have you hung out with someone who just lost an election? Or worse still, have you ever lost an election? I do not mean those miniscule chama affairs; I want a real election with real stakes involved. A loser has the weight of expectations, the interests of his followers, the unacceptable, but inevitable reality confronting him.
Sometimes, all these make conceding impossible. Sometimes, denial is an issue. Other times, other sad eventualities make moving on difficult. For these reasons, I have sympathetically watched Raila Odinga manage his supporters’ expectations and grievances with heroism and dexterity.
How do you tell your fanatical followers-many of who believe that you are invincible, that its over? How do you tell people who had prepared resplendent getups, and scheduled themselves for a sure inauguration, that they are deluded and wasting their time? How do you tell your elected leaders, and election losers, many of who had differing but no less substantial expectations out of your presidency, lazima wajipange?
At best, the petition bought time for reality to sink in as the mechanisms of the Assumption of The Office of President Act hammered home the point. I know that the CORD lawyer saw how tenuous their case was, but understood its necessity and the need to put their best foot forward. The petition was a sophisticated form of mass trauma counselling. It worked. It had to work. Its outcome has produced winners and losers. I shall enumerate some of them.
1. Raila Odinga. The expectations of millions of Kenyans have rested on this man for over a decade. He has vindicated them valiantly. At the decisive moment, unfortunately, the tyranny of numbers checked him. His supporters risked disillusionment, despair and depression unless he found a way of managing those expectation, urging an acceptance of the reality and easing himself out from under the burden of expectations. The Supreme Court proved to be it. He has shown his supporters that he is a fighter up till the last minute. He demonstrated that he took their aspirations so seriously that he would not overlook any opportunit to pursue, canvas and realise them. In the course of so doing, he has shown people that there is a time to fight on, and a time to call it a day. His suporters may now move on in the knowledge that their leader and champion is no wuss. It is a very important message. You cannot fairly ask more of the man.
2. The Supreme Court. A unanimous decision. Kindly distinguish UNANIMOUS from MAJORITY.Some judges were declared CORD diehards and expected to lean accordingly. Justice Ojwang was hobbled by his name. Willy Mutunga was haunted by his past. Smokin Wanjala was under a pall of suspicion for being too independent. Njoki Ndung’u was seen as a reform activist in sheep’s skin. They decided unanimously. That is called INDEPENDENCE. Independence from the onerous burdens of tribe, association, friendship, ideology and so on.
3. Kenya. The Petition. The petition was decided on the issues presented. It provided an opportunity to affirm and certify the election, or to fault and invalidate it. In any event, it invited the parties and the Court to interrogate and scrutinise the election in all its institutional, operational and associated aspects and decide accordingly. The court just certified an electoral process. Where there is doubt or distrust, such certification is indispensable. In a situation immediately succeeding the roundly discredited 2007 election, this was especially needful.
4. The Jubilee Coalition. Their electoral mandate is now unshakable. Their Parliamentary and county dominance has translated into a clear, certified mandate. Better than Kibaki’s. Better than Moi’s. The best yet. The opportunity ahead is theirs, and theirs only, to squander.
5. The Constitution. We must remember two important things. Mwai Kibaki’s petitions in the High Court against president Moi’s election were still pending last year, and that was legal. The Constitution now gives a time frame for concluding a petition and dispenses with the stupid technicalities that made conclusion impossible. We have just seen our first real presidential petition concluded on its merits. Secondly, Kenneth Matiba’s petition was never heard because he could not peronally sign it. Other petitioners were loccked outside the gates of justice because presidential security made personal service of petitions impossible. The Constitution has resolved all those issues, and Iswear to God we now live in a civilised country.
6. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. Those guys have been arraigned, indicted, accused,scandalised, sued and petitioned more times than they care to remember. They contested a difficult election against the most difficult odds: integrity contestations, the ICC,etc. Then there is Raila Odinga; never kid yourself: Raila Odinga is the single most formidable political force those chaps faced. They overcame each hurdle one after the other. Each obstacle sharpened them and cautioned them to take nothing for granted. Jubilee’s campaign showed me that with preparation and focus, nothing is too difficult. Even the preparation for Supreme Court was a massive logistical and intellectual operation. They won. Let us all grant that much to them. Most importantly, their election is now certified by the Supreme Court. They are not hobbled by Kibaki’s post-2007 and Moi’s post-1988 legitimacy issues. They won. In English, such a performance earns description by a word like…….APLOMB.
7. George Oraro. The man must have accepted the brief reluctantly- too political, too weak for his liking. But he clothed it with such a formidable armour of apparent strength that not a few Jubilee supporters lost hope. He conducted himself with grace and dignity. His brilliant mind scintillated and dazzled the world, as usual. He, and only he, had the capability of making the CORD petition look credible. In that, he more than outdid himself. That is called panache.
8. Kethi Kilonzo. She did not pay too much mind to the strength or otherwise of her petition. It presented a singular and incontrovertible marketing opportunity and this she exploited with a cynical and skilful way. The petition will be associated with Kethi Kilonzo for the longest time. But not for legal reasons beyond the fact that she and her father are famous lawyers. If you think her banker minds that, you need to have your head checked.
9. Raila Odinga. Yes indeed, I am enjoying a nice whisky. But I know what I am doing. There is a good reason. Raila Odinga has his fingerprints at every locus in quo leading up to this present moment: agitation for political pluralism, political reforms, constitutional reforms, the new Constitution and, now, the Supreme Court decision. It is quite possible, and I submit quite strongly that somehing he did, or omitted gave the Jubilee Coalition victory as well.We must all remember him with gratitude at ll times, lest God smite us, and name a street in Nyeri and Eldoret after him.
10. Those CORD supporters who have been graceful in defeat and the Jubilee supporters who have been magnanimous in victory. Not just with drinks. With brotherly goodwill as well. With kind words. Those who have avoided hate speech. Those who have reached out and continue to reach out. God bless you, my brithers and sisters.
Those who have been wayward need to apologise quickly. Sincerely. Publicly if your transgressions were public. And buy drinks to atone properly. Let everyone win. Let everyone celebrate.