Kenya goes to the polls in the next seven days. Tension is palpable. The Jubilee coalition and their supporters have been very loud proclaiming an imminent victory. Ruto has been heard to brag that they have the numbers. Adan Duale, before he quietly melted from the limelight to try and salvage his dwindling prospects at the grass roots was an indefatigable if pugnacious apostle of the numbers gospel and a common presence in the media, proclaiming the numbers gospel. The latest to join the numbers chorus is Mutahi Ngunyi with his now infamous tyranny of numbers.
The numbers being loudly spoken about by Ruto et al may actually be a myth as has been analyzed by political scholars. https://www.kenya-today.com/opinion/william-ruto-booed-in-baringo but the din from the Jubilee crowd makes it seem like the result of the 4th March, 2011 is a foregone conclusion. What is playing out in our political landscape is so eerily similar to what played out in the US only a short while back.
It has been a few months since US President Obama romped to the premises on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and many folks might even have forgotten about the preceding campaigns. That is, if they followed it in the first place.
American politics are mostly issue based, though it has acquired some similar characteristics with Kenyan politics in terms of the racist/tribal demographics especially since the entry of Barack Obama into the political scene.
It was widely believed that with the economy in the doldrums, high budget deficits, unemployment and other problems that plagued his first term, Obama would lose to his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. Indeed throughout the campaign season, Obama seemed to trail all Republican contenders in the primaries in opinion poll match ups. A crying call seemed to crystallize in the form of â€˜anyone but Obamaâ€™. Indeed, even after the Grand Old Party settled on Mitt Romney as its flag bearer, Obama continued to trail in the so called â€œnumbersâ€. The first presidential debate seemed to consolidate this grim position for Obama and even Gallup emphatically and persistently maintained he had no â€œnumbersâ€.
The only solace that Obama supporters got was the slim hopes that he would somehow conjure up a win in what mattered; the Electoral College vote. In Kenya, the constitution does not provide for the Electoral College vote. It is something that the drafters of the constitution should have looked at, for if they had, even Kiyiapi or Dida for that matter would have a credible shot at the presidency. That however is topic for another day.
It was said that Mitt Romney was so assured of winning the vote that he wrote only one speech, the victory speech. It is a tradition to have both sets of speeches; the victory and another speech to concede defeat just in case things donâ€™t play out as planned or hoped for. That explains Romneyâ€™s delay in conceding defeat, a fact that caused some anxiety that somehow, he wanted to contest the results! It later emerged; the delay was caused by the need to write a speech to concede defeat at short notice!
So how did Romney lose an election that he had all the â€œnumbersâ€, including the adult suffrage vote?
President Obama is a shrewd politician. He made all the right coalitions by addressing issues that appealed to them. Like Kenya which has the Kikuyu and Kalenjin as the two single largest vote blocks, the American political landscape has the white voters as the single largest vote block. Romney had this vote block, or so it seemed.
Obama therefore decided not to fight for the white vote, especially the white male vote. He made a coalition of the blacks, the youth, the women, the immigrants by espousing policies that appealed to them. He minimized damage, like the pronouncements that Romney made about the 47%.
In Kenya, the jubilee has gone out to cobble a coalition of the two largest tribes. While there might be something in it for the Kikuyu, it is not immediately apparent what is in it for the Kalenjin, save for Rutoâ€™s self aggrandizement. Question is: can the two vote blocks deliver the ultimate prize for the Jubilee coalition.
This is the question that Mutahi Ngunyi answered in the affirmative, in his tyranny of numbers. Kenyans are not naÃ¯ve and Ngunyi was roundly criticized. In a subsequent show on Citizen Tv, he sounded more subdued when he suggested that he could not understand where the pollsters got Railaâ€™s numbers. He acknowledged that he could be wrong but suggested that Railaâ€™s numbers are a mystery and Raila should not listen to the pollsters.
For different reasons, I agree with Mutahi Ngunyi, the Kenyan equivalent of American Gallup that Raila should not listen to the pollsters. My reason is that he should not feel comfortable as to rest on his laurels but continue to pound the Jubilee at every turn by addressing issues that matters to Kenyans. That is why his obsession with the emotive question of land is spot on!
When the American vote was called, Obama had not only won the Electoral College vote by a handsome margin, he had also emphatically won the adult suffrage vote by a resounding landslide. This confounded pundits but only those who had been obsessed by the seeming invincibility of the white vote who are the single largest demographic.
The Kelnjins and Kikuyus are not invincible, even assuming they voted in the jubilee basket to the last man. The rest of Kenya is still bigger by a huge margin. In fact the Republican Partyâ€™s problem does not even compare to the Jubilee dilemma in the sense that the Kalenjin vote has now become tossup. The reason Kalejin has glided from the Jubilee column to swing status is because CORD has been espousing issues that are dear to their hearts. Without any planning, it is turning out to be like the 41 against 1 in 2007, only this time; things are better considering that the lower Eastern voter is also corded. It makes it all look more like 41 and a half against 1 and that is the mystery of numbers!