By Kevin Omwanza
In the year 1995, in Thika Stadium, a police officer unleashed a volley of bullets on Raila Amolo Odinga, and could have killed him if it was not for his quick-thinking aide, George Okoth Otura and another young man by the name Martin Otieno. They saw the police officer preparing to open fire and pushed Raila to the ground and shielded him with their bodies.
This was during Ford-Kenya’s national party elections, and almost a year after Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had given up the ghost. In the wake of Jaramogi’s death, there was internal feuding in the party that was, until then, the vanguard of the opposition. Jaramogi, according to some accounts, had tapped Kijana Wamalwa to succeed him as party leader. Raila wanted to deputise Kijana. However, Raila learned that Kijana wanted James Orengo to deputise him. Irked, he decided to take the bull by the horns, and instead of gunning for deputy party leader, he went for party leader.
On the elections D-day, there was tension between Raila’s faction and Wamalwa’s faction. In the end, both Raila and Wamalwa were declared party leaders by each of their factions.
As the event pulled to a close, a lone policeman emerged and opened fire, wanting to kill Raila. He was shielded and one of the bullets caught one of Raila’s delegates.
There is a narrative that Raila is a dynasty, owing to his father’s stature as a one-time vice president, opposition leader, and statesman. And that it is thanks to that association that Raila has the clout he presently has.
I cannot think of anything farther from the truth. For beginners, he did not inherit his father’s clout or position or Constituency on a silver platter. He actually had to go against his father’s wishes to demonstrate he was a better leader than those his father had earmarked to succeed him. He chart his own path; carved his own niche; paid the price for the liberation struggle he engendered.
It is unfair to ascribe the dynastic moniker on a man whose heritage was more of a burden than a gift. He deserves to be judged solely based on his own actions as a man, leader, and politician. He long moved away from the shadow of his father.
In any case, some of those ridiculing him for being a dynasty have benefited more from political patronage than he did.