By Dorcas S
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” — Roy Disney
One of the most frustrating aspects of Kenya’s socio-political discourse of the last month has been the headlines juxtaposing the very deliberate acts of corruption inside Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC), the outrage over the impending acquittal of six land-grabbers (in Karen) over a “typo”, the silliness over Gov. Hassan Joho’s academic papers and the absolute dithering at NASA over who their top ticket for the upcoming general elections will be.
Of the foregoing four headlines, I’d rank the faux outrage of Joho’s academic records and the public and protracted indecisiveness of the National Super Alliance Party (NASA) to select their ticket as the most frustrating ones playing out on the country’s political stage.
The former, re: Joho’s records, is the proverbial shiny new object that Kenyans would be well-advised to ignore. The “scandal” is a distraction manufactured by the incumbency to take the country’s collective eyes off the underhandedness at the IEBC and the upcoming elections. President Kenyatta is effectively diverting Kenya’s sparse resources away from the more pressing drought, famine and insecurity not to mention focused and expeditious investigation and persecution of corruption cases to “nyorosha” someone who’s called out his incompetence even as his admin works overtime to rig the upcoming elections.
Which brings me to NASA’s vacillation over its top ticket.
What is taking the Super Alliance principals of Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Raila Odinga and Moses Wetangula so long to decide which two of the four will head the party’s ticket against Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto?
Kenyans are witnessing their version of the “making of sausage” that is the democratic process: A zero-sum it’s-our-turn-to-eat ethos of the society that is not pretty. From afar, it looks like the four principals are willing to sacrifice a strong competitive ticket in favor of their personal (indeed selfish) ambitions and their base’s turn at the national trough from which they, along with family and friends hope to engorge themselves.
How else does one explain a regional leader’s ultimatum that any (ticket) decision that does not include (fill in name of preferred tribal chieftain) as the president would be “the last straw that will break the camel’s back”?
It is this thinking that will facilitate the re-election of the former crimes-against-humanity duo of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. This will happen despite glaring evidence that their Jubilee Coalition has been the most corrupt, polarizing and incompetent government in Kenya’s fifty-four-year history.
Let me offer that there is little doubt Raila Odinga towers above his co-principals — as he should given his longevity and (inter)national profile. Having said that, let me also ask this of his supporters; a question most of them do not want to countenance:
Is the man revered and reviled in equal parts the person to head the NASA ticket given his highly polarizing personality?
My opinion: He is not and I don’t say this lightly.
RAO has fought the good fight and lost — two times; arguably under dubious circumstances. However, I don’t think the prevailing zeitgeist in Kenya favors him. The fear and otherization embodied in the xenophobic “Raila wiru nefa be plisdent” movement cannot be downplayed or wished away. It is real and it portends danger come August 8th. Donald Trump won the just-concluded US Elections because of his ability to appeal to the fears non-college educated white males had — first of a black president, then a possible woman president.
Fear is a powerful motivator.
NASA runs the risk of missing a great opportunity to make Jubilee a one-term kleptocracy if it continues along its current path of procrastination and selfishness. And claims or accusations of “playing the 40 vs. 2 tribal card” aside, the fact is NASA has a more diverse and national profile than Jubilee whose base is limited to Central/Mt. Kenya and Rift Valley.
The party has a more inclusive socio-economic platform compared to the selfishness embodied in the “uthamakism” and “kalenjinism” that defines the incumbency and has been the hallmark of Kenya’s politics since independence.
Unfortunately, nominating a candidate for the 2017 campaign was a journey NASA nee CORD should have mapped out beginning April 2013 shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jubilee in 2013. It is baffling why Raila, the doyenne of the opposition and a world-renowned political mind, he of the “Kibaki Tosha” fame did not see that.
I’d be more forgiving of NASA if the internal machinations preventing it from nominating a ticket were helping it prime and season its ultimate pairing. That is what happened in 2008 when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton went head-to-head until late in the summer. The protracted oftentimes acrimonious battle between the two for the Democratic Party’s nomination made the junior senator from Illinois a tougher more adroit candidate in the race against Vietnam War hero John McCain.
However, NASA’s procrastination is not analogous to the 2008 race between BHO and HRC because theirs was a pre-determined and public nomination process that played out in full public view.
My unsolicited advice to the NASA Quartet is that they should rip off the band aid and let the campaign begin – one hundred and thirty-two days from August 8.