By Jared Juma
The year 2018 has closed its eyes on Miguna Miguna without his much anticipated “grand return” and the promised “dramatic showstopper” in the political scene as Nairobi Deputy Governor. Considering that the man had initially run against Governor Mike Sonko, it would have been interesting to see the two work together – or make the attempt to. Alas, the conclusion to this brief thriller is a matter for another time.
Miguna, in his brilliant, brazen eloquence – a diligent worker who has made it clear he has very limited time for political weaklings and cowards – seems to have committed suicide just like the main protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’.
He is easy to compare to the man called Okonkwo in the novel for a number of reasons. For starters, Miguna exudes a lot of energy, which makes debating with him decidedly scary. He is brutal, and will stop at nothing to ‘expose’ the man on the other side of the microphone. Secondly, he is ruthlessly articulate. All his sentences appear to be rehearsed; he is a man whom you can only like when he is on your side.
However, just like Okonkwo, Miguna appears to be a man whose entire existence is at conflict with nature. His main strength is also his greatest weakness. That is exactly how Achebe constructed Okonkwo: a strong man who works hard and is proud of what he has accomplished, but one who is also driven by deep fear of failure. This fear is what Miguna had to respond to each time his political position was queried regarding the about-turn he had taken in his political standing – between Raila, long seen as left-leaning, and Uhuru on the right.
In September 2012, Miguna terminated his life membership in ODM and announced his candidacy for Governor of Nairobi County in the 2013 gubernatorial election as an independent candidate. He later withdrew from the race, and soon launched a sequel to his memoir ‘Peeling Back the Mask’ in February 2013 titled ‘Kidneys for the King: Deforming the Status Quo in Kenya’. Odinga, on his part, declined to answer to the claims made by Miguna in his, choosing instead to let the dust raised to settle on its own unstirred further. But, undoubtedly, lessons had been learnt. Raila is widely viewed as the foremost proponent of political reform, and his image could be badly sullied if the claims made in Miguna’s books were accepted as true. He must have thus marked Miguna as a good man to be avoided.
At this point, I must digress.
In the August 2017 presidential election, Odinga alleged that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory was a fraud. The Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as validly elected, and that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had committed numerous illegalities and irregularities and failed to conduct the August 8, 2017 election in strict adherence to the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and other applicable statues. It ordered a repeat within sixty days. Raila boycotted the subsequent election, saying it would not be conducted fairly and credibly because IEBC had not adhered to the strict conditions set by the court. These developments embolden the self-christened ‘General Miguna’, now a Raila fanatic, who shot from the hips at each subsequent talk show he attended.
Kenyatta was declared winner with 98 percent of the vote, even as the election was marred by irregularities, and people in some areas were not allowed to vote.
In a dramatic reversal of stance, Miguna had become one of Raila’s most outspoken advocates and Kenyatta’s sternest critics, whom he accused of despotism and rigging himself into power.
Miguna claims to be the leader of the National Resistance Movement, a group started by a Raila Odinga declaration at Uhuru Park, which was to engage in activities of civil disobedience activities.
On 30 January 2018, in a mock swearing in ceremony, Miguna stood on the podium as Raila proclaimed himself “The people’s president”. The government reacted by shutting down all television and radio broadcasts and arresting Miguna and another lawyer. It did not, however, arrest Odinga, since that would further “inflame his supporters.” Miguna was taken to court and charged with “being present and consenting to the administration of an oath to commit a capital offence, namely treason”. The High Court ordered that Miguna be released on bail and that television broadcasts be permitted, but the government disobeyed the orders. Chief justice David Maraga criticised the actions of the officials, terming “disobeying of court orders” as “inimical to the rule of law.”
Miguna’s Kenyan passport was seized and withdrawn, and he was forced out of the country. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said that the reason his passport was seized was because it had been issued irregularly and fraudulently, as he “did not disclose his Canadian citizenship when he applied for a Kenyan passport in 2009.” In short, his application was not valid. Miguna countered with, “The constitution is crystal clear: no one can invalidate or purport to cancel the citizenship of a Kenyan-born citizen.” The government also declared the NRM to be an organised criminal group. After his deportation, airlines were warned against flying him back.
These internal contradictions are what cast Miguna as a man not in touch with reality. In Achebe’s thriller, at Okonkwo had to, at some point, be exiled by his clansmen in Umuofia to go and stay with his maternal uncles. His exile lasted seven years. Prior to his banishment, Okonkwo had expressed resentment about the white man’s rule, which was fast taking root in Mbanta and Umuofia.
The white man, in Okonkwo’s absence, established a school, a church and administration system, including a court that could jail people. Upon his return, Okonkwo discovered violated activities proscribed by the white man’s rule, which, when he engaged in, caused his imprisonment, along with some of his tribesmen. His release from prison triggered the tragic end of the ‘Roaring Flame of the Village.”
In a way, ‘the General’s’ fate could be likened to Okonkwo’s heart-breaking ending. He seems to be a man driven by fear, one averse to even change tack save himself. He is a man, like Okonkwo who’d sooner choose to go through a wall, no matter how irrational the choice. Because he disagreed with his former boss, he went on the rampage with three books to detail accounts of their life together. In the end, he invariably emerges as neither the hero of the moments nor the victim. Everyone seems wrong around him except himself. This really is the undoing of Miguna; he is on a path to self-destruction.
The summary of his life’s mission is brief: he became the new face of a resistance he joined, not founded; in his belief that the resistance would be successful, he developed a dark, unstoppable zeal to “overtake everyone else”, in the process portraying himself more loyal than its founders, which came out as some sort of “apology” to Raila for the tantrums he threw when they parted ways. His fame at some point appeared to sit awkwardly with the people at whose behest he was working for.
It is not implausible to say the man was sent into exile to allow for compromises that gave rise to the March 2018 handshake between Raila Odinga and Kenyatta. If this be accepted as a plausible explanation for why his return has not been permitted, Miguna’s character –so strong yet so weak – is on a sure path to ‘committing suicide.’ (