By David Onjili
“If it is for sentiment and reward for his loyalty to both the party of choice in Luo Nyanza, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and to Raila Odinga, then Senator James Orengo should be our direct candidate for Siaya Governor. But for development, and in the spirit of the Building Bridges Initiative, Raphael Tuju is our choice… He is our son, and you do not desert your own. My message to him is to be humble and respectful to both the people of Nyanza and Mr Odinga. This does not imply that we want a yes-man – look we welcomed back Onyango Oloo with open arms. Similarly, Tuju must come home and bring his brilliant mind and contacts to propel the County of Siaya from slumber” –Mzee William Odeny from Madiany East, Siaya County
It’s in human nature to detest that which we cannot have. We even tarnish their reputations but deep down, there is an admiration we have for such people. In such anger and detestation is a profound love. This is the kind of relationship that Jubilee Party Secretary-General Rapahel Tuju has with the Luo. He is the only other Kenyan, after Chief Justice Chunilal Madan, to be appointed as minister without portfolio – Madan’s appointment in 1956 was by the colonial administration.
On one hand, he epitomizes most things that the Luo are: well educated, dapper, moneyed, articulate and independent, to the point of refusing to bow to the Odinga controlled Nyanza politics. Back home he’d be called “Jaluo Jeuri.” But things change.
The now-famous handshake has become a political tsunami that is sweeping across the country. In January, the son of Asembo appeared in public with Raila, and had some very kind words for the man he has spent the last five years trying to dismantle.
“I want to thank you (Raila) for bringing Kenyans together. I also want to congratulate you for this courage and leadership,” said Tuju in an event at St. Peter’s Nyamira ACK Church in Bondo. Present were Raila himself and President Kenyatta’s brother Muhoho Kenyatta, amongst others.
Born in March 1959, the career journalist and alumnus of Starehe Boys Centre has weathered many political storms to get to where he is. He was a member of the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in whose formation Raila played a pivotal role, and on whose ticket he was elected for Rarieda Constituency between 2003 and 2007.
Between 2005 and 2007, he was the minister for Foreign Affairs, a position he got despite openly breaking ranks with Raila. After the elections in 2007, he was Kenyatta’s political adviser, specifically for media and advertising – he did an excellent job branding Kenyatta’s image ahead of his election in 2013. The Luo branded him a mortal enemy.
To listen to Tuju speak is to understand where his heart lies. During the burial of his younger brother, Kefa Oduor, in Rarieda, Tuju was unforgiving in his speech to his detractors. Bad politics, he said, had ensured he did not get a portfolio in cabinet. If he had one, he continued, he’d have brought his people goodies. The idea that he might have been championing tokenism aside, his lament also highlights just how warped and ideologically void our brand of politics is.
“I did a lot in Rarieda but you still told me to carry away roads I had developed. I wish the roads were movable, I would have carried them away as I did with the mobile clinics.”
Credit where it is due, locals agree that Tuju’s development record is perhaps unmatched. The Luanda-K’Otieno-Ndori Road is fitting testament. His utilization of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to help his constituents has not been replicated. According to Mzalendo, an online platform that keeps track of the development records of members of parliament confirms as much.
While his track record is evident, Tuju did not reckon with just how unforgiving tribal fidelity in politics could be. He was kicked out because he did not align himself with Raila; when it came to it, Rarieda decided it could do without his development. How bilious! Evidently, Tuju carried that grudge with him.
Onyango Oloo, the former The National Alliance Secretary General, quit to join ODM when he decided to contest. Will Tuju have to ditch Jubilee to vie in 2022, or has the handshake so radically shaken things as to give him a chance from where he now sits?
Already, Raila himself has openly rebuked several ODM legislators in the region for their wanting performance. Keen observers suggest Raila has already began the process of grooming the next governor for Siaya. If true, for Tuju it could mean that his tantrum about Raila’s dominance of Luo-Nyanza politics was passing wind, and he has to be content “toeing the line.” So much for ideology!
But, despite the thawing of relations between the two, it remains to be seen whether this is just a friendly truce, or whether circumstance have conspired to bring a ‘rejected’ brilliant mind and Kenya’s most consequential politician.
Importantly, so intense was their detest for each other that, despite winning in 2003 while still in Raila’s good graces, Tuju’s appointment to cabinet never came from Raila.
What is clear at this point is that whatever route Tuju takes, he has got to concede to win, if he decides to vie. He must shed his false sense of entitlement and give respect where it is due.
In return, Raila must drop his grudge and give the man a chance – he, after all, trumps the current governor’s progress record despite the fact that the incumbent controls billions to which Tuju had no access. (