A lot has been said about Raila’s inability to sacrifice his presidential ambitions for the sake of a strong opposition. Many have called him a dictator, with ruling coalition politicians painting him as a vindictive and uncompromising politician, who is only driven by an unquenchable thirst for power and the desire to settle personal scores.
Political analyst Prof Mutahi Ngunyi has take it upon himself to warn NASA co-principles of Raila’s manipulative nature –with the aid of fine sounding logic – even cajoling them to stage a revolt and take NASA for themselves. According to him, the man is what he is because they make him; united, he can be no match for them. To Kalonzo Musyoka in particular, he reminds him that he deserves to and should have been president but for Raila’s selfishness bullying and manipulation.
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NASA’s unveiling of Raila as its flag bearer has been greeted with a wave of indifference. Real or faked, the incumbency is celebrating the announcement of a “strong” candidate they have since learnt how to beat. For some in the opposition as well, the new NASA line-up isn’t an improvement from the Cord team that unsuccessfully contested the 2013 Presidential Election. They say that it doesn’t inspire much hope, and, coupled with fears of another rigging, their quest is doomed.
And they could all be right. Yet, hate him or love him, there no denying that Raila Amollo Odinga has earned his stripes. On the account of sacrifice alone, he has earned the right to demand anything and contest whatever position he wants, however many times he feels like.
For a man born rich, his life has been defined by turbulence unfamiliar even to the common man – all in the quest for democracy and political freedom. In 1982, Raila was accused of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against the President. He was charged with treason and imprisoned, without trial, for six years. Here, he suffered perhaps his most traumatising experience in the death of his mother, a fact that the prison wardens took two months to inform him of.
Shortly after his release, in September 1988, he was rearrested for involvement with activists pushing for multi-party democracy in Kenya. He was released from prison on June 12, 1989, only to be re arrested a year later. He was released from prison on June 21 1991, and in October left Kenya for Norway. His decision to leave his motherland was probably because of the assassination threats he claimed to have received from the Kenyan government.
The enactment of a new statute of limitations illegitimating as evidence, a confession of his involvement in the 1982 coup he had made in a subsequent biography, had left the Moi government with assassination as the only way of dealing with him. In 1992, he returned to Kenya and joined Ford (the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy), where he was elected vice chairman of the “General Purposes Committee of FORD”.
In the months running up to the 1992 General Election, Ford split into Ford-Kenya, led by Raila’s father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and Ford-Asili led by Kenneth Matiba. Raila became Ford-Kenya’s Deputy Director of Elections. In short, Raila played a crucial role in the restoration of multiparty democracy. For this, he is widely regarded as the 2nd father of multiparty democracy in Kenya after Ford-Asili leader Kenneth Matiba.
A social democrat like his father, Raila will also be remembered as, alongside President Mwai Kibaki, delivering the robust Constitution we now enjoy. As far as the questions of selfishness go, we just need to remember he shelved his ambitions for President Kibaki back in 2002.
His sacrifice has earned him a near cult following – and not only from his Luo base, but across the nation and internationally. It’s on this account that he has been invited to offer lectures on governance and democracy in leading international institutions while accepting honorary qualifications from others. Locally, by admiration, hate or fear, he commands the attention of most. A resounding thrashing of Mudavadi in his home turf, cordial acceptance in central province and formidable competition even in Kalonzo areas are standout features none of his peers can boast about.
Granted, Raila’s candidature might not be the best for the NASA. That he is a revolutionary more than he is a good manager is now widely accepted. That he is has his own record of corruption is also not in question. His alliance with President Moi can even be interpreted as the perfect demonstration of man who would do anything and betray anyone in order to aggrandise self-ambition. Raila is not a saint. But on the question of whether he deserves the presidency more than his peers, there can only be one answer. His motive might be wrong but the logic is certainly sound: “I started the journey, let me complete it!”