In an article appearing in the Sunday Daily Nation Online, Prof. Makau Mutua argues that Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga’s rapprochement with former president, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi is a “very bad idea.”
I disagree with the good professor for the reasons that follow, in addition to those I laid out in my Open Letter to H.E. Retd. President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, C.G.H.
Makau rhetorically posits the question why is Raila “dancing” with former President Daniel arap Moi and offers a number of reasons he says make his “gut and brains” tell him it’s a “very bad idea.”
The good professor is wrong off the gate; Raila is not asking Moi to dance with him; he merely needs Moi in the same dancing hall!
The hall surely must have enough partners to dance with to ensure Raila dances all the way to State House; it’ll be foolhardy for him to leave miffed or otherwise unhappy dancers outside the hall who may as well block his way to State House!
If this is not good reason enough why Raila must continue with the rapprochement with Moi and why this is a good idea, there is more.
Before getting to those, let me address a couple of preliminary points I also disagree with Makau related to politics in general.
Makau says, “politics is neither rational, nor emotional” and that politics is instead about “expediency” which therefore necessitates doing away with principles and thus the reason “moral and political “purists” never get into the “mud of politics.”
The professor is wrong that politics is neither rational nor emotional for if that were the case, we’ll have madmen and women elected to office and all these emotional and near childlike reactions to Raila’s popularity would not be, were it not expressly not because people often react with emotion and not reason but are irrational at times, even as they are trying to be rational.
I can go into details why I say so but that’s beyond the scope of this piece so let me address the rest of Makau’s thoughts in the above quoted assertion.
Makau says politics is about expediency, true. I agree with that statement completely but disagree with the professor that the expediency is at the expense of rationality and/or emotion.
All three go together, otherwise, you’ll have nothing but chaos and indirection in politics and/or the absence of compassion in whatever leadership manages to eke itself out in such an environment.
Again, expounding on this counter-points is beyond the scope of this article so let me just move on and address the balance of Mutua’s piece I disagree with.
It is true as Mutua argues that “in a democracy, the top priority of politicians is to win elections. That’s why every vote — especially in the opponent’s turf — must be wooed.”
The only question is whether Raila’s wooing Moi is appropriate or not.
Mutua says the mere thought of Raila lying in bed with Moi, “revolts” him and goes on to offer reasons “why—and why not—the PM would be unwise to dine with Mr. Moi.”
Not to split hairs too much, and with all due respect to my friend Prof Mutua, just as going to bed is different from dining with someone in real life, so it is figuratively speaking in the political arena.
I have noted above that Raila need not dance with Moi at all; rather, he just needs Moi in the dancing Hall, rather than outside the hall with others trying to block him from dancing all the way to State House.
Just as much as he doesn’t need to dance with Moi, Raila too need not go to bed with him; rather, having him at the dining table and breaking bread, is good enough so long as the duo are on the same page as to Raila’s pathway to State House.
In other words, there is more Moi can do for Raila’s presidential ambitions strategically speaking short of going to bed or dancing with Raila.
Of course, there is even more Moi could do and, indeed, it would be desirable that he actually does do the ultimate and that is, to simply go to bed with Raila.
As I point out below, I disagree with Mutua and others who argue that Moi is spent force; he is not, and those who think otherwise are mistaken for the reasons I elaborate below.
In his analysis, Mutua first presents the case why Raila should “coddle” with Moi and then offers in his second part of the analysis, why Raila should not do so.
In offering reasons why Raila should “coddle” Moi, Mutua posits that “Mr Odinga has been outmanoeuvred [sic] by Eldoret North MP William Ruto among the Kalenjin.”
This is at best an unproven assertion.
While it’s true Ruto and others using him lied to Kalenjins about Raila and to some degree succeeded in confusing and misleading the Kalenjin community about Raila and his relations with the communit in efforts to topple Raila as heir apparent to Kibaki, it is clear these efforts have failed because Raila not only remains the man to beat, going by the most recent polling data showing him leading his closet rival Uhuru Kenyatta by more than 22 points, he has in more recent times started to regain the support he lost in RV due to Ruto’s mischief as rationality and reality starts to sink in among many who have hitherto been seating on the sidelines, while emotional overreaction to lies and distortions dissipates.
(For reasons why the Ruto failed to topple Raila, read my blog Who Is William Ruto Part VI and Why The Scheme To Topple Raila Has Failed)
I would therefore not say it’s the case that Ruto has “out-maneuvered Raila in Kaleland; quite the contrary, Raila has outmaneuvered Ruto and will likely continue to do so to the end when he emerges victorious, despite Ruto’s and others’ best efforts to stop him.
Notwithstanding the professor’s false premise that Ruto has outmaneuvered Raila in Kaleland, the professor is also wrong in his other premise that the destiny of Kaleland is in the hands of Ruto and that therefore courting Moi to gain this votes is a bad idea.
Ditto for Mutua’s converse argument predicated on another false premise that Raila can only have a prayer in Kaleland if the ICC charges against Ruto are confirmed in which case, according to Mutua, “coddling” Moi would be a good idea.
To his credit, however, Mutua recognizes that the Kalenjin are not a mindless monolith acting only at the direction of Ruto, or anyone for that matter and therein lies the opening for Raila or anyone else.
Raila has to and must continue to make the case in Kaleland as he is and has to in all parts of the country that he is the better qualified of all candidates who have expressed interest in the presidency, or those who actually run.
In other words, Raila has to, and all indication are he will have a 47-County campaign strategy and his motto must be “let’s not leave anyone behind except the most adamant to so remain but must join us ahead, anyway.”
It is therefore baffling why, singling the dynamics in Kaleland, Mutua says of Raila, “Mr Odinga is a “splitist” who is playing on “internal” Kalenjin differences to win a large chunk of their vote.”
This argument is counter-intuitive, even given the professor’s own admission above that the Kalenjins are not a “mindless monolithic’ group which ostensibly therefore should not vote en masse for one or another candidate.
The opposite of not being monolithic and voting en masse, is to have a split vote.
Any politician who seeks to harvest votes in the area must therefore by definition be a “splitist” and thus the reason I am baffled why Mutua is singling out Raila as somehow the only one doing this, which he by implication is arguing, is an aspect of “divide and rule” strategy when it obviously is not by his own analysis.
Mutua argues that Raila wants to “split” the Kalenjin “along the Ruto-Moi rift” and that Raila “believes Mr Moi will work with him to “kill” Mr Ruto’s stranglehold over the Kalenjin.”
This is an argument that is obviously wrong based on my own analysis above.
The Kalenjin are either going to vote as a block or they are not.
As I have been arguing forever, the Kikuyus and Kalenjin must lead in ending tribalism in Kenya and obviously, one way of doing so, is ending this habit of voting as a block by both of these communities, as well as the rest plagued with the disease.
By ending voting as a block, the Kalenjin and all communities for that matter must look for other reasons to vote for a presidential candidate other than that their own or closely related is running.
Which means all communities must by this measure have split votes and it doesn’t matter one bit for me, the basis for that splitting of votes.
If the Kalenjin split their votes along the Moi-Ruto axis, which really does not exist, given one is a mere boy, another a seasoned old giant, loath him or not, then so be it.
I’d rather have that than the entire community voting for Ruto just because they can’t bring themselves to vote for someone else.
Professor poses the question whether “the Kalenjin be put asunder along this divide (Moi-Ruto) and postulates that the “chances are only good if Mr Ruto is bound for trial at The Hague.”
Raila cannot bank on Ruto being bound for trial at the Hague or use that as a basis for his strategy to regain lost ground in the Rift Valley; rather, he has and must continue to engage in those endeavors as if the Hague does not exist.
Mutua argues that “it will be easier to lure away Mr Ruto’s supporters if he’s “sequestered” at The Hague. Mr Moi can then — with Mr Odinga’s charisma — recapture his place as the Kalenjin kingpin.”
This is too simplistic an approach I am surprised Mutua is even suggesting it.
Again, Raila has and must continue to regain lost ground in the Rift Valley as though the ICC does not exist.
This is, obviously, an analytic proposition that has nothing to do with the merits of the ICC case against Ruto, just in case someone mistakes my stating so.
Professor argues that, in the case Ruto is “sequestered,” then Raila has an opening in RV “because there is no other Kalenjin who can take Mr Ruto’s place,” adding that therefore the Kalenjin “might figure that Mr Odinga — who they christened arap Mibei when they were solidly in ODM — is better than the devil they don’t know.”
Mutua is on a very wrong track on this one and is going even further, he should stop and come back to where Raila is and must continue to be, and that is, to continue in his efforts to regain lost ground in RV as though ICC does not exist.
Indeed, even though Ocampo has charged Ruto for essentially hijacking ODM’s grievance with Kibaki based on the belief he stole the presidency from Raila, analytically, Ruto’s position is no different from that of the government and its part of the Ocampo Six, even though Ocampo appears to have more in the form of evidence against the latter 3 but is unlikely to overcome evidentiary and legal hurdles to secure a victory at trial as against the former 3, a case can be made about Ruto and ODM, “we are on your side.” Footing his legal fees, for example, is one way of expressing that sentiment.
This is why banking on confirmation of charges against Ruto as a net-advantage for Raila does not make sense to me.
Mutua then argues that this “plot” will turn out to be a fool’s errand if Mr Ruto beats the confirmation charges at The Hague.
The “plot” Mutua is referring to, is Kalenjins voting for Raila than “the devil they don’t know,” if charges against Ruto are confirmed.
Needless to say, this is not a “plot,” unless the professor is ascribing a new meaning to this word.
Assuming the professor means “strategy” or something less sinister, I have already noted above whether the ICC charges against Ruto are confirmed or not, Raila must continue doing what he is doing to regain lost ground in the Rift Valley and so far, so good, given recent developments there showing progress.
The person who really should be plotting now, is Ruto, on how he gets back to Raila’s fold, especially if things go in the direction they are likely to after confirmation of the ICC charges against him.
Professor argues another reason why Raila should reach out to Moi is “it would be foolhardy for Mr Odinga to sit by idly and concede one of the largest troves of votes. He wants to be the president of all Kenyans.”
This goes without saying, of course, and I totally agree.
Mutua then posits that “you can bet that Mr Odinga knows that Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka wants Mr Moi and the Kalenjin in his column,” adding that “that’s why Mr Odinga has snatched Mr Moi to deny Mr Musyoka a crucial ally.”
There are several things analytically wrong with this assertion from the professor as well as his conclusion that “you can bet that the man from Tseikuru — Mr Moi’s political pupil — will fight hard to get “daddy” back. My take is that Mr Moi will go with the winner,” but let me not get into each other than to say, unlike his opponents, Raila’s strategy from what we can tell, is based on building relationships, not destroying them. Kalonzo, Ruto and others specialize on the latter but not the former so, if I were Raila, I would not be terribly concerned about them and the little games and shenanigans they are playing alongside a moving train headed to victory down the road.
Another reason Mutua offers for why it’s wise for Raila to work with Moi, is “the Kalenjin elite” are not used to being out of power as evidenced in their “troubled” behavior during President Mwai Kibaki’s reign.
Mutua explains that this is why the Kalenjins supported Mr Odinga and ODM in 2007, namely, because they believed that “Mr Kibaki’s regime had victimised [sic] them, and that Mr Odinga would bring them out of the political cold.”
According to Mutua, “Mr Ruto turned the Kalenjin against Mr Odinga” but the Kalenjin “may calculate that Mr Odinga could emerge the winner in 2012.”
Mutua concludes that therefore “this could be their chance to partner with Mr Odinga in the inner sanctum of power,” which the professor adds is “a likely scenario if Mr Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta are at The Hague.”
I agree in some of the professors conclusions, but disagree with some of his premises.
For one, and as I have argued above, the Hague is and cannot be a major consideration in Raila’s effort to regain lost ground in the Rift Valley but those who have had no reason to abandon Raila since 2007, joined by those who are now or will be convinced that Raila is the likely president, come 2012, will likely combine to give Raila sufficient support in RV and therefore help propel him into the presidency, independent and regardless of what happens at the Hague.
I therefore disagree with Mutua that this scenario (of increased support for Raila in RV) is only likely, if Ruto and UK are at the Hague.
I also disagree with the Professor’s argument that the “Kalenjin elite” are not used to being out of power, only because it’s somewhat misleading.
No community, social group, or party is ever used to being out of power.
Everyone wants to be in power and this is the problem of democracies.
Everyone cannot be in power at the same time.
Each of the major tribes in Kenya, has fielded a presidential candidate.
Why? Because each community wants one of their own to be president.
But there can only be one president at a time and therefore, only one community at a time and more so the reason we must have a president who cares and caters to all communities, equally.
Raila is presenting himself as such a candidate and is, in fact alone at the top as one such candidate.
In his second part of his analysis, Mutua raises a number of reasons why Raila should not “woo” Moi.
The first reason he offers, is that “Mr Moi is passé. He’s not the future.”
Moi may not be the future, but he is certainly the past and present.
When the professor asks the rhetorical question, “why, then, would Mr Odinga, a man who wears the mantle of reformer, reach back to resuscitate Kenya’s last dictator?” the answer I can offer him is, Raila wants Moi to help in ending tribalism.
There are many other answers I can give, but let Raila himself provide those in the course of his campaign and let the people, especially those from the Rift decide whether those are good enough reasons to reward him with a vote, in addition to whatever additional support he gets from reaching out to Moi, to begin with.
When Mutua rhetorically poses, “Should reformers worry that an Odinga administration will be more status quo, and less reformist?” the answer is, “no” based on reasons the very reformers know.
When Mutua rhetorically poses, “shuld we worry that Mr Odinga will be captured by ancient regime elements?” the answer is , “no” and when Mutua wonders, “If so, should reformers leave his side and launch their bid for the State House?” the answer, again, is “no” because those with Raila remain with him and will continue to be with him, because they understand precisely what he is doing, those who may have left him, are having second thoughts and returning and who already left him in the guise of “disagreeing” with him on his reform agenda, have done so for less than honest but opportunistic reasons unrelated to reform and therefore don’t count.
When the good professor poses the question, “If we want to transform Kenya — and break up tribal voting patterns — how can we do so if folks like Mr Odinga strategise along tribal lines?”
The good professor has this upside down; it is not Raila who is strategizing along tribal lines, rather, it is his opponents to the man and woman.
As noted above, Raila has a 47-County campaign strategy, meaning, he’ll court votes in every county of the Republic therefore his is not a strategy “along tribal lines,” not at all.
Finally, when professor asks, “Shouldn’t Mr Odinga reject the tribal calculus and turn the 2012 elections into a contest of issues?” I am sure the answer he would give as he has in as many times he has spoken on this, is yes, he would prefer candidates focus on discussion of national issues but that does not necessarily mean that he, as a reformer, must agree with Moi on any of them.
Agreeing on one, namely, helping in ending tribalism would be good enough.
And that also, is good enough reason Raila should continue with his rapprochement with Moi and thus why Professor Mutua is wrong in his view to the contrary.
FN1: Note the good professor did not give us a single reason why he is “revolted” by the mere thought of Raila reconciling with Moi and certainly all the reasons he did here could not possibly rise to that level of revolt
FN2 Note also by declaring the battle for RV is between who follows Moi or who follows Ruto, Mutua is saying Prof. Ole Kiyiapi or those not firmly behind or associated with either are irrelevant.