Professor Makau Mutua is wrong in his conclusions about what Ruto’s return to ODM portends or what were to happen were Raila to agree to work with Ruto by way of an alliance between the two and their respective parties.
Before analyzing Makau’s column in the Daily Nation inaptly titled “Raila Must Shun Ruto or Pay The Political Price,” it is important to keep a few things in mind as one evaluates what the good professor is talking about.
One of these is simply the fact that politics is not an exact science.
As in everything in life, there are many choices one may have to make in how to pursue political objectives or even to pursue them at all.
Given the various competing interests a politician must sometimes choose from or pacify and given the concomitant consequences directly flowing from making such decisions or failing to do so when things go south, a successful and effective politician is one who weighs all the available options to effect an objective and picks one that he or she must provide effective leadership in having a majority follow him or her with it and the key here is providing effective leadership which produces a following sufficient to effect successful pursuit of that objective.
There is no exact formula in how one does this but we can deduce from studying those who succeed in such endeavors to be mostly individuals with plenty of wisdom, stamina, and guts with relevant experience topping it all.
These qualities also ensure that, if one makes the call and it turns out to be the wrong one or backfires, they are able to quickly recover or face and deal with the consequences with gusto because even in defeat, there is success.
It all depends on the nature of underlying efforts and motives and, conversely, what comes of the outcome.
It’s easier to know the former than the latter but it’s not knowing the latter with any degree of certainty that makes some decisions and choices more difficult and risky than others.
This principle is particularly relevant in the Kenyan political setting because for decades, the most reliable predictor of outcome has been tribalism and ethnicity and this still remains the case to some great extent and how much we can only wait for the 2012 or 2013 elections to know for sure.
The question then becomes, since we know we can no longer as a nation continue to embrace and/or exploit tribalism and ethnicity in choosing or electing our leaders, what can we do to make sure we have the desired outcome of having neither of these destructive tendencies eradicated or once for all done with, leaving choosing or electing leaders strictly a matter of qualifications and leadership ability?
I don’t know for fact that Raila and Ruto are in talks towards Ruto returning to ODM or somehow the two working together as Makau and other posit that they are but, let’s assume for the sake of argument that they are; is Makau right in his condemnation of the efforts and his doomsday prediction that such cooperation will sink Raila’s presidential quest?
I do not think so and that brings me to Makau’s piece who I differ with completely in everything he is arguing in support of his position, starting from his seeking cover from the Bible, Mark 8:36, which says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”—a verse which is, with all due respect to the good professor, totally inapplicable here.
It would be wholly outside the scope of this article to go into an exposition why this verse is inapplicable in the manner Makau has used it so let me just say the verse applies to what we need to do as individuals to live according to God’s instructions and specifically prohibits us from pursuing earthly things that lead to the loss of our souls, which according to God is the greatest loss of all.
On the other hand, the verse is no more instructive or relevant than what is expected of our politicians individually and collectively as embodied in Chapter Six of the constitution which morally and ethically is the measure by which we must hold our leaders accountable to their conduct as it related to their ability to hold public office.
Anything more, including adhering to even higher moral and ethical standards is desirable but don’t hold your breath on that one.
Not that the Bible is not relevant in its teachings when it comes to politics; it is, but Makau would be better off looking elsewhere in the Bible such as Romans 3:23 which reminds us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and Chapter 6 is there to make sure only those passing its mandate are fit to hold office.
While Chapter Six sets the minimum standards for ethical and moral conduct in holding public office, there is no specific guidance given to parties anywhere as to what is the right or wrong way to conduct their affairs, including campaigns beyond what the law provides or prescribes.
There is no law that would bar Ruto from returning to ODM or for Raila to work with him so this simply becomes purely a question of political strategy and tactics but Makau has coyly turned the issue of political strategy into one of exclusively right and wrong from a moral and ethical standpoint.
Even though related on the one hand in that political strategy must be informed by legal, moral, and ethical considerations, it does not follow that both political strategy and these considerations fit into a clearly defined matrix where everyone can look and agree even what that definition is.
Intelligent, well-meaning people with no ulterior motives can differ as to their view of whether ODM accepting Ruto back or Raila working with Ruto is a morally right thing to do.
Sometimes asking the wrong question can lead to wrong answers and conclusions and this is one good example.
The question should be not one whether Ruto returning to ODM or Raila agreeing to work with Ruto is a good thing; rather, the question should be how significant is either event occurring toward advancing the prospect of having Raila, the leading reformist in the country, to be reelected and this time sworn as president?
If the answer is yes, this would be a significant move or even game changer, then the second question where all this morality and ethical considerations must be weighted in is is it worth it for either of these events to be allowed to occur or is as Makau argues committing political suicide?
The second question cannot be objectively answered by anyone who doesn’t understand and agree that there are, indeed, times where the end justifies the means and there couldn’t be a more clearer case than this where we either have a reformist president in Raila or a non-reformist, status quo lover of impunity and corruption as the alternative choice.
That is what this elections are going to be about and that’s not being subjective or biased because of my support for Raila but anyone who knows anything about our country, who is vying for the presidency and where they stand relative to reforms and full implementation of the constitution, they would have to objectively agree only Raila is the reformist and reform minded while everyone else is not and cannot embrace something this grand overnight or even after a long time.
Another way to understand this is to ask and objectively answer the question whether clearing obstacles in the way for a reformist like Raila, who stands over and above all others vying for the presidency as the most qualified candidate, is clearing these obstacles worth it if that includes working with people like Ruto who obviously have the ICC hanging of their heads?
Answering this question must as a precondition require one to be intellectually honest as to how does Ruto being charged at the ICC figure in this analysis of whether it’s a good or bad thing for him to return to ODM or work with Raila.
My contention is notwithstanding his reckless conduct with his pal Uhuru during the so-called “prayer rallies” which were nothing but, Ruto is actually innocent under the law until proven guilty.
If we respect the concept of the rule of law, we must accept that fact.
Note this position is not inconsistent with my previously asking Ruto and UK to suspend their presidential ambitions in Uhuru and Ruto Must Now Suspend Their Presidential Ambitions because working with another candidate is wholly a different thing from running as one for obvious reasons not necessary to elaborate.
Having taken the view from the very beginning that Ruto cannot be convicted of the serious crimes against humanity he faces—unless he bungles his defense—and a position I know I differ with many of my ODM friends, one may be tempted to dismiss my argument as biased.
It is fashionable to sing the refrain Ruto is guilty of the serious crimes he stands charged with and therefore Raila or ODM should have nothing to do with him but I am not there.
The only argument one can make and I have is Ruto’s stock has steadily gone down from when he miscalculated and allowed himself to be used to topple Raila as ABR (Anyone But Raila) only to crash and burn such that Raila can easily dispense with any desire to work with him but the flip side of this argument is equally convincing and that is, even if his stock as devalued, it still has value to give dividends to make it worthwhile keeping it or in this case working with him.
Marginal value but value nonetheless.
A different argument that can be put forth and persuasively so is sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire.
Right now, our Number One problem in Kenya is tribalism and we must slay this animal if we are ever to attain true fruits of independence as a united, peace loving nation.
You cannot find anyone more filled with hope and optimism when it comes to Kenyan politics and our people than yours truly but even he must come to grips with the reality and fact that change cometh slowly.
There is no question we are seeing signs that even though still a strong and dominating a factor in Kenyan politics, there is anecdotal evidence tribalism and ethnicity may play a lesser role in the next elections thanks to efforts of leaders like Raila who are not only determined to preach the message of unity and ending tribalism and negative ethnicity as determinative factors in how we choose our leaders, they are providing the leadership needed to change the minds of even some of the hardcore believers of these destructive mindsets such that in the end, we shall have a majority agreeing with them and electing a president for the first time who neither tribalism nor massive rigging would be the determinative factor in how he is elected.
It would therefore behoove Raila to work with anyone and everyone willing to work with him knowing fully well that includes people who may have heavy baggage such as Ruto but the converse is less an attractive choice because taking the verse Makau cites literally to go the other direction would be the equivalent of a suitor who seeks to marry a woman of his dream and does everything he has been told is the right thing to do to win her heart and her parents’ blessing but forgets to do something as basic as inquiring and finding out what the woman really likes and wants.
A more clever suitor and competitor who equally covets the same woman finds out what makes the woman click and does it in addition to using his charm and wit to win her over and ditto her parents, leaving the other suitor hapless as he clings to unhelpful rules and practices while the woman joins the former’s hand in marriage.
In reality, the hapless suitor who loses out could be the medicine that the doctor ordered for the woman to have an everlasting and happy courtship and union but if the one who wins her heart has any scruples in him, he would strife to live up to the expectation created in both her and her parents before their approving of him, lest he will be deemed a bad mistake and rejected accordingly.
Same thing with the quest for the presidency of our beloved country.
There are many suitors in the field, including downright crooks and thieves but in making his case, Raila is saying he knows just what the bride and her parents need to win them over and has embarked on doing just that or meeting the need and if some of that falls outside the box in norms, practice and expectations, what matter most is that he is able to win over the hearts of the pride to be and parents.
If he doesn’t disappoint and becomes just what the doctor ordered for the woman and more, then whatever failings he may have had or could have henceforth pale in comparison and actually become understandable as simply a part of inescapable life.
In the context of reforms and Makau’s argument that Raila is doomed to lose the mantle he carries as a reformist if Ruto returns to ODM or if Raila agrees to work with him, Raila must summon all his political skills, charm and good luck to make the case why this is not a condemnable move, if it occurs, and doubly so as among some of the reformers and Civil Society.
The working assumption in the absence of any logical reason not to so assume is most of the Kenyans supporting Raila, including many of the reform only minded and Civil Society would back Raila and whatever he does within the bounds of acceptable or at least understandable options.
He need only worry about convincing the rest of the country; not all of them, but enough to put him over the constitutionally mandated 50% + 1 to be reelected and this time sworn as president.
In Part II, I will examine Prof. Makau Mutua’s specific contentions and arguments