Unless one has been there and done it, one can never truly understand or appreciate what it is to be whatever that is; they may have an idea, but that’s about it.
Thus, if one has never been a parent, they are unlikely to fully understand or appreciate both the joys and challenges of being one other than perhaps at best their observation of how friends or relatives enjoy the pleasures of parenting or grapple with the challenges.
If one has never been a victim of a crime, one cannot truly understand and appreciate the impact of that crime both physically and mentally to the victim no matter how small or big.
If one has never flown in space, one cannot truly understand or appreciate the effects of weightlessness.
And so on.
While there is a good chance anyone can have a good sense of what it is to be in any of these circumstances one has not experienced in person, there is a tendency to also not give enough credit or complete appreciation and empathy for those who are or have been there.
Take the example of Raila Amolo Odinga, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya.
Raila has been a staple in Kenyan politics for well over three decades, having become a household name in 1982 when he was initially put under house arrest and later detained for more than six years without trial in connection with the failed coup attempt against then President Daniel Arap Moi.
Few have actually been detained for political reasons and even fewer for as long as Raila was.
However, the stories told by Raila and other detainees about the torture chambers in which they endured great suffering depict a picture of where no one in their right mind would want to do anything to earn a trip there, yet the likes of Raila have done just that for the sake of our country.
But what was that experience like? Can those of us who have never been there ever truly understand and appreciate the trauma, the psychological and physical pain of enduring such an experience?
The best we can do is to simply relate by imagination and that will never give anyone the full flavor of the pain and anguish.
In the absence of such complete understanding and appreciation, the next best thing is to simply accord those who have had such experiences the highest degree of honor and deference and herein is a problem because much as someone like Raila has personally sacrificed for the sake of our country, there are many who would treat that as basically a meaningless and valueless exercise.
Instead of according someone like Raila the highest degree of honor and deference for his sacrifice for the country, an uncouth class of politicians and Kenyans actually find it befitting to insult and belittle Raila instead—again treating his sacrifice and suffering as a meaningless and valueless exercise.
That’s got be extremely annoying and any ordinary person can be forgiven for yelling and screaming at those who would be so obtuse as to deny or to want to deny them a right they have earned with immense pain and suffering.
But Raila is not of that type to scream and name call people for not according him the right amount of credit for his suffering endured primarily because of his love for our country.
Rather, he soldiers on doing what he does best and that is fighting for the ordinary folk, even as one of his hands is tied in the back by forces he still must fight with equal if not greater fervor to free himself fully from in order to deliver his true vision for the country.
That’s got to be not easy.
Then comes a whole host of related phenomena Raila must face and deal with on a daily basis that surely must make it not at all easy to be himself:
First, many a man—or woman for that matter, would open their eyes from whatever amount of sleep they have had and want to pull bed covers over their heads and fall right back to sleep than get up to face yet another day of news stories about the latest plots by those ganging against him or her.
Try to imagine this: how would you feel if for months upon months you are inundated with a barrage of hate and vitriol from people who know nothing about you while those who know you have nothing but salivating to stop you from achieving your dream and vision for the country to the point they are ready to gang up against you for no reason other than they simply don’t want you to ascend to the highest of the land?
That’s got to be not easy.
Yet, this is precisely what Raila endures every day and still manages to have a smile at the end of it.
Second, if facing daily a pack of wolves prepared to extinguish him politically on the campaign trail, Raila has to contend with the fact he has a coalition partner not intent on making things any easier for him both in terms of power sharing or in any manner that would benefit him politically.
Indeed, but for Raila’s cleverness and survival mentality, his coalition partner would have but rendered him irrelevant from the get go but thanks to his political astuteness and ability to see far, Raila used those skills to slowly elbow himself back into the very position he was installed co-partner in the coalition albeit still not as equal as the Coalition Agreement mandates but close enough to have ensured his political survival thus far.
That has certainly not been easy even in these waning hours of the coalition.
Third, and then there is the unenviable position he finds himself now to pick who his running mate should be.
To say this is an easy task would be to say one doesn’t understand politics.
No one faces a more daunting decision in running mate pick than Raila.
Everyone else can chose a mannequin as running mate and have virtually have no impact on their prospects but Raila cannot do so.
Raila must pick a running mate who must not only solidify the support he already has but the pick must also be one who brings more to the table than their pretty self and by that I don’t mean merely more votes.
It must be someone who is ready and capable of leading the country in his or her own right were the need to arise and certainly one with impeccable credentials on reforms.
If the person falls short on reform credentials or is otherwise questionably on that account, then what he or she brings to the table must clearly outweigh the risk of having him or her on-board.
An astute observer can only see one person across the land fitting that bill.
Be that as it may be, picking the right running mate for Raila is not going to be easy but do he must.
It’s what separates a sophisticated and astute leader from amateurs.
If the past is any indication that Raila is this and more, how he maneuvers around the various landmines ahead to ascend to the presidency shall seal his fabled title as the enigma he has thus far proven to be.
We are praying for him and cheering him on.