By Chimwemwe Mwanza
Such is his endurance and fortitude that it is tempting to write an encyclopedia about his political prowess. Born into privilege and as son of one of Kenya’s far-most influential political dynasties, Raila Odinga had two choices – to either fade into oblivion and enjoy the wealth bequeathed to him by his father or reject the confines of his comfort and heed the call to transform the economic and political fortunes of his beloved Kenya.
He chose the latter. That Kenya is now a multi-party state and is cementing its position as one of the continent’s beacons of democracy is largely due to Raila 77 and his late indefatigable father, Mze Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s persistence. It was Raila and his father – Kenya’s first post – independence Vice President, Jaramogi that in the early 90’s helped to establish the Forum For The Restoration of Democracy (FORD), a civic organisation that successfully championed Kenya’s return to multi-party rule.
Detained, beaten and consistently humiliated for their vociferous resolve in championing Kenya’s return to democratic rule, the father and son – combo working in concert with other notable civic and opposition figures prompted then Kenyan strongman Daniel Arap Moi to capitulate. At the stroke of Moi’s pen, Kenya returned to a multi-party state in December 1991. That it now ranks among the pantheons of democracy on the continent is indisputable.
It is for this reason that Kenya’s Presidential elections currently underway have drawn significant interest from political to electoral pundits spread across the globe. In fact, there are a few parallels to draw from Kenya’s Presidential elections to Zambia’s polls held last year. Just like it was in Zambia’s case, voter turnout in Kenya’s elections will likely shoot through the roof and will largely be driven by unemployed and disgruntled youths. In all likelihood, it is the youth vote that will influence the outcome of this election.
Youth vote will be critical to outcome of race
Off significance, figures obtained from Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission point to a 12.7% increase in number of eligible voters to 22 120 458 compared to 19 611 423 voters that registered in the 2017 polls, while the number of polling booths has shot up by 13% to 46 232 compared to 40 883 in 2017 indicating a massive spike in citizen interest in this election. It will certainly be a tight one with some predicting a potential second round of voting as a consequence of the winner failing to secure a full-proof 51% majority in first round of voting.
For Raila, the die is cast, it is either he wins or burst. As Kenya’s political Albert Einstein, Raila just like the incumbent Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) will be attempting to cross this hurdle for the fifth time having failed in all previous four attempts. He has obviously taken heart and encouragement from HH – who himself only cleared this hurdle on his sixth attempt.
Like HH who stood against Edgar Lungu who had been at the helm of government for close to seven years, Raila is up against William Ruto, who has ably served as the Vice to the outgoing President, Uhuru Kenyatta – the only irony and difference being that Kenyatta has endorsed Raila from the opposition Azimio La Umoja Party instead of his deputy Ruto who is standing on the Kenya Kwanza Alliance – a coalition of loosely stitched parties opposed to Kenyatta’s brazen anointing of Raila as his preferred heir to Kenya’s presidential seat.
As we have come to learn, politics is unforgiving to losers. To those that have closely followed this septuagenarian’s political life, nothing will hurt more than their hero – who ranks as one of Africa’s voices of reason and is a colossus of African democracy – failing to score a penalty awarded in the twilight of a cup final. Although he often shoots from the hip, few would disagree that Raila has a warm personality, a forgiving heart and embodies both the temperament and character traits befitting the status of Kenya’s president in waiting.
Yet all this counts for nothing if the electorate have other ideas. Put it this way, you don’t want to be remembered as the prince that never became a king. To be more forthright, only Kenyans have the power to decide their political destiny.
The author is a reader of political history and philosophy. He is exploring options of launching a patented bi-monthly column aimed at further enhancing our political, economic, and social discourse. He only supports Liverpool despite their recent lacklustre showing. For feedback on possible names for the mooted column contact him on [email protected]
*iwe kandile, there is no need of dragging Wynter Kabimba SC and his family or becoming personal on this platform. We appreciate that you run a youth affiliated entity in need of government funding but trading balderdash pamulabasa to impress the pay master, ayikona man. Just elevate your arguments noti insele.