Dangers galore in the obsession with Raila

“Form is temporary, class is permanent” football maxim

Raila Amolo Odinga. Love him unto heaven or loathe him to hell, you simply cannot ignore the enigmatic son of Jaramogi whose very breath seems to dictate the pulse of Kenyan politics.

Bestriding the national political terrain like the colossus, the Lang’ata legislator is gifted with the one thing craved by every politician — ability to effortlessly attract attention.

Even media outlets in the clutches of his most bitter foes find it difficult to black him out, opting instead to just smear him negative. The late Michael Kijana Wamalwa reverently saluted this rare gift as Railamania-Railaphobia phenomenon.

Little surprise then that as we near the homestretch to the historic 2012 polls, the attention of the entire nation, and a lot of the world that keenly watches Kenya, is firmly trained on the PM. Every move he makes is watched with bated breath.

And when he is perceived to be motionless, the suspense is palpable. Seemingly whenever this deified battle-hardened warrior of the second liberation sneezes, the nation catches a cold.

Build careers

He can be credited with building the careers of many politicians from scratch, especially greenhorns who discover that publicity comes easy when you appear to fight Mr Odinga.

This, of course, is simple cheek borrowed straight from law number six in Robert Green’s 48 Laws of Power ­— Courting attention at all cost.

And Green emphasises that there are few things that will spill you more limelight than punching above your weight!

It has the illusory effect of a little bird standing on an anti-hill and because it is on elevated ground, it imagines it is in the air.

Furthermore, the PM’s reputed deft hand at playing the political chessboard has become legendary, while his knack to move on from adversity is phenomenal.

And the ease with which he handles the comings and goings within his political orbit can only remind one of the famous refrain that “everyone brings joy to my soul — some when they enter, others when they leave”!

Now, while all this may be magnetic fodder for the media, and intriguing stuff for the so called political pundits, the tone and complexion that this mania-phobia trend is taking in the build up to what is shaping out to be the mother of all electoral contests does give one cause for concern.

The presidential race is inexorably being reduced to a duel of one gang versus one man, with the focus being to stop the man and not to crack the issues that should really settle the contest.

Every single alliance crafted today is apparently designed to fit only one size: Raila Amolo Odinga.

And when you observe those busy crafting all sorts of the strange outfits — simama twende, K-this or G-that – you sense that these presidential wannabes are motivated more by the obsession to stop Mr Odinga than the desire to actually win the race!

Toxic vendetta

With this trend, election 2012 could be reduced to a toxic vendetta affair bereft of any useful discourse on fundamental issues.

Already, all the G-men have focused their entire energies not on confronting national challenges but on scheming how to block Mr Odinga from Harambee House, by hook or crook.

And they appear determined to throw the sink and all at their nemesis. The shameless and aimless empty rhetoric, virulent propaganda, hardnosed deceit, vile insults and ethnic jingoism targeting every conceivable pore in a single man is absolutely appalling.

It is even more tragic that this stop-Raila “collegiate presidency” manouver is so recklessly emotive yet so bare on sense.

This inevitably has the net effect of trivialising everything by irrational posturing and disproportionate howling. Two examples suffice.

One is some innocent statement made by Mr Odinga in the special circumstances of a courtroom hearing.

They excitedly rushed headless to twist fact in a malevolent bid to foment a rift between the Premier and the President. It was so cheap, it sickened the bowels. The second is the so called “KKV scandal”.

In an embarrassing display of ignorance, they again jumped head-in-sand into a petulant dance where there was no music, calling a routine management review “an audit” and refusing to accept the accurate position from the World Bank itself; continuing to shout wolf even as the lamb screams “shut up, I’m safe”! The result is that even if there could be issues worth interrogating, they get drowned in the pointless cacophony.

While Mr Odinga may exploit this by portraying his foes as clueless vendetta masters with no agenda for Kenyans and thereby turn perceived bane into boon, there is the serious risk that sustained attacks by Railaphobs could trigger fatal return-fire from Railamanics.

And that cannot be good for Kenya. The PM like the rest of us is no saint. But let us engage him rationally, factually and with decorum. Emotional juvenile petulance is cheap and reckless.