It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how opposition leader Raila Odinga hopes to dislodge President William Ruto from State House or how to wrest power from a man whose incumbency has, with finality, been endorsed by the highest court in the land. Short of leading an insurgency which nobody in his or her right mind wants, one cannot tell where the tactics that the venerable politician has adopted are taking his supporters, or the country at large.
However, it would not do to second-guess him or his intentions. After all, the man has forgotten more about political survival than most Kenyans will ever learn. Nevertheless, as three past presidents have learnt, it would be naïve to ignore Mr Odinga for he is not the kind of person to allow presidents to rest easy in their comfort zones.
Indeed, his main mission in life seems to be to ensure a fair amount of discomfort for his opponents, which is why he has been a darling of millions of voters for two decades. However, telling President Ruto to resign is the most ridiculous demand he has made so far. It won’t happen.
There are those among his opponents who have believed that the only way to contain him was to co-opt him into government, and then there are those who prefer to outfox him and then undercut him by poaching his supporters.
Both former Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta were forced into some kind of cohabitation with him; Mr Kibaki through the Grand Coalition Government, and Mr Kenyatta through the Handshake. However, President Ruto has opted for the latter course, hence the spirited efforts to lure the lawmakers affiliated to Azimio la Umoja to his side.
If the aim is to weaken Mr Odinga through attrition, then Dr Ruto is succeeding handsomely. Now the onus is on Mr Odinga to find out how he can keep the government in check without losing too many of own his foot soldiers. Unfortunately, in the views of many observers, the so-called “People’s Barazas” are not likely to work as well as he hoped. This is why. First, the Kenya Kwanza government does not give a hoot, at least outwardly. Secondly, Baba does not have the option of leading his supporters to street protests on any issue.
Such demonstrations may at one time or the other, aided by agent provocateurs, plunge into chaos, which would give the government the excuse to crack down on his supporters and attribute the blame to him. Third, there is the danger of even his most ardent supporters getting tired of these barazas when they hear the same message being repeated over and over again without any positive change.
Once the excitement wears off, they may decide to stay away, and a politician without an audience has already lost the cause.
But what does Mr Odinga and his co-principals in Azimio — Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and the admirable liberation fighter Martha Karua — tell their followers? The most potent is that Azimio did not lose last year’s election; Kenya Kwanza stole it. Quite beside the fact that many people hearing this may be forgiven for suppressing a yawn and asking ‘so what?’, a constant reiteration of this claim is most likely to induce ennui, for at the moment, Ruto’s presidency is a fait accompli.
More importantly, Mr Odinga’s team is admirably carrying out the duties of an opposition party in a democracy. What they are demanding is not outrageous. They are asking for electoral justice, saying the best way to accomplish this is to reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in which all stakeholders in future elections play a role.
They want all parliamentary parties to be involved in selecting IEBC commissioners. This is reasonable enough, although it raises the question as to how “Independent” such a commission can be if everyone has a say in its formation.
They also want the government to seek ways of reducing the rising cost of living by bringing down the prices of unga and other basic food necessities, as well as the cost of electricity, fuel and school fees. Nobody can quarrel with such a demand.
Everybody wants it to happen. They are also fighting for the preservation of multiparty democracy because they suspect President Ruto is fervently looking for a super majority in Parliament so that he can change the Constitution to do away with term limits without going through a referendum.
Such issues, including the agitation against over-taxation, the introduction of GMOs, and the many other ills the Ruto administration is being accused of, are what an opposition is meant for.
However, they can best be articulated in Parliament rather than at public forums, which is one of the reasons why many people are beginning to be attracted to the prospect of creating the office of the Official Leader of the Opposition, and protecting it from possible executive caprice by entrenching it in the Constitution. That way, Mr Odinga will continue to fight for the democratic rights of Kenyans, something he has been doing for more than 30 years.
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; [email protected]