Raila’s opposition work cut out for him

Raila in Kisumu

Azimio leader Raila Odinga addressing the media in Kisumu where he announced plans to hold rallies to solicit support for the four besieged IEBC commissioners. 

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group

It would be great if the series of meetings Mr Raila Odinga has been having with leaders and elected representatives from the Azimio la Umoja coalition went some way towards bolstering an opposition still reeling from electoral defeat and unsure of its critical watchdog role.

The harsh reality, however, is that Azimio has been left a floundering ship that is easy prey as President William Ruto consolidates his hold on power by aggressively poaching from opposition ranks.

Mr Odinga has his work cut out for him – holding the troops together in an environment where political nomadism reigns supreme.

The number of Azimio governors, MPs and other leaders switching camps exposes a fragile political order where personal gratification trumps loyalty to any political movement or ideology.

Begging bowls 

As long as President Ruto holds the purse strings and wields the big stick, unprincipled fellows who just a few months ago swore by Mr Odinga and the Azimio promise will continue the exodus with begging bowls in hand.

Try as he might, Mr Odinga will have a hard time retaining the loyalty of politicians who only joined his coalition because they thought he was a sure bet to win the presidency, and thus be in a position to dish out the goodies. The veteran opposition chieftain has nothing to distribute now, so it is the President holding all the cards. 

But Dr Ruto should also be keenly aware that all those Azimio politicians now pledging to work with him are not doing so because they suddenly love him. They are in it for whatever personal gains they might extract, and will never owe him any real loyalty.

Actually, the majority of politicians who have shouted themselves hoarse, pledging undying fealty, are in it for themselves and will be the quickest to ditch him without apology if ever tables turn.

The paucity of our politics is that there is no party built on a bedrock of any discernible ideology or principles. The only thing that matters is allegiance to some tribal chieftain and the allure of power.

For Mr Odinga, the only option is to try and hold on to a core team of real believers and let loose those who want only to fill their stomachs.

The never-ending fight for social and economic justice is still a work in progress. It did not end with the restoration of multi-party democracy or the end of the Kanu regime.

That cause remains relevant today with the Ruto presidency as it and would have in the event Mr Odinga won the elections.

Untrammelled power 

With the missteps that Mr Ruto is making in his undisguised quest for untrammelled power and the real risk of a return to Nyayo-style kleptocracy, strong opposition remains an absolute necessity. 

Mr Odinga, therefore, has a vital role to play in ensuring that Kenya is not again laid to waste. He needs by his side resolute, principled leaders who are prepared to make sacrifices in the knowledge that however long it takes, justice will triumph.

The opposition chief built his legend on a lifetime of the courageous fight against dictatorship, and on championing the cause of the downtrodden and marginalised.

This is a space he must reclaim, and it will not be easy given the dalliance with former President Uhuru Kenyatta that saw him become an apologist for Jubilee misrule and cede his natural turf to then Deputy President Ruto. 

Waiting to play into his hands, however, is that those who bought into the Hustler narrative will increasingly come to realise that they fell for the con of the century.

No free cash 

There will be no free cash for the Kenya Kwanza government to dish out. There will be no space for Mama Mboga and the Hustler Youth in the corridors of power.

And all indicators are that the promises of instant economic recovery, reduced food and fuel prices and goodies raining down like manna from heaven, will be nothing more than a mirage.

That there are already rumblings of discontent shows that there are issues for the opposition to latch onto in holding the government to account.

We are not talking here of opposition for opposition’s sake or silly threats to mass action or street protests, but the honourable, noble role of loyal opposition.

There is a need to hold the government to account both on its promises to the electorate, and the whole gamut of good governance, rule of law and protection of the public purse.

This is a cause that is better pursued by a few dedicated men and women rather than an undisciplined mob.

[email protected]; www.gaitho.co.ke. @MachariaGaitho