The ‘elephant in the room’ of coalition talks

By Mwenda Njoka

Dear reader, grant me the honour of recounting to you a little poem I came across some years back about an elephant in a room. The poem revolves around a huge pink elephant that was stuck in the middle of a room full of people. But for some strange reasons, no one was talking about the huge beast in the middle of the room although it was right at the centre of everyone’s mind.

They engaged in endless banter about every subject under the sun, but the elephant in the room. The poem goes something like this: “There’s an elephant in the room. It is large and squatting so it is hard to get around it Yet we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and “I’m fine.” and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter. We talk about everything else – except the elephant in the room.  We all know it is there. We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.

 It is constantly on our minds. For, you see, it is a very big elephant. But we do not talk about the elephant in the room...”

Now, let us transform the elephant in the room to local political circumstances. There is a lot of talk, and more talks, then some talk about talks that are supposed to lead to election winning coalition deals.

At the last count, most of the ‘talks about talks’ revolved basically around two distinct political groupings: the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto duo on one side and Musalia Mudavadi and (possibly?) Kalonzo Musyoka on the other.

On his part, ODM leader Raila Odinga appears to be sitting pretty, comfortable in the knowledge that any pre-election alliance he forms with anyone, he is the obvious (and non-negotiable) primus inter pares — Latin for ‘first among equals’.

So naturally for Raila Odinga he does not face the headache of endless discussions on whose photo will be the main attraction on the presidential ticket ballot paper nor the thorny issue of whose party will be swallowed by the other. And yet, these two issues — whose photo will be the main attraction on the presidential ticket and whose political party becomes a subset of the other — are what has kept the quartet of Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka sleepless at night, giving them unending stress and that additional unwelcome growth of grey hair which means more time at the barber shop getting hair dyed.

Of course Raila has his own issues which keep him awake at night and increase the frequency of his visits to the barber shop too for his dose of dye.

But for the ODM leader, it is not a matter of an elephant in the room. It is the less complex issue of waiting to see how the Uhuru, Ruto, Musalia and Kalonzo quartet deal with the elephant in their respective rooms.So, what is the elephant in the rooms of these two political camps? The elephant in the room is the question of who becomes politically subservient to whom.

The elephant in the room also happens to be the issue of letting go of political parties in order to have a unitary presidential ticket.

The often unstated worry between the ‘talking parties’ is the issue of what happens to say, supporters and aspirants clamouring for Ruto’s URP ticket if (or is it when?) the Eldoret North MP formally joins Uhuru’s TNA?

Similar anxiety must be nagging the supporters and aspirants waiting for nomination via Kalonzo’s Wiper Democratic Party. What happens to them if the VP teams up with Mudavadi or even Raila’s ODM?

The critical point here is possibly for politicians to bite the bullet and move on. Postponing the day of reckoning from December 4 to January 4 will not make the elephant in the room go away.

The damn elephant will still be there until and unless they confront it, start talking about it and deal with it.