Opinion: What Uhuru should do to win Raila diehards

Uhuru Kenyatta with Raila Odinga. (Photo: Courtesy)
In the likely event that Justice Maraga et al do not overturn the outcome of the October 26 repeat presidential election, then Messrs Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will find themselves in victory and in limbo. In victory because all legal objection to their election will be over, done with and buried without the possibility of appeal or counter argument. But in limbo because of one Raila Odinga.

In 2013, they faced a similar challenge, which they concluded with the mantra: accept and move on. This mantra was simple; what is done is done and no matter how bitter the pill, all non-Jubilee supporters were asked to accept that fate had taken its choice and their only option was to take it on the chin.

Now, if one reads Jubilee correctly, theirs is a simple message; they build roads and move Kenya forward, they wholly avoid any emotional or historical talk. Further in the minds of many Jubilee supporters, Raila is the single enemy. His persona is larger than life and despite their power, he is the proverbial mosquito in a man’s tenders. You can easily swat the mosquito but not without risk of great personal harm. Therefore, they co-exist with him while wishing he could just disappear.

If Jubilee continues to view Raila as the enemy, then I will tell you here and now that Raila will ultimately win, contingent on no unforeseen circumstances changing the dynamic between him and Jubilee. He will win because whereas we assume politics is about numbers, I have found more and more that politics is about the hearts of the people. Whoever captures the hearts of the people has more power, whether in office or not.

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Such soft power was exhibited in one Nelson Mandela who famously went toe to toe with the then American President George W Bush concerning the Iraq war and openly disagreed with the “most powerful” president in the world. His basis for disagreement was not that he could match the US’s capacity missile for missile but the fact that Bush could not match him heart for heart.

Jubilee’s dilemma is similar. Raila has the heart of a people. His people. Those from various parts of Kenya who wholly love and will follow him to the end, whatever fate that end holds. As such, Jubilee’s turning of Raila into an enemy automatically turns his supporters and his base into enemies of the State. In that very instant, Jubilee has handed more power to the hands of Raila and thus, lost not its power but its battle for the hearts of Raila fans and fanatics.

Let me describe what Raila means to those that follow him: He means an end to injustice; he means an end to what is called the tyranny of numbers; he means the end of corruption and the beginning of equity; further, he means the “only” chance they have for a fairer Kenya. Naturally, all these issues are subject to much debate and their standing on merit is debatable. But unfortunately, hearts feel and in general, hearts don’t synthesise logic. Thus a logical argument based on kilometres of road built, schools with electricity and free education does not dent much what is felt.

Many mistakes

This pervasive feeling is buttressed by the fact that, like every government, this one has made many mistakes. The main beef is that Jubilee has come off as uncaring and detached from the plight of those who don’t support them. And therein lies their limbo.

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You see, no matter how good a gift is, the giver must be seen to care for and love the recipient before the recipient can willingly accept the gift. Simply assuming you know what is good for a people impresses your base and distresses the other side. Thus, Jubilee’s low EQ and natural affinity to villainise Raila leads to the reality that they will end up consolidating Raila’s soft power. That said, there is a cure still.

In this last term, Uhuru should focus on addressing the issues of the people Raila represents and not on fighting Raila. His energies should be spent handling the soft issues of the country - inclusivity, tribalism, historical injustices - and be seen to care genuinely for those who grieve for the Kenya they dream about.

In simple terms, be soft and win. Be hard and lose. Thus, the best way for Jubilee to get Kenya out of perdition is quite simple in my eyes. Ignore Raila and sort out the issues he said he would deal with. In such a case, both the NASA supporter and Jubilee supporter wins; ergo Kenya wins!

Mr Bichachi is a Communication Consultant ([email protected])

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