January 30 finally came and went. A “swearing in” also happened, and petered. And though the issues I raised in my last articles on the vacuity of the whole exercise still linger, there are crucial lessons students of leadership and partnerships should pick up from the events of the last Tuesday of a hard and hot month. One such lesson is that, sometimes, what is not said is louder than a thousand amplified words!
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga finally made real his promise to swear himself in as “the people’s president” and, to his supporters, he yet again demonstrated his streak to follow through his word. Soon after the ceremony, Odinga’s handlers “updated” his Twitter handle to reflect his newly acquired status.
But in his new role, the former premier needs to reflect on the character of the company he keeps. Mr Odinga will be better advised to remember the words of one of his predecessors in the civil rights movement, albeit in a faraway land, domesticate them and apply them in selecting friends in future.
LESSONS FROM MLK
Martin Luther King Jnr, the American civil rights activist and Pentecostal preacher who was felled by assassin James Earl Ray at a hotel in Memphis on April 4, 1968 is remembered for many things, including his famous I have a dream speech and the Montgomery bus boycott which he joined in an effort to push for the abolishment of colour segregation in transport sector.
But there are words Dr King said in 1967, during the Vietnam War, which should ring a bell in Mr Odinga’s mind following Tuesday’s near miss: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”
At what should have been his highest moment after a lifetime struggle, Raila Odinga found himself alone. His closest three comrades, who had cheered him on until as late as two hours before, were not with him.
In the end, Mr Odinga should always remember, not the presence and ululations of the hundreds of thousands of his supporters, not the absence of armed security personnel and teargas, not the absence of live TV coverage that followed the shutdown of signals, but the absence of his three National Super Alliance (Nasa) co-principals.
There could be genuine circumstances beyond their control but whatever explanations anyone tries to give for the absence of Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress, Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya and Wiper Democratic Party’s Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka at Raila’s ‘swearing-in’ ceremony, the fact that they were not there is what will remain etched in the minds of Kenyans forever.
Though their absence could have been for the greater good of the country since there was no apparent gain to be made from the swearing-in, the hitherto Nasa trio’s disappearance act from their comrade at the hour of need is an act of betrayal, whichever way one looks at it. To paraphrase Luther King again, a time comes when absence is betrayal.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND CHECK
It is a time like this that one may be tempted to do a belated background check on Mr Odinga’s three partners in the near-aborted “liberation” struggle, for sages say, a leopard hardly loses its spots.
In 2002, when then President Daniel Moi was winding up his term in office, Mr Mudavadi was one of those Kanu leaders who had indicated that they were not satisfied with the outgoing president’s choice of successor. Mudavadi and other like-minded leaders, including Raila, crafted a rebellion that was to compete with Moi’s choice in the upcoming election. But just months to the D-Day, the son of a former Cabinet Minister backtracked to Moi’s camp, was named vice-president and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mr Wetang’ula is a man of the system through and through. During the turbulent days of the Grand Coalition government, Mr. Wetang’ula never shied away from declaring which side he was and his disdain for Mr Odinga was not in doubt. He still has some skeletons in his wardrobe from his days as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Mwai Kibaki government.
Mr Musyoka, the man who was to be sworn in as the Deputy People’s President (or is it People’s Deputy President?) together with Mr Raila, needs to introduction for his unpredictability. The former vice president has been struggling to shed off the image of a “watermelon” (fence-sitting) he has cultivated in his long public life for so long. When he and Raila lost out to Mwai Kibaki in the disputed 2007 General Election and a standstill ensued, Kalonzo “betrayed” his supporters and ran to Kibaki and was appointed vice president.
Now as Raila embarks on the next phase of his not-so-clear mission, he should exhibit some sense of learned wisdom. His “People’s Cabinet” will do well with more trustworthy people. It may be time to go back home to ODM and forget the NASA dream and its dreamers.