The unfolding events on the political scene could just be what the doctor prescribed for Kenya. It may yet again make us a leader in the discovery of a new and most effective form of governance. If managed well, Kenya might in a few years be a case study for progressive democracy.
But in the unlikely event that it aborts or is mismanaged, we could be in serious problems going forward. I elect to be optimistic. I am talking about what some have labelled as the death of Official Opposition and what some never-do-wells are seeing as an opportunity to latch onto a title.
The discussion has been going on since March 9 when NASA leader Raila Odinga, publicly shook hands with his competitor and pledged to “work together.” Raila had been the most vicious critic and opponent of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and the only serious competitor in the elections some four months earlier. He led the team that went to the Supreme Court and successfully challenged the validity of the August 8, 2017 presidential election results and the declared Uhuru victory, forced another election and eventually boycotted the repeat poll.
He then, as NASA co-principal, organised his own swearing in as the “people’s president,” an event his three co-principals gave a wide berth. This meant he was the alternative president, especially going by the masses that seemed to endorse his move. It also meant the other principals had been made principally irrelevant!
So when Raila and Uhuru made the famous mid-morning Harambee House appearance and its attendant pledge of allegiance, observers announced the death of NASA but kept the hope of Opposition alive. It is however last Saturday’s announcement by the Wiper Party’s National Executive Committee that it had resolved to work with the ruling Jubilee Party going forward that has got tongues wagging about the future of Opposition politics in the country, if any.
The leader of Wiper Party and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is also NASA co-principal, the others are Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi. Kalonzo was Raila’s running mate in the elections and the designated successor in NASA’s top leadership.
So his decision to join hands with the ruling party weakens the Opposition as we know it. But is how we know Opposition the best it can be? Looking at the messages sent out by Raila and Kalonzo - when they made the announcement to work with the ruling party, one gets a feeling that it is not bad for any kind of society after all. An Opposition party, by its definition, should provide checks and balances to the ruling party.
Now, when Raila crossed over to Harambee House, the seat of Government, he told us, that his point of convergence with Uhuru was the need to unify Kenyans, fight graft and sort out historical inequalities. In a nine-point memorandum with the President of the Republic, what the self-proclaimed People’s President told us illustrated to his lovers and haters that, in the fullness of time, the new relationship will work for the good of all of us.
In his campaigns, the former prime minister promised to unify Kenyans, fight graft and sort out historical inequalities. In essence Raila told his supporters that he had gotten the President’s guarantee that he would deliver what he promised despite not being elected President. The country could get the best of the two competitors at the price of one.
And then Kalonzo came along! He has promised to work with the President’s party, to ensure the full benefits of Building Bridges –the Raila-Uhuru deal- are realised. He also committed his party’s support to help the President achieve the Big Four agenda and fight corruption. Anyone who works for this cannot be bad for the country and its friends!
The two opposition chiefs have not suggested that they will look the other way when ills are committed by Jubilee agents. They have only said they will support Uhuru’s development and governance agenda and the country will still be able to call them out when and if they are seen to be complicit in State vices. This is the kind of progressive Opposition that the country needs at this time and we are lucky that the two leaders are taking up the challenge.
We can only hope that all other opposition leaders, Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and even Gideon Moi, will see the light sooner, rather than later, and get on board.
-The writer is a social commentator in Nairobi; [email protected]