Miguna does not choose his battles. Show him a gauntlet and he will pick it.
The most confounding thing about him is easily his love and hate relationship with ODM leader Raila Odinga. The passion with which he pursued and executed the extra-legal swearing in of Raila as the ‘people’s president’ on January 30, 2018, belied the ugly fallout the two had had six years earlier. For in an unexplained turn of events, Miguna Miguna was suddenly shunted from Harambee House Annex in August 2011. He had served as Raila’s adviser on coalition affairs and joint secretary to the committee on management of coalition affairs in the Grand Coalition Government of 2008 to 2013.
Miguna happened on the Kenyan public scene some time in 2006, penning what were sometimes uncomfortably flattering weekly columns on Raila in a local paper. He did not hesitate to declare that he “loved” Raila. He saw him as the person “to liberate Kenya from an exploitative class that had kept the country in fetters for decades.” Being the period leading up to the botched up Presidential election of 2007, he was difficult to ignore. He quickly and easily fell foul with pro-establishment readers, who quickly called him out as “a sycophant”.
The fallout with Raila would define Miguna the man; a restless straight-shooting individual. He filed a case against his dismissal from the Prime Minister’s Office, claiming he had been unfairly sacked. The pronouncements by Justice Mohammed Warsame during the determination of the case were telling. He referred to the petitioner as “a man with a relentless sense of fighting back . . . A man ready to fight back. . . A man living in a mental darkroom.”
Whether it is true or not that he lives in a darkroom, there is no doubt that Miguna enjoys a good fight. He left Kenya in 1987 following regular run-ins with the government as a student leader at the University of Nairobi. He would end up in Canada, where he took several university degree programmes that saw him end up as a Toronto-based barrister-at-law. The kinds of programmes and litigation issues he was involved with speak further to his appetite for a good fight, especially from the underdog corner. He mostly worked with refugees, asylum seekers and other underlings.
In his biographical writings and TV interviews, he has told of his personal challenges with the law in Canada. In one such instance, he was charged with the rape of two of his clients. He won both cases, however. True to form and love for a good tiff, he fought back. He sued a wide range of authorities and persons for compensation. Regrettably, he lost all the cases and ended up paying some handsome fees.
It was while in Canada that Miguna first met Raila, “a fellow liberator”, so to speak. It was at this point that he began penning his excessively glowing tributes to the man he would bitterly fall out with five years later, before coming back to enthrone him at an extra-legal event. Ahead of the ‘enthronement’, he wrote the most inglorious things about the object of his yesteryear confessed love. Peeling Back the Mask has a significant swathe of stuff Raila would not like to read. Here, Miguna now rendered Raila as an indecisive, dithering and not-altogether-trustworthy individual.
Lost and agitated
He would travel around the country over three months in 2012 promoting his book, with the full advantage of media coverage – owing to the headwinds that he kept running into with Raila’s supporters in diverse parts of the country. He dared Raila to take him to court with his famous refrain of, “Come, baby. Come.” At one point he lost his trademark cap and one shoe. He was seen cutting across the street, looking lost and agitated. He left the country soon after.
But this man, Miguna, returned to Kenya just before the 2017 elections. He declared his interest in the Nairobi governor’s position as an independent candidate. In his typical flamboyant and loudly eloquent style, he berated all the political parties in the country and their leaders as corrupt. He would not ask for any of their tickets. Kenyans remember his hilarious TV interviews, when he would scold everybody, from the host to fellow guests. He veritably pounced on them and belittled them as “buffoons and nincompoops”. If you were not a buffoon, you were corrupt or a coward – or some other pejorative stuff. He spared nobody, from President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to the NASA chiefs led by Raila.
Yet this man, Miguna, materialised mysteriously in the NASA fraternity, in the wake of the nullification of Uhuru’s election on September 30, 2017. He was suddenly ensconced besides Raila, calling for electoral justice. Raila declared on October 25, 2017, the birth of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to fight the Jubilee government and all who co-operated with it. Within days, Miguna was calling himself the NRM General. Few understand, even within NASA, where he came from, or how he became the general. In his recently launched autobiography, Soaring Above the Storms of Passion, ANC leader and NASA co-principal Musalia Mudavadi says he did not know where Miguna came from, or what his role was.
It turned out that he was the man to administer Raila’s self-styled ‘oath of office’. In an interview he gave TV journalist Jeff Koinange in Canada last year, Miguna says NRM was his baby. He says further that he brought his outfit to help the NASA team because “they had been licked”. He confirms in the interview Mudavadi’s claim in the biography that Raila was reluctant about being sworn in and that on D-Day, no preparations had been done at all. Miguna saved the day by bringing the Bible, the written oath and even the pen.
What drove him? You could say with Justice Warsame it was his appetite for a good fight, and especially for “fighting back”. It is the same appetite, many would say, that drives him today. There is wisdom in the saying, “Choose your battles wisely. Life isn’t measured in how many times you stood up to fight. It is not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction.” This man, Miguna, does not choose his battles. Show him a gauntlet and he will pick it. And he has the height, an eloquent tongue, a deep rich baritone, and a loud voice to go with it. When the police raided his house in Runda to arrest him after the swearing-in saga, they understood the meaning of the expression, “to be at the receiving end”.
Miguna was bundled out of the country kicking and screaming in February 2018. When he attempted to come back last year, it was to a good fight that he was received. And while he has been away, he has not stopped fighting. Every so often, he sends verbal dispatches via YouTube, where he berates just about everybody he could think of. Towards the end of last year, he unleashed yet another one against Uhuru and Raila, describing them in appalling language, making extreme claims.
Yesterday he was briefly shipwrecked, so to speak, somewhere in Germany. Yet the country has not heard the last of this African samurai born and raised in the Nyando plains in Kenya’s Lake Basin. The floods of the plains taught him the meaning of adversity at an early age. He’s back.