How 'predatory politics' pushed the final nail on Raila Odinga's presidency

Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta talks to former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende as Azimo presidential candidate Raila Odinga looks on. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

This political chessboard showed that Raila Odinga graduated from an enigma to a political principality—thus, it was hard for him to win the 2022 elections unless he endorsed someone else. I argued so in an opinion dated September 19, 2021 entitled “Raila can help the other politicians beat Ruto by not going for presidency.”

It happened that Raila went for presidency and the dream pounded even when there was hope for him. Then with definiteness, I say, predatory politics pushed the final nail on Raila's possibility of becoming the head of State. Dr Steve Muthoka Mutie, my confrère and literature scholar at Kenyatta University, in his 2018 PhD thesis, included Raila Odinga in the list of the kings who reigned but never ruled Kenya!

Thus on August 16, 2022, I wrote, “Raila Odinga is a victim of predatory politics.” In the tweet, which had attracted over 390,000 impressions by the time of writing this article, I enlisted politicians, ‘motivational’ Political commentators, and lawyers predatory pollsters as part of this political heist. By predatory politics, I meant the use of deceit and sycophancy in the guise of loyalty to a political figure, idea or personality for self-interests and self-gratification. Most politicians during the Raila era knew that unless they clung to him for endorsement, they were non-starters.

Sure enough, those he raised their hands in his political tuff received free party tickets, overwhelming victories in their contested capacities. My quarrel with them is that they disregarded the reputation of their political principality. They engaged in careless pronunciations, hubris and braggadocio that put Raila on the political hang gallows.

The other political bloodsuckers were some identifiable lawyers, most of whom rose to power through his commendations. These senior counsels used Raila to launch and build their legal careers, wealth and power. They then offered pro bono services during presidential petitions that came after every five years. They methodically never told him the truth; they let him pursue 'pop' justice and adopted an escapist stance that even if he lost the petitions, he’s contributing to building a robust justice system. Even when this is true, Raila wanted to be president, not a justice system engineer!

Then there were what I call predatory pollsters! These research companies crop up every five years. They rode on propaganda that polling in favour of a presidential candidate moulds the voters' perceptions. Therefore, throughout his political career, these pollsters never gave Raila the accurate picture on the ground; they opiated his politics with false hopes. They, however, have never told him why he performs well on all polls but dismally on the ballot.

The other group are the ‘motivational’ commentators. These commentators appropriated Raila followers’ fervent false hopes to project titanic victories. They never explored possibilities of the other side of politics. They had weird explanations! They analyzed politics without looking inside. They preached prosperity politics of we have taken this thing, relax and be still the game is over and other short stories. Like the false prophets of King Ahab, they hailed the emptiness of fabrications.

The last groups were the strategists and the so-called think tank. These also included propaganda machines. They are like maize millers; they work as long as enough fuel is in the tank. You gerrit! They are unreliable and without indiscipline. They can change loyalties depending on who has paid them.

Raila had the most wholehearted followers in Kenyan history. However, their problem, even now, is that they assumed infallibility. Thus, they never had a chance to reflect on the worst scenarios. The narrative of 'stolen polls' and a serpentine deep state placated them all along. Eventually, the nebulous deep state, the red dragon, the supposed perennial exterminator of Raila's presidency, promised to be on their side in 2022. 

Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer in School of Music and Media at Kabarak University