The Luo Nation must first gun for serious wealth, then State House will follow

Receive the highest regard from one of your sons currently a sojourner in the rather muddy but serene Ongata Rongai in the County of Kajiado. I am a true son of the soil, having been born and brought up in Milambo (South Nyanza). I only left home to pursue education and career as we often do. Now, I write to you because I have a number of concerns which I can’t keep to myself any longer. I am hopeful you will receive them in good faith.

Top of my list is what I would call ‘the victim mentality.’ For decades, we have viewed ourselves as victims of a cruel, vindictive and inward looking kleptocracy. Since 1966 when the great man, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, fell out with the first Ker, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, we have largely been on the sidelines of national politics and real power. It has been a tough journey.

My mother told me how resources were withheld from the community, allegedly over political differences between successive administrations and Jaramogi (later his son Raila Odinga). Naturally, we felt unwanted in our own country. Being Luo had unwittingly become a liability rather than a source of pride. The pain and the sense of victimhood are, therefore, understandable.

However, no individual or community can realise economic, social and political prosperity if their overall outlook on life is that of helplessness and victimhood. We have to deliberately and progressively shed off this psychological burden and teach our children a different narrative. While the community’s children should not be ignorant of their history, we must teach them that they can prosper in any situation and that what stands between them and their dreams is their own attitude. We are no longer victims, but victors. Even African Americans who suffered for hundreds of years under the yoke of slavery produced an American president, Barack Obama, in 2008. Through a strange twist of fate, the US president traces his origins to Alego in the heart of Luo nation. As he famously said during his inauguration, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Let us now decide to create a better narrative for the community, pursue our dreams relentlessly and determine not to care who the president is as long as the Constitution is upheld and everyone’s rights respected.

The second point is controversial, but critical. It was the American Republican political strategist, Mark Hanna, who once said that, “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember the second.”

We have for long yearned to have one of our own to occupy the highest office in the land. That dream is valid and constitutional. We came close in 2007, but like a cruel stepmother who yanks a plate of kuon bel served with fish before the child even takes the first bite, that opportunity ebbed away like a tide when the moon goes down. The presidency was so near, yet so far.

The idea that one-man-one-vote can deliver the presidency in a country like Kenya is nonsense on stilts. Money is needed to hire campaign staffers, churn out media adverts, pamphlets and organise tours around the country. As many of us can testify, vultures often crowd around carcasses. No one wants to stay around a place where hunger is the norm rather than the exception, unless of course they have no option.

The community must change its priorities. Let us focus on creating wealth with the aim of improving our land and creating a secure future for our children. That wealth could deliver the presidency and much more in the future. Focusing on getting the presidency in the hope that it will deliver wealth to the community is a fallacy that must be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

Raila Odinga is a tenacious and gifted politician who has contributed a lot to the growth of democracy in Kenya. He has also acquired much wealth and joined the club of the very rich. We must respect his right to aspire for and run for high office, but we must never tie our destiny to his presidential ambition. He is pursuing an ambition, perhaps a higher calling. We must also pursue ours.

Point number three concerns our attitude towards the elected government of Kenya. We must not view the government as our enemy; but put our focus on how we can benefit from the opportunities presented by both the national and county governments. It is sad that we sometimes worry so much that we fail to take advantage of low hanging fruits to improve our lot.