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Raila should work with genuine patrons of the struggle

By Edwin Sifuna | August 2nd 2015

It is infamously frustrating to be a supporter of opposition leader Raila Odinga. Many in his base wish to crown his long and valiant struggle with a successful run in 2017, but are disheartened at every turn. They perceive the pretense, perfidy and superfluity of key men and women around the CORD leader who only associate with him out of narrow selfish interests rather than principle.

Nothing brought out these frustrations more than the needless own goal conceded by bringing his “friends” to a high profile meeting with US President Barack Obama which everyone I have asked agrees he should have attended alone. If I was the President of the US or of any other powerful country with a competent intelligence service, and wanted to meet opposition leaders in Kenya, only Raila would be on that list. I suspect he in fact was.

Regrettably, he chose to bring others along and proved the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. Raila’s magnanimity often is his Achilles heel. Indeed many times he has, to the chagrin of his supporters, declined to throw under the bus characters that in the past stabbed him in the back and who would, even today, do the same without batting an eyelid. While this is an admirable moral quality, it is poor political practice in my opinion.

I am no veteran in the game of politics and this may just be my naiveté speaking but I really do not subscribe to the maxim that in politics there are no permanent enemies or friends.

The way I see it, politics isn’t friendship or enmity but a contest of ideas and values that may lead to a coming together of those who share a common set of values.

Granted, it is arduous to decipher exactly what some in our political class believe in, if anything, but the public usually knows enough to give them pet and nick names. It escapes me what values were shared by some of those that tagged along to the Obama meeting.

Barely minutes after the meeting, things had come undone as Obama lambasted an unnamed person at that meeting for duplicity and hypocrisy. Had it been a two-man meeting, there would have been no cock-ups. This is exactly what happens when former PNU stalwarts overpopulate such a discussion.

If others had to be invited, Hassan Omar, Ababu Namwamba or Anyang’ Nyong’o, to name but a few, would have been far better options. Characteristically, the Jubilee brigade quickly sought to perpetuate false propaganda that Raila was the person Obama was referring to.

Few in Raila’s base have forgotten the brazen daylight robbery also known as the 2007 election. Even fewer have forgiven those who then had what seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of salt to rub into ODM wounds. Astonishingly, more than two accomplished salt rubbers were at the Obama meeting. This sort of thing confounds the grassroots.

Surely Raila understands that 2017 is a contest that can only be won by energising his support base and turning out the vote in huge numbers. Cosmetic overtures to those without numbers who instead antagonise his base will not temper the tyranny of numbers.

There is need to invigorate Raila’s core support and current events do not suggest that this is being done. I have heard many say now is the time for the team captain to dribble all the way and score a goal of individual brilliance as only he can. The good book in Mathew 5;30 lays bare what now must be done thus; “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

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