Jaramogi Oginga Odinga regarded Kenneth Matiba, Mwai Kibaki as political novices

By Kenneth Kwama

Kenya: The doyen of Kenyan opposition politics the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was not a spiteful man. But he never held his cool when it came to former Ford-Asili leader, Kenneth Matiba. This was especially after a disjointed opposition lost the 1992 elections to Kanu.

Ford was formed to fight for democracy and remove Kanu from power. But just a few months before the General Election in 1992, it split into Ford-Kenya led by Raila’s father, Jaramogi and Ford-Asili headed by Kenneth Matiba.

They were whitewashed by Kanu in the elections. It seemed Jaramogi never forgave Matiba for the split. On July 18, 1993, The Standard on Sunday splashed a story titled; Odinga dismisses Matiba. It quoted Jaramogi referring to Matiba as ‘a political novice who was leading an infant party’.

“He at the same time said his political acumen could not be compared with DP’s Mwai Kibaki.  Mr Odinga said he is the one who persuaded Mr Kibaki to quit his teaching job at Makerere University and take up the job of Executive Officer of Kanu in 1960,” reported the paper.

 By referring to Matiba as a political novice and his party, Ford-Asili as an infant entity, Jaramogi could have given in to emotions.

Party disunity

He was angry at the fact that the combined opposition votes in 1992 presidential election was more than what former President Moi garnered, but they still lost due to disunity, which was blamed on Matiba.

 Having been humiliated at the first multi-party elections in 1992, the opposition was humbled. Jaramogi seemed to have realised the only way to beat Kanu was for them ‘to stick together to survive, or be hanged separately’, to use the late Kijana Wamalwa’s words.

But Matiba was unrelenting. In the 1992 General Election Ford-Asili won 32 seats against Ford-Kenya’s 30 to become the second largest party and also the Official Opposition.

After defections and subsequent by-elections where it lost seats to Kanu, FORD Asili remained with only 23 seats by 1994. This saw Ford-Kenya became the Official Opposition party.

But even after defections, Ford-Asili and Ford Kenya had an even number of parliamentarians. The rift then ensued on whether Ford-Asili should still retain its identity as the Official Opposition party. 

The contest for the seat of the Official Leader of Opposition in Parliament was more of a comedy. Whoever was the first to sit on the seat would carry the day so there was always a jostle.

Because Jaramogi could not run fast enough or shove hard due to age, the younger politicians in his party such as Gitobu Imanyara, Paul Muite or Wamalwa Kijana would rush to occupy the seat and reserve it for Jaramogi once he strolled in.