Raila fanatics should tolerate dissent

There is no gainsaying that the Rt. Hon Raila Odinga is arguably ball above his fellow politicos in terms of his selfless contribution to the expansion of democratic space.

Those abreast with history know how bad the past regimes denied us fundamental liberties and how difficult it was to challenge and change the status quo. Yet, Raila and other compatriots did not discontinue the struggle. They fought to the finish.

The history of the Second Liberation remains as dear to Kenyans as that of the Struggle for Independence. But, that does not mean that Raila is the ultimate or that he is infallible. No one is. Providence has a way of bequeathing posterity with the right people at any given time in history. There were better politicians before him. There will be a lot better politicians after him. This is rudimentary knowledge every member of his fandom must accept.

The malady with those who support Raila, however, is that they think that any opinion that's not in congruence with their position is not only wrong but also irreparably foolish. Woe unto you if you are a Luo who subscribes to ideologies of the Jubilee faction. They will hurl all manner of insults, ask what you or your family has done to Kenya and advice you on why you need to do something meaningful with your life instead of criticizing their demi-god. They'll warn you against 'competing' with Raila.

Because, ironically, while opposing the government is a patriotic duty, opposing Raila, especially in Luo Nation, means competing with him; a deadly heresy for which one can be cursed, killed or excommunicated. If you think that Raila's hullabalooing has been about political expediency and relevance; and not about the issues that affect the hoi polloi, you are-- to a typical Raila supporter-- an idiot.

 I have worked as a poll official in many general elections. And I learnt that it was (and still is) an unforgivable goof for one to give his vote to a Raila rival. You would be the object of insolent scorn and rebuke. Or worse! Raila is a proponent of democracy. We all agree. Democracy could mean voting in Uhuru where Raila is another option. That's foolish! The level of doublespeak stupefies. So much so that one fails to understand why the same thing can totally have different meanings.

Instances abound when Raila supporters have complained of appointments favouring one or two communities. Even more vulgarly, a well-known ODM parrot once said that Jubilee appointments represented the anus of Kenya. Yet, whenever one of their own is appointed, they castigate them for being moles.

Worse, if it's Raila's close relation, it's based on meritocracy while if it's any random 'rising star,' it MUST be the reward of moleship. How hypocritical! What, just for the asking, do Raila supporters really want? Let me humbly submit, some of us want to be free. We want to think freely and be able to transmit that which we believe.

We beseech your understanding but our conviction is not dependent on it. We did not take any oath. We are not robots. We will never be. We will give credit where due. But we will also critique. If you like to use the now widely misapplied Emma Jalamo phrase, "ng'ama odenyo ema wuoyo mang'eny," in reference to us, we will stomach it. It is time we appreciated that Raila is a statesman, not someone's child to be coddled. He has been in politics for decades and, over the years, he has mustered the art of containing vile and vitriol from rival political groups. He knows, too, that the freedom of expression he and others fought for also include the freedom to oppose his hot-air opposition. Which does not in any way imply disrespect to his person. Pluralism allows each of us to choose where and when to pledge one's allegiance. It also allows us to shift allegiance at will. If we can oppose the government, nothing stops us from opposing the opposition.