Why Raila should smile every time DP hurls verbal jabs at him

Azimio leader Raila Odinga speaking during the launch of Kigoto maize mill in Suba south Homa bay county on November 4, 2022. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

We will continue flattering and annoying Baba because we love and hate him in equal measure. Those who love Raila Odinga have complained that Deputy President (DP) Rigathi Gachagua has too much of Raila in his 'post-election' mouth and that the DP should concentrate on more pressing issues. However, for Raila to remain relevant, prominent Kenyans must keep his name in their mouths, keyboards and minds.

Neil Postman, an American author and media theorist, in his book 'Amusing ourselves to death', argues, "There is no subject of public interest-politics, news, education, religion, science, sports-that does not find its way to media." He insists that the media shapes all public understanding of these subjects.

Therefore, if Postman's hypothesis is true, we must accept that as long as prominent persons and elites mention the name Raila, whether negatively or positively, he is here to stay. Since media works with the principle of prominence, prominent Kenyans like Mr Gachagua must make Raila their daily 'political bread'.

If the gods plan to have Raila in 2027, they will populate every significant person in this country with his name. Many of us do not know that praises and criticism are both irresistible clout boosters. Raila is not a Gen-Z or Gen-Alpha to chase influence by himself-someone must do it for Baba consciously or unconsciously, and that is where Riggy G comes in.

We had similar antiphons toward elections when UDA followers implored the media to stop fondling the name of William Ruto unless in a positive light. Much of such narratives followed claims that the press was negatively covering him. Indeed, in political public relations, like in other forms of marketing, both positive and negative publicity has the same branding effect.

We will cease to exist when we stop conversing about others and ourselves. In politics, entities are relevant as long as the society, through cultural institutions like media and elites, takes notice of them, interrogates them and sets conversations around them. Otherwise, we would be unaware that a tree has fallen in a forest because someone did not bring the occurrence to our attention. So, if someone comes and presents the case of falling trees as worthy of our notice, we shall all write stories about it.

In all its forms and manifestations, whether traditional or new media, media operate on a similar fabric. For example, former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic used media for propaganda until the early 1990s. He managed to have, for instance, Radio Television of Serbia and other media as mouthpieces of his oppressive regime. Later the same media was used to bring the Serbian president to his knees.

Likewise, US President Donald Trump rose to power through fake news that he created through social media. Later, we all know that the fiercest weapon that fell Trump in the United States was phoney news through the new media. In January 2021, the very platform Trump used to rise to power suspended his accounts, casting him into global oblivion and sending a message that he was no longer helpful.

What do we say then? Content creators and the media they ride on are builders and molesters-they can give and take away relevance. The son of the first vice president of Kenya is a significant raw material in the media production industry.

Therefore, no political pundit can discuss politics in Kenya outside his frame. The former prime minister has carved a niche for himself for nearly four decades and graced the country's political scene. Can a media ready to leave Raila's name alone raise its hand? None!

The conclusion of this matter is simple: Just like Azimio la Umoja created Ruto unknowingly towards August 2022, the deputy president and others in Kenya Kwanza government will keep the spirit of Raila alive. That should be good news for those who love Baba.

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