Opposition is not fit enough to keep government on its toes

Raila Odinga addressing journalists at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation in Nairobi on March 9, 2023. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

On August 8, 2022, 14 million Kenyans woke up to elect the head of state and the opposition leader. Of those, 6.9 million said, "we, the people, honouring those who heroically struggled to bring freedom and justice to our land", give ourselves Raila Odinga as our opposition leader.

Similarly, 7.1 said, "exercising our sovereign and inalienable right to determine the form of governance of our country", we give William Ruto the keys to the State House to head the state.

However, the opposition has not cleaned up to gain moral authority to check the incumbent regime. Instead, they are locked in diversions, scapegoating and cover-ups. Four questions need answers from the opposition: Why is it that the opposition party has never expelled a member because of corruption?

Why is it that we see the opposition vehemently protecting those implicated in corruption? Why is it that a politician becomes corrupt immediately they fall out with the party? Why does the opposition label corruption cases among its members witch-hunt?

The only reasons behind the opposition party excommunicating a member are if they are accused of not being loyal to the party leader and the party. I can't remember a time when members were ejected for being corrupt, yet there are mega corruption scandals among some opposition members.

Before the 2017 elections, Prof Peter Anyang Nyong'o penned an article in The Standard titled 'Role of Kenya's Opposition political parties still greatly misunderstood'.

The now Governor for Kisumu County argued that in a competitive multi-party democracy, the opposition is the government in waiting, its role is not to "tell the government how to correct its mistakes and hence how to run the country."

Instead, in his conceptualisation, the work of the opposition is to "expose all the weaknesses, misdeeds, failures, acts of incompetence and disservice to the people by the incumbent government".

Agreeable is the fact that the opposition should present itself as an alternative government. They can succeed if they keep the ruling regime in check and hold them accountable. But unfortunately, the Kenyan opposition is essentially a caucus of the opposition leader and the party apologists.

Since checking the government is an integral part of the democratic role of the opposition, the way the opposition is carrying itself is not in the fashion of an alternative government.

The whole group is built around a personality cult mourning every day of the 'stolen victory, 'loyalty to the party and the party leader', and 'protecting their loyal soldiers' accused of corruption.

The Achilles heel for the opposition in Kenya is the inability to point out corruption in the government. As such, Kenya needs a strong opposition to keep the opposition on its toes.

The best qualification of an alternative government is to present itself as nearly infallible on matters of integrity as possible.

Just like dirty water cannot be used to clean utensils, a corrupt opposition has no moral authority to check on the ruling regime. Therefore, the opposition should deliberately clean itself and get all the logs out of its eye to see the specks in the eyes of a ruling regime.

While it is their right to protect themselves against injustices, witch-hunting and revenge, it is hard to connect the dots as to why politicians are as white as snow when they are loyal to the party leader and stinking the minute they default. So, what will prevent us from accusing such opposition of abetting corruption?

Moreover, our opposition is typical of diverting attention. For example, suppose you pointed out corruption scandals when Raila was a de facto deputy president (2017-2022).

In that case, you will quickly be diverted to Arror and Kimwarer dams' saga, which they link to Dr Ruto. You will then be earmarked as a Ruto sympathiser. That way, we cannot go anywhere when the opposition is not ready to clean up.

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