ODM leader Raila Odinga has rallied student leaders to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) throughout the country.
Raila met with university student leaders under Kenya University Students’ Organisation (KUSO) yesterday at a hotel in Nairobi where he urged them to lead the nationwide campaign for the BBI.
He took his time to explain to the students the benefits that the youth would reap if BBI sailed through, asking them to avoid being misled by the ‘hustler’ narrative fronted by Deputy President William Ruto.
The enticing parts of the BBI for the youth include the seven years tax holiday for business start-ups. College and university graduates will also have four years before repaying Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) loans if they do not secure employment.
In an apparent reference to his political rival, Ruto, the former premier told the student leaders that the DP was leading a “dangerous and retrogressive” slogan that was likely to write off many gains the country had made over the years.
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Ruto has been pushing his hustler narrative through the distribution of wheelbarrows and handcarts with a catchphrase “kazi ni kazi” (any work matters).
The catchphrase has since been adopted as a slogan for United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party associated with the DP, although he has not openly declared playing a role in the formation of the outfit.
The party whose headquarters in Nairobi has been branded ‘Hustler Centre’ is led by former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama, a close ally of Ruto.
Raila asked the youth leaders to save the country from political leaders whose ideologies were clashing with the ambitions of the founding fathers of the republic.
“What is your ideology? Your slogan is a very dangerous thing,” Raila said in an apparent address to Ruto and told the student leaders, “Our people should not allow the country to go to the dogs.”
Raila said the country needed leaders with a clear purpose that would to lead to transformation of the economy, adding that the hustler versus dynasty politics was completely misplaced in modern Kenya.
“You have the responsibility to rescue this country from those who want to destroy it. Kenyans deserve better. We can transform this country,” he said.
The ODM leader lashed out at Ruto’s political game, saying it was a mark of “political hypocrisy” even as he asked the DP to talk about issues that were visible and achievable.
Raila said Kenya was not going to compete with other countries that were embracing technological innovation and enhancement of skills through the use wheelbarrows and handcarts.
“You spend many years in training and then someone says wheelbarrows can liberate this country. We need innovative programmes that can transform this country,” he said.
The ODM leader said ambitious programmes such as Vision 2030, Lapsset corridor project, Information Communication Technology (ICT) projects, including Konza City, Special Economic Zones, Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and development of resource centres were at risk due to the hustler narrative.
He said it was a shame Kenya was being misled through the hustler narrative while other countries were investing in skilled labour, innovation and industrialisation.
Raila gave the examples of South Korea, which he said was now developed yet it was at the same economic level with Kenya about 57 years ago. He warned that if the ‘wheelbarrow’ mentality was embraced, the country would still lag in development.
The ODM leader also faulted Jubilee government for corruption, saying the cost of SGR project was exaggerated.
He said his office as the prime minister during the Grand Coalition government with then President Mwai Kibaki had completed the tendering process and only execution was remaining for the project to kick off.
“Jubilee government changed the tender from $2.7 (about Sh270 billion) to $3.8 billion (about Sh380 billion). The project is at a high cost,” said Raila.
Siaya Senator James Orengo, who was at the meeting, said wheelbarrows and handcarts were a contradiction of civilisation and asked youth to reject the narrative in totality.
“It is old school. It is a degradation. It is like admiring Stone Age man. It is a shame to us,” said Orengo.