From the teases that she would have her wedding on the lawns of State House to the most daring of better sleep with a horse than with some State House blokes, Winnie Odinga is a daring ‘Nya dyang’ (I will explain the meaning later). Named after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a South African apartheid heroine, Kenyans cannot ignore the ghosts of her archetype.
To describe Winnie’s energetic, vibrant and ambitious quest to succeed her father as Luo kingpin, I have to refer to the ‘Daughter of the low land’, a poem by Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, where the term ‘Nya dyang’ features. My oral literature don back then, Fugich Waqo, liked the ka-poem—I hope he still does.
Prof Waqo enthusiastically explained that ‘Nya Dyang’ in Dholuo refers to a heifer. In Gikuyu, it’s called ‘mori’, and in Kamba, it’s ‘moi’—a young, fecund, capable and enthusiastic she-cow with no offspring.
You ask, how can a non-Luo be an authority on this matter? Being a professor of oral literature and a proselyte of the late Prof Chris Lukorito Wanjala, Waqo must be right. While writing this article, I inquired about the meaning of a ‘Riam’ generation Luo, but he could not grasp it. So, Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, come and see what books have done to your clan members.
Having etymologised Winnie, let us hit politics while it is hot. The other day, my friend, Prof Herman Manyora, said I joke too much. Of course, I do. I had mentioned in a tweet that President William Ruto is the boss of Raila Odinga and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Aware that daring to say that is supposedly tantamount to ‘political blasphemy’ on the shores of Nam Lolwe (aka Lake Victoria), sometimes I like thinking about life from 360-degree angles.
Let me turn the hide; I believe Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka had nothing to do with their children’s nomination to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
I am not boarding when Kenyans complain because Raila’s ODM party nominated Winnie Odinga for EALA. I believe her when she says, in Azimio, she is the only one who genuinely campaigned for her father while the rest worked for their interests.
She also puts a stamp that there were also insider saboteurs. Some good-for-something Azimio followers trolled the Political Chessboard when it alluded to the same immediately after Baba lost to Dr Ruto.
Irritating to many is the fact that Winnie is best-suited so far to inherit his father as Luo Nyanza’s kingpin. Winnie has never abandoned her father. Winnie once told The Standard that she is a bodyguard, driver, briefcase carrier, and transport companion. This Winnie, if she can be committed to her father like that, embracing him in high and low times, is a leader.
Above all, Winnie is willing to take power. Even when we can argue that she has an advantage over her father’s position, she has proved herself a leader. For example, she confessed recently that the name Odinga had gotten her into trouble, even as she agrees that the name has brought her blessings.
To Raila, Winnie is what Mutula Kalonzo Junior was to Mutula Kilonzo Senior. Currently, Kilonzo Jr is governor of Makueni and embodies the spirit of the young generation of leaders.
What can we say of Winnie’s bid for EALA slot? Winnie is a young Kenyan who has launched her leadership bid. Whether she is riding on her father’s political resume is neither here nor there. She is a Kenyan and has all the rights to demand her space to serve the country—and so are all children of our leaders if they pass the constitutional threshold and are willing to pay the price of their visions.
Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer in the School of Music and Media at Kabarak University.