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Why there's more to Miguna Miguna's return than meets the eye

Miguna Miguna arrives at Uhuru Gardens for the Mashujaa Day celebrations. He jetted into the country at 6:00 am on October 20, 2022, after five years in exile. [Elvis Ogina, Standard] 

The return of lawyer-politician Miguna Miguna from Canada after nearly five years in exile is a major development in his political vicissitudes.

It is something of a political "rehabilitation" by President William Ruto the same way President Daniel Moi tried with Jaramogi Odinga in 1979 when after decades outside government, Moi appointed him the Chair of the rather colourless Cotton Lint and Seed Marketing Board, a pararastal.

If the gambit was meant to tame Jaramogi's sharp political tongue, it didn't work. Before Kenyans could see the man preach the gospel of cotton growing, he revived old wounds by labelling Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya, a land grabber. Needless to add, Jaramogi was fired. Pronto.

That Miguna Miguna's homecoming would happen during Ruto's administration was no secret.

His fiery tweets in which he invariably referred to former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio leader Raila Odinga as despots while sparing Ruto such epithets indicated where his sympathies lay.

And it came to pass.

Miguna Miguna shared photos of the official invitation to attend the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens and a Garden Party at State House Nairobi.[Courtesy: Twitter, @MigunaMiguna]

The lawyer's arrival, courtesy of his popularity and smooth facilitation by the State guaranteed valuable optics; what with a sizable and excited crowd welcoming the "General", which General addressed the press without having to look over his shoulders.

It wasn't also lost to the observation that Miguna Miguna's homecoming happened on Mashujaa [heroes'] Day to whose national celebration he was invited by no less a person than President William Ruto.

His arrival at the dais, the spirited shaking of hands with politicians and bureaucrats, who years ago, would have avoided him like the plague, and a seat there, again guaranteed instant national visibility. Not bad for any politician.

It didn't matter that on January 30, 2018, with his head high, Miguna Miguna had the chutzpah to swear in Raila Odinga as the 'People's President' after a disputed presidential election that gave Uhuru and Ruto another five years in power.

Lawyer Miguna Miguna addresses journalists at the JKIA in Nairobi shortly after arriving from Canada on October 20, 2022. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

The controversial inauguration was, therefore, not in the interest of Deputy President Wiliam Ruto. But that's water under the bridge.

After that, a sequence of events followed culminating in high-octane airport dramas as security men attempted to either bar Miguna Miguna from entering the country or bundle him into a waiting aircraft, hence the famous phrase "I'm not boarding".

But, again, that is history. The lawyer's triumphal return is laden with political significance.

Is president William Ruto employing the Machiavelian sleight of hand of bringing your friends close and real and potential enemies even closer? Not a far-fetched question considering the opposing political miens of the two men.

Contrary to the received opinion, President Ruto is not allergic to fire-breathing political rebels. He has brought under his fold, and to considerable political advantage, the Moses Kurias, Aisha Jumwas, Hassan Omars, and Mohamed Alis of this world.

File: NASA leader Raila Odinga after he was sworn in as the People’s President by Miguna Miguna at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Could it be that the president has seen in Miguna Miguna a counterweight against his main political rival, Raila Odinga?

We don't know but Miguna Miguna has the gut, grit and tenacity to be a major political force provided he chooses his enemies, and therefore battles wisely.

With Raila ageing, as are governors James Orengo and Peter Anyang Nyong'o, the Luo nation is certainly in need of the next heavy lifters in the national political scene. A bill Miguna Miguna fits. How he goes about the job is a different matter.

The president is subtly telling the formidable Nyanza constituency he has found among its sons and daughters, one he can work with and, would they please support him.

It will therefore be no surprise if the lawyer is named to a public office. Whether the vintage rough-edged and highly self-disciplined Miguna Miguna will fit in Ruto's scheme of things remains to be seen.