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2022: Why a Raila Odinga presidency seems to please the universe

OPINION
By Nicholas Gumbo | October 8th 2021

ODM leader Raila Odinga at Ger Liech village in Nyando Kisumu county where he presided over the groundbreaking ceremony of Raila Odinga secondary school on 8th October 2021. [Collins Oduor,Standard]

In his bestseller “The Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell posits that exceptional achievers are almost always beneficiaries of some kind of unusual opportunity.  For them, lucky breaks do not seem like the exception; they are the rule.

Most engineering classes teach people to be good at observing things.  Engineering also teaches one to be a good listener. What the many iterations and algorithms in a typical engineering class teach us is that patterns, sequences and trends not only tend to be lazy, but over time they somehow acquire their own inertia.

Patterns, sequences and trends also seem not to like being disturbed. Thus, just like inertia in the realms of physics, to change patterns, sequences and trends usually require extra-ordinary application of “external forces”.

There is no denying that President Uhuru Kenyatta succession is quickly morphing into a two-horse race between the two Rs; Raila and Ruto. For some reason however, patterns, sequences and trends of Kenya’s politics seem to be moving in the opposite direction to Ruto’s quest, and there are reasons.

Winning at first attempt: Apart from the “accidental” or “opportunistic” presidencies of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi, no other Kenyan has won at first attempt.

Curse of the Number Two: From Obadiah Adonijah Ajuma Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, to Joseph  Murumbi . . . to Kalonzo Musyoka, no occupier of the Number two office in Kenya has ascended to the top seat through an election. One may argue that Emilio Mwai Kibaki did exactly that. But that would amount to serving facts sparingly. To get to the presidency, Kibaki had to take the long route of suffering the ignominy of being demoted to a Health Minister, before warming the Opposition benches for over 10 years.

The other is the sinusoidal nature of ascension. Without delving into the realms of metaphysics, a keen look at the age brackets at which all the four occupants of the Office of the President assumed power shows rather interesting swings. Jomo Kenyatta ascended to the Presidency as a septuagenarian. His successor, Daniel arap Moi assumed office a quinquagenarian. He handed over power to Kibaki, who at the time was a septuagenarian. Kibaki handed over to Uhuru Kenyatta, who took over while in his early 50s, hence a quinquagenarian.

The septuagenarian/quinquagenarian swing resonates with Raila. It does not do Ruto any favours. Since the Republic of Kenya was founded nearly 60 years ago, no president has handed over power to a sitting assistant.

The Mt Kenya factor is also key. As per the 2017 election data, the 10 Mt Kenya counties of Meru, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Kiambu, Laikipia and Nakuru had slightly over 5.3 million voters. The voter turn-out in these counties was an average over 90 per cent.

Assuming Raila retains his vote bases of Nairobi, Coast, Lower Eastern, Western and Nyanza provinces through an arrangement that accommodates the OKA principals, Ruto will not only need to maintain the 90 per cent plus turn-out in these 10 counties, but also ensure he gets not less than 90 per cent of all votes cast to be able to pose a significant threat to Raila’s chances.

This will be a tall order, if not an impossible task. Evidently, both Raila and Ruto are on a calculated charm offensive to win over Mt Kenya votes. Both seem to have very convincing propositions for the region.

Barring last-minute surprises, this will be the first multi-party election where Mt Kenya will not have a major contender for the Presidency. Based on the 2019 census data, this means more than 75 per cent of Mt Kenya residents have known only one thing; election means voting for one of their own.

For Raila and Ruto, the implication is that merely having convincing propositions will not be enough. The reality of not having one of their own in the Presidential ballot for the first time will at best be confusing, or out rightly shocking for most. Unprecedented voter apathy in these counties is likely.  Without the inspiration of “K?m?ra K?m?ra” messaging and war cries witnessed in the last election, turn-outs in most Mt Kenya counties may be as low as 50 per cent to 60 per cent. That will be devastating, if not fatal, to Ruto’s quest.

No matter the turn-out, Raila’s numbers in Mt Kenya will certainly go up. On the other hand, Ruto needs an above 90 per cent turn-out and to ensure Raila’s numbers are depressed. That will be an impossible task.

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