Allow Raila to go now or risk waiting forever for 'Godot'

Azimio leader Raila Odinga waves at his supporters as he walked to board a matatu headed to Nairobi's CBD on July 10, 2023.

Kenyan opposition will be stronger when they overcome the fear of letting Raila Odinga go—he has served his time well and it is time they groom another leader. Spencer Johnson, an American physician and author known for his self-help book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ says: “Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.”

Last week, Raila announced that he was going for the African Union Commission chairperson seat. Some commentators encouraged him to take it as a retirement benefit. Others said it was an honourable exit from the opposition politics in Kenya. However, his ardent followers were divided—some said he should not go because it is a trap to exit him from politics while others insisted that it would be a sabbatical and he would come back in 2027 to contest the presidency.

Whether Raila takes the AUC Job or not, his followers should concentrate on building another opposition monarch. To explain my point, allow me to use Samuel Beckett’s 1952 short absurdist play titled, ‘Waiting for Godot’. In this play, two men meet and sit under a tree waiting for a man called Godot. They sit there waiting. Some two other men, going on their daily chores, find them under the tree, entertain them and go on with their daily activities.

Later on, a young man comes and tells that them the Godot they are waiting for won’t turn up that day but will come the following day. The two men, however, meet under the same tree every day, week, month and seemingly for many years. The two men who found them there on their first day come back years later. One is already blind and his slave is dumb due to old age. Many years later, the young man, the messenger, comes again and tells the two men that Godot will not be coming. The two men continue waiting for Godot until the end of the play.

In this play, the two men find a tree as a place of security all their life waiting for Godot. They are dedicated to their purpose of one-day meeting Godot. Isn’t that what Raila’s followers have been doing? Isn’t it a good dedication? Raila is like the tree in this play under which most Kenyans have sat waiting for what they consider their political salvation. Initially, ‘Godot’ (President) would send a message to tell them, that Raila would be president in the next election. They continued waiting and seemingly, the last Messenger must have said—Godot will not be coming.

While it is good to have a dedicated life toward a goal, there comes a time when you need to move on. As the two characters in ‘Waiting for Godot’ sat under the same tree every day waiting for an elusive Godot, life was going on for those who never bothered about Godot. Raila’s supporters, in their ‘Waiting for Godot’ mission, fall under two categories. Some support him because out of it, they will get a political advantage. Like the two men in our play who would have people entertain them while there, some Raila followers get entertained either through material benefits, political milestones or affiliations that give them a sense of importance.

Others follow him because they think that in him is a hope for the country—they end up holding onto him and convincing themselves that Godot will be coming no matter what.

These are likened to the two characters who sat under the same tree every day waiting for a Godot who already sent a message saying he was not coming. Is it worth it? A political shift of mindset from Raila as the only saviour of the opposition can bring freedom and open new possibilities that do not exist currently. There is no way the opposition can hold on to Raila and expect other opportunities (a new breed of leaders within their circles) to open. 

Raila might be a safe, convenient, and comfortable political tree to sit under, but Godot (Presidency) has said severally that he is not coming to meet Kenyans under this tree - ‘He’ said it in 1997, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022 -Godot is not coming!

Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, the Department of Mass Communication, at Kabarak University

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