Why has Raila tried so had and so many times to occupy State house and failed? If there was a school that offers foolproof lessons on how to win presidential elections, every ambitious politician would have enrolled in such a school. Not just Rail Odinga.
Raila has lost five presidential elections. We shall see why in a moment, but first let us look at those that he did not contest.
In 1992 Raila was a yound man full of energy. He could well have been the flag bearer for the young turks in the run up to the multiparty democracy. But he let his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga run the show. He lost an opportunity.
In 2002 Raila stood quite a chance in the race for state house. But rather than throw his hat in the ring, he threw in the towel. But declaring Kibaki Tosha, his act of magnanimity, though saving Kenya from the Jaws of the KANU dictatorship meant he had was not running.
Now to the ones he ran
Proclivity for wrong premises
Raila has shown a proclivity for basing his political strategies on false assumptions. In every election, a candidate has to make certain political assumptions. Raila’s mistake has been making false political assumptions.
Win in referendum equals win in election
In 2005, Raila defeated the government in a referendum on a constitutional draft. He then made a false assumption that the win automatically provided the impetus that was needed for a win in the 2007 presidential elections.
He failed to factor into his assumption the impact of Kalonzo’s solo presidential run. He also failed to factor in the impact of the regrouping of government forces after the referendum loss in the period between 2005 and 2007.
In 2013, he assumed William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta would not be cleared to vie due to their cases at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, or, if they would vie, he assumed their reputations would be so battered that they would not win.
He failed to factor in the reverse logic – the two would leverage on the cases and play the victim card.
In 2017, his run was based on the false assumption that the government was unpopular. Of course, the opposite is true.
A government seeking re-election in an ethnically divided society has two distinct advantages.
First, the main ethnic groups that had supported it in the first instance often rally behind it for the second time on the basis of ‘siege mentality’.
Siege mentality in this case refers to the need to protect the ethnic groups that form the government from external threats. This explains the huge turnout by the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu in 2017.
Second, small ethnic groups will always rally behind a political coalition that appears to be the ‘government’.
That explains Raila’s bigger loss in 2017, after huge swings towards Jubilee by the Samburu, Borana, Kisii and Somali communities.
This factor explains the current stampede by Somali MPs and leaders towards the victorious Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
In 2022, Raila made one fatal political assumption. He assumed Uhuru would help him win by swaying to his side Mt Kenya and government bureaucracy, read ‘Deep State’.
Raila failed to take into account the fact that Uhuru would only have helped him if he (Uhuru) was seeking re-election.
This is because Mt Kenya would have seen some stake in such a futuristic arrangement.
However, a politician vacating office cannot donate a political constituency unless he or she wields monarchical powers.
In political transitions, rational government bureaucracies have every incentive to act neutral to avoid vengeance in case political plans go the opposite direction.
Compare this to Ruto’s political assumptions. In 2013 and 2017, Uhuru publicly endorsed Ruto for 2022.
Ruto wisely saw this as a false political assumption. He worked on the reverse logic. He went to the Mt Kenya region directly. He is now the President-elect.
The second factor has been Raila’s ‘undisguised and direct’ pursuit of the presidency.
Moi had to act as the timid deputy to succeed Kenyatta I. Through Kenyatta, Moi attained the presidency.
Kibaki acted as Moi’s meek deputy for many years. Uhuru had to convert himself into a staunch Kibaki defender between 2007 and 2013 for him to win.
Ruto became Uhuru’s ‘mtu wa mkono’ (handyman) between 2013 and 2018 and an oppressed meek servant between 2018 and 2022 in order to win in 2022.
Raila tried this trick through ‘Handshake’ but, unfortunately, Uhuru was a retiring King with no constituency to donate to.
In the bible, persons who became great prophets never jumped at opportunities in the first instance despite beckoning by God himself.
God called Jonah to preach to the people of Ninevah. The scripture says, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish (Spain).
When God appeared to Moses and told him his mission, Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
Gideon was also called to deliver the Israelites from bondage to their Midianite overlords.
The Angel of the Lord paid Gideon a visit and told Gideon that God had chosen him for the mission.
His response? “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”
Jeremiah was another reluctant prophet. God said to him, “I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah’s response was similar to all the other ones: “Ah, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”