As the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) leaders read out resolutions during the Saba Saba (July 7) rally at Uhuru Park, this tall, lanky man made his way down to the sound station for a microphone stand so Bungoma Senator Boni Khalwale, the late JM Kariuki’s daughter Rosemary Kariuki and Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar did not have to juggle both their scripts and a microphone.
Earlier in the day, when Raila Odinga granted Capital FM News an interview before the rally, he sat behind his father, in the background.
But it’s time, Political Scientist Dr Mutahi Ngunyi believes, for the over six-foot Fidel Odinga to move to the foreground, from behind the desk and beyond just offering a helping hand, to steering the helm.
“Fidel has the height of what the Jews would call a good leader. He’s a tall six point something guy and I think he also has the rhetoric of his father and grandfather. Groom the young guy. Let Fidel be the one to take on Uhuru and Ruto. Now that,” Ngunyi advised Odinga, “would be magical.”
Magical, he said, because, “Raila is a slow punctured politician, a cat whose nine lives have expired,” as evidenced by the unexpectedly but admittedly, low Saba Saba rally turn out.
“As one of the Russian leaders Nikita Khrushchev said once, if you feed people with revolutionary rhetoric today, they will listen to you, Saba Saba, tomorrow they’ll come and listen to you, the day after tomorrow they’ll listen to you but the fourth day they will tell you, to hell with you because we’re tired of the rhetoric,” Ngunyi referenced.
In the interest of fairness however, CORD principle Moses Wetangula blamed the low rally turn out on a government conspiracy to keep their supporters away, accusing the police of barricading their supporters in the slums.
Fidel as a choice of successor however, Ngunyi made clear, is a calculation based on set precedent and not precedence.
“I think Raila is cursed by what the Greeks call the curse of Sisyphus; 2002 he rolled the stone with Kibaki, it tipped on the other side but Kibaki claimed the victory. 2007 maybe he was actually the one who won the election but before he could tip it the same thing happened. This time round same thing, it rolled back, Saba Saba – it is rolling back. My persuasion is that the gods don’t seem to sympathise with his cause; I don’t think he will become President, he is better off appointing somebody and as dynasties are jealous institutions, he had better start grooming Fidel,” Ngunyi explained.
And as with his thoughts on Odinga’s political future, he doesn’t mince his words where a Fidel succession would live the father’s co-CORD Principles Kalonzo Musyoka and Wetangula:
“Kalonzo and Wetangula are like vultures, opportunistic; they’re waiting for Raila to fall down dead politically so that they can feed on his carcass. They’re not there because they like Raila. Remember Kalonzo and Raila have been bitter enemies during the Kibaki period. They’re waiting for Raila to exit so they can inherit his dynasty which will not happen. You’ll find they’ll end up with a split which will be as bitter as the original one,” Ngunyi analysed.
His advice to the younger members of the Orange Democratic Movement on neutralising the threat Fidel poses is to do like Ruto and grab power from Raila as Ruto did with Moi because Saba Saba’s failure to launch, has left him vulnerable.
But as with the tale of Genie’s Lamp, they should be careful what they wish for, “If they do that in my view they probably will succeed. But remember dynasties like Raila’s are also very vicious so they might gobble up these young fellows.”
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, as far as Ngunyi is concerned, stands no chance of succeeding Odinga — as he’s been accused of attempting – given his lack of a national appeal and the unlikelihood of his getting the opposition leader’s blessing, most recently on account of his snub of the Saba Saba rally.
Succession politics aside, a referendum, Ngunyi reasoned, is inevitable, “If Raila says referendum will happen, referendum will happen. Zero option. Because all you need are about a million, maybe two million signatures and can Raila raise those signatures? Definitely.”
And while describing president Uhuru Kenyatta’s dismissal of CORD’s calls for dialogue as, “evil genius,” his professional opinion is it would be unwise to go on and ignore Raila’s calls for a referendum.
“Every five years Raila has forced a referendum; in 2005, in-between Kibaki’s first term; and again in 2010 during his second term. This time round it’s possible that the referendum for him is a possibility of taking power from Uhuru but through Constitutional means. He can say look, let’s go for a Parliamentary system of government instead of a Presidential,” Ngunyi said.
The best way to handle this, he recommended, is ironically through dialogue, “It is not right for one or two communities to dominate the instruments of power. I don’t think that they have taken over government the way Raila is saying but even then, it is not right.”
“This was resolved very simply by a constitutional formulae given to us by Kofi Annan. Take the Presidency and slice into five pieces; the President, Deputy President, Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers and then accommodate at least five communities within that structure, not as powerful as the one Raila occupied.”
Negotiated dialogue, is how he describes it, others might call it nusu mkate (half a loaf) and nusu mkate, President Kenyatta has made abundantly clear is out of the question.
But as is often bandied about, there are not permanent friends or enemies in politics, and in the same vein, one might say that there is no such thing as an irrevocable position, in politics.