Nyanza thinks beyond Raila Odinga’s Leadership

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As the country awaits the outcome of the petition against Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the presidential election, the big question in the minds of many is about the future of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Mr Odinga, who is arguably one of the most prominent Kenya’s politicians, has challenged the outcome of the March 4 General Election in which Mr Kenyatta defeated him with more than 800,000 votes.

Mr Odinga’s home region of Nyanza is throbbing with anxiety, which increases with each given day.

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At every small gathering along the streets of Kisumu and deep in the countryside, the whispers over Mr Odinga’s political future is reaching crescendo with every passing day.

Just what will happen, if he loses the case against Mr Kenyatta and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission?

Will he retire from active politics and how will this impact on Kenya’s politics? What about Nyanza politics, which has revolved around his family for years?

Political tribulation

Mr Odinga, a darling of the masses in Western Kenya has unsuccessfully vied for the presidency three time; in 1997, 2007 and 2013.  Now aged 68, the son of Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga will be 73 by the time the country’s holds its next General Elections in 2017.

As his supporters pray for him, analysts say the Supreme Court will decide Mr Odinga’s political future.

According to Prof Fredrick Wanyama of Maseno University, Mr Odinga is facing his biggest political tribulation ever.

The head of the department of Sociology and Anthropology at Maseno University, Dr Erick Nyambedha argues that even if he loses the court case, Mr Odinga’s legacy would remain unscathed.

‘‘He would remain respected both nationally and internationally as a leader who fought for democracy, the rule of law and good governance,” says the don.

Southern Nyanza Diocese Anglican Bishop James Ochiel says it doesn’t matter whether Mr Odinga wins or loses the case so long as Kenya remains a united nation.

Many of Mr Odinga’s supporters do not contemplate him quitting politics either. The dilemma is that Nyanza has never known another leader on whom to bank their political destiny other that him since Jaramogi’s death in 1994.

According to Prof Wanyama, Mr Odinga’s supporters will neither be shocked nor orphaned politically even if he were to quit politics.

Says he: ‘‘Luos started preparing themselves psychologically for any eventuality with the controversial ODM nominations. In view of what happened at the partyprimaries, many voters started looking for alternative leaders to take over the mantle by sieving through the list of contenders for various political seats on March 4.”

Analysts believe Mr Odinga’s shoes would be too big for anyone, at least the current crop of Luo politicians, to inherit.

The late Jaramogi had groomed a number of so-called Young Turks, among them Raila, Lands minister James Orengo and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o such that by the time he left the scene, there were politicians qualified to drive the community’s agenda.

Citing the Luo proverb ‘two cockerels cannot be cooked in the same pot’, Rev Ochiel says the people’s culture prevents Mr Odinga’s possible successor from being identified just yet.

He adds: ‘‘There’s no shortage of leaders who could step in should he retire from politics.”

According to the Anglican bishop, the refrain assures that only one political kingpin reigns and his successor cannot be named when he is still in active politics.

In Nyanza where Mr Odinga was born, the ordinary person on the streets seems to agree with Prof Wanyama and Dr Nyambedha that the newly elected Nairobi governor Dr Evans Kidero and Siaya senator-elect James Orengo could in future replace Mr Odinga but may never match his ideals.

Cabinet minister Dalmas Otieno is also being mentioned as a possible heir to the throne.

Political martyr

At the party leadership, a curious campaign has been going on in the social media to have Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba replace Mr Odinga as the next Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader should the later retire from politics.

According to analysts, whoever takes over the mantle from Mr Odinga must be trusted by the people of Nyanza.

The person must convince them that he is a nationalist and can win over many Kenyan communities.

Prof Wanyama says: ‘‘That is why the late Jaramogi stood out. His son Raila has proved himself in the public arena since the 1980s. He created a larger democratic space and upheld his democratic ideals irrespective of which party he joined.”

Dr Nyambedha who is a social anthropologist says: ‘‘Those who have colonised the hearts and minds of Luos never used their birthplaces in Nyanza as springboards to national politics. They built their own political careers from their bases at the national level, especially in cosmopolitan Nairobi. He says that is what catapulted Raila from Lang’ata, the late Jaramogi (Kaloleni) and Tom Mboya (Makadara) to national politics.

Kisumu County Kuppet Secretary John Hadulo emphasises that should Mr Odinga choose to retire from politics, he will be celebrated as a political martyr who was betrayed by the very people he helped liberate from the yokes of dictatorship to a new democratic Kenya.

‘‘As a respected elder statesman, he will still be honoured with other internationalresponsibilities’’, the trade unionist says, adding: ‘‘His influence in Luo and Kenyan national politics will still be felt for a long time to come.’’

One of Mr Odinga’s lieutenants who lost in the March 4 Muhoroni parliamentary race, Prof Ayiecho Olweny poured cold water on Mr Odinga’s succession politics.

Succession debate

“Liberators don’t retire from politics. Mr Odinga’s job will not be finished any time soon. And he is not there to groom anybody to take over from him. Let individual politicians groom themselves the way Mr Odinga did.”

Luo leaders have in the past refused to be drawn into the Odinga succession debate for fear of being seen as harbouring ill motives against the former Langata MP.

When former Cabinet minister Raphael Tuju and former Kisumu Town West MP Ken Nyagudi urged Mr Odinga to concede defeat to Mr Kenyatta, Mr Odinga’s supporters who branded them opportunists promptly scolded them.

To many of his supporters, Mr Odinga remains the Luo political kingpin and spokesman, regardless of the outcome of the court case.

Source:The Standard

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