Raila is slowly falling into homestretch blunder trap, risks losing votes
‘Running Mouth Syndrome”: Allow me to begin with a story by the Japanese monk Yoshida K?nko, from his classic writings: ‘The Essays of Idleness’. Once upon a time there lived a famous expert tree climber. One day, he was instructing a man on tree climbing – and directed him to the very top to cut off some branches. The master climber kept guiding the man, but when he got to the highest point of the tree and seemed to be in great danger, the expert just stood below and said nothing. It is when the man climbed down and was at a seemingly safe point, that the master climber began to give him warnings, “Be careful! Watch your step coming down!” At that point, the companion with whom he was standing with at the bottom of the tree asked him – “Why did you warn him to be careful when he was at a safe height, and could even jump down if he chose?” The master tree climber replied: “That is precisely the point! As long as the man was at dizzying heights and the branches were threatening to break, he himself was so afraid, I didn’t need to say anything. Mistakes are always made when people get to the easy
Loses their foothold
When one is at the homestretch, very close to the end; the blunders come thick and fast. This is because they think they are in control and become obsessed with finishing, instead of concentrating on the moment. That is why, near the bottom of the tree, one loses their foothold on an unstable branch and tumbles all the way to the ground, yet they had safely climbed all the way to up to the intimidating tree top. These blunders are called the ‘homestretch blunders’. In this electoral cycle – Raila has been the first to fall into this ‘homestretch blunder’ mind trap. He seems to be committing one blunder after another and may end up self-cannibalising in one last politically fatal mistake.
Within 50 days to the election, his mouth has ran so far ahead of him that he has to continually catch up with it by calling press conferences. Like a dream interpreter to his own utterances, Raila has had to explain, interpret, decipher and decode what he clearly said just days before. As he slips down the tree, he adjusts himself and quickly regains his foothold on a nearby branch. When Raila slipped and urged the Maasai to take out their spears and rungus to eject the former IEBC commissioners, he managed to regain steadiness by saying that he was not referring to combat but was urging the Maasais to merely display their ceremonial and symbolic paraphernalia. When he lost his balance again and ignited re-destributive talk against white-settler owned land, he quickly recovered, saying that he was misquoted. Most recently, when he once again missed his footing and and advised the people of Narok against “selling land to outsiders” he quickly found a branch nearby to regain his foothold. He explained that this was a cryptic conversation on poverty and had nothing to do with ethnic incitement.
One may conclude that Raila’s ‘Freudian slips’ which involuntarily jumped out of his mouth were powered by the adrenaline of exciting rallies and ‘inspired’ moments. However, the ‘running mouth syndrome’ is a function of the ‘carelessness complex’. The nearer one is to safety, as we are taught by K?nzo’s master tree climber, the more reckless they will become. That is how empires fall, corporation fail and dynasties die. Napoleon Bonaparte once said that the greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory. When you think that victory is so near, you can see it, smell it and touch it. As the now reckless Raila continues to descend the perilous electoral tree, he risks falling back into the pattern of slipping and sliding- whether verbally or tactically- and suffering a fatal fall. One from which he may not politically recover.
And there is history to prove this trend of failure and self-cannibalisation by Raila. An example is the campaign to evict settlers from Mau forest. His principled stand on the matter drove a wedge between him and the Kalenjin faction of ODM. This was the beginning of the end for Raila that electoral cycle; most of the Kalenjin political elite abandoned him, preferring to chart a new political path, including William Ruto who declared his intention to contest in the 2012 elections as a presidential candidate. Five years on, signs of the same last minute self-sabotage are evident. It is at this point that the master tree climber would yell: “Beware! Watch your step!” —The writer is a PhD candidate in Political Economy at SMC University and a Research Fellow at Fort Hall School of Government. [email protected]