I have been on a sabbatical. I have toured many parts of this country over the last few months, listening to the real Kenyans, engaging them in their Manyattas, Bomas and Thingiras. As political commentators, we always run the danger of being the proverbial night bird that shuts its eyes and ears and then whistling, all it can hear is its own voice.
My sabbatical has taught me three vital lessons. Firstly, social media and the Kenyan Diaspora will be the surprise packages for the 2012 General Elections. Secondly, ODM-Raila is as dead as dodo. Finally, 2012 is for the G7 Alliance to lose.
On social media, one can only ignore this bushfire phenomenon at their own peril. The multiplier effect of the power of this new form of communications and networking will be unsettling to those used to conventional forms. Initially they dismissed it. Then they tried to fight it with some even making hollow threats of litigation.
Finally, they are all starting to grudgingly accept social media not only as a reality but as a potent weapon for 2012. The other major factor is of course the Diaspora. With the new constitution giving Kenyans in the Diaspora the right to vote, I estimate that out of Kenyans going to the ballot box next year, two million of them will troop Kenyan Embassies abroad to cast their votes.
Before the polls open in Budalangi, Kenyans in China will have voted in the Kenyan Embassy in Beijing. Of course you cannot bail out sugar and lesos to these two Million Kenyans who are also among the top three ‘donors’ and ‘foreign exchange earners’ to our economy. This dispensation will call for new approaches by any party serious to win 2012.
Now on ODM-Raila; the slide towards Armageddon for this once veritable political juggernaut is shocking. I have visited areas in the Rift Valley, Western, Coast and even in Nairobi where previously the party held sway. In these areas, if the late original ODM meets the jaded ODM-Raila, it would just collapse and die again.
The party leader does not help matters much by his waffling and shifting positions on every other issue, from the Kazi-Kwa-Vijana scandal to the premature and garrulous announcement that Israel had pledged military and security assistance to Kenya. So embarrassing was this to the Israelis that no less than President Shimon Peres and spokesman Mark Regev had to issue statements to dismiss our dear Prime Minister’s comments as premature. At that juncture, I felt like doing what we call SMH in Twitter-speak (Shaking My Head).
I believe the Achilles heel for Raila’s ill-fated and last attempt at the presidency may as well turn out to be William Ruto. Not more so for running away with three quarters of the voting blocks that voted for Raila in 2007, but because Ruto understands Raila’s mind extremely – and amazingly-well. He communicates to the masses in a very simple and direct way, much like Raila.
I was amazed in one of my tours to ask people in Coast Province whether they will vote for Raila again in 2012. They replied “Tumechoka na siasa ya hadithi, vichekesho, matangazo ya mpira na vitendawili” (We are tired of the politics of fairy tales, jokes, football broadcasts and riddles) Paraphrasing one of Ruto’s popular quotes.
The problem with politics is that it is like a game of tennis. The more one comes under pressure, the more he commits unforced errors. I was driven to mirth to learn that in the recent ODM grassroots elections, voters in some areas were offered Sh2,000 to participate in the polls.
Raila’s desperation has also seen him hand Uhuru Kenyatta one of the sweetest gifts in Central Province. By walking away with the cabal of old, tired and much maligned businessmen from Central, he has allowed Uhuru to travel light to the G7 Alliance – without the extra baggage of the wazees who have given the impression that Uhuru will always be under their yoke. So maligned is this group of octogenarians that in some areas their dalliance with Raila has been nick-named “Operation Linda Mali.”
Finally, the clear advantage presented by disintegration of ODM-Raila will count for nothing unless the G7 Alliance seize the opportunity and present a unified front. This unity must be anchored in a democratic culture and holding of open, transparent nominations under one political vehicle. The illusions of a run-off should also be done away with as it will end up opening wounds that may not be healed between the first round and the run-off Presidential elections.
In the unlikely event that the G7 alliance does not win the 2012 General Elections, they will deserve a medal. They will have achieved a spectacular feat, for they will have managed to extract defeat from the vicious, menacing jaws of victory.
The writer is the spokesman of the Party of National Unity (PNU). The views expressed herein are his own.