BY ERIC NG’ENO
Opiyo Wandayi is an intriguing politician. I always pay attention when he takes the floor in the National Assembly. He always has something interesting to say, and he has an interesting way of telling it. The man is at home with ideas irrespective of their complexity. Even when he is selling snake oil, his audience gives him the benefit of the doubt. In a word, Opiyo Wandayi is a proper sophist. His take on any matter is consistently sophisticated.
It is hardly surprising that he is the one who has chosen to protest about ‘the misleading Ipsos survey’. He is, after all the ODM’s secretary for political affairs. Aside from that, the latest foray by Ipsos paints Raila Odinga as second best in the presidential sweepstakes. By a considerable margin.
This is hardly a palatable prospect to ODM diehards. Anything that portrays ‘Baba’ as anything other than sweetness and light is simply anathema. So Wandayi has a bone to pick, so to speak. In typical fashion, the Ugunja legislator directs our attention to the global trends in opinion polling, suggesting that Ipsos missed the ball on this one. He implies that at this point in time, Raila Odinga and every other contender is a nonentity unfit to be rated against Uhuru Kenyatta, who is incumbent. For this reason, he thinks the poll is suspect and diversionary.
He actually goes as far as to suggest that it was commissioned as a red herring to deflect national attention from pressing national issues. Mr Wandayi signs off by pleading with the ODM base to ignore the poll.
And that, basically, is the rub. While the Jubilee Alliance have made their opinion of these polls well known, ODM have been known to be enthusiastic in describing them as barometers of the national mood. Polls are a fraught affair that has as much likelihood of taking one up the garden path as any. The only times ODM or indeed CORD have opposed a poll happens to be the times when they came out less than hopeful.
By urging supporters to rubbish the latest poll, Wandayi is executing some adroit fire fighting sequences. He knows that as an opinion-poll-based party, ODM will be heartbroken by Ipsos’ offerings. You will remember that during the Homa Bay senatorial by-election, each candidate commissioned opinion polls where they appeared to ruthlessly wallop their opponents. It reached a point where the media was uncomfortable, and even other politicians urged candidates to get a grip. The point I try to make is that opinion polls are a sacred totem of the ODM, and that Wandayi’s umbrage is born of deep anxiety.
But that is nothing more than the bitter deserts of those who would worship false gods. You will have to do some fancy cherry-picking; believe this poll, ignore that one.
But Wandayi’s sophistication lies elsewhere. The call to ignore Ipsos is made under the auspices of ODM, not CORD. There is excellent reason for this. According to reports of the poll, Raila Odinga returns 28percent, while each of his co-principals fades out with an abject 1pc. Given that the Jubilee ticket will be the same as the last, the Deputy President’s 3pc is truly anomalous since his presidential ambitions are moot for the short term.
Even so, he still fares much better than Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula, whose naked ambitions are evident to all. Seeing this, it was necessary for ODM to segregate their champion from his downtrodden fellow travellers. In other words, ODM was keen to show that their opposition to Ipsos’ poll didn’t depend on the grouses Wetang’ula and Musyoka – each of whom can be fairly described as a far cry- would harbour.
In other words, Raila’s case is that he is opposed to the polls because he is not leading, but at the same time, he is clearly a cut above his co-principals. I told you Wandayi is sophisticated. Talk about eating the cake and the other thing. It is important to always understand the context of everything that happens in ODM, be it violence, shambolic nominations or opinion poll discourse.
Here, through Wandayi and ODM, Raila Odinga is effectively burying his dismal confreres, while rubbishing any process that does not proclaim him the runaway leader.
(Ng’eno is the Director of Messaging at the Presidency)