Does Jubilee really understand politician Raila Odinga?


Raila Odinga is most probably the only politician in the world who has lost three presidential elections, including two where he was one of the two strongest candidates, and continued uninterruptedly as the most influential politician after whoever defeated him.

One just needs to consider the fate of Morgan Tsvangirai; former Prime Minister in Zimbabwe’s Coalition government; or Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire; to understand how amazing that feat is. The man actually seems to grow stronger after every loss!

The first reason why Raila is so good at moving on after each election loss is that he has learnt how to fall, and then pick himself, forward. Unlike most people believe, Raila seems to always have a fall-back plan which ensures that even a loss moves him beyond his current status. In 2007 Kenya had to amend the constitution to make this a reality.

Post-2013 he has successfully leveraged the new constitution’s devolution structure to present the picture that despite losing the Presidency he is the de facto political leader of 24 of 47 Counties; including the capital city and the second largest commercial county. (I actually suspect his frustration with Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero is because the Governor refuses to put the expansive Nairobi County political machinery at the former PM’s disposal as seems to happen in other CORD-led Counties).

Secondly, Raila always takes control of the narrative of why he lost each election; or more accurately, why he did not lose it. For example Raila continues to insist against all available evidence, and with no contrary evidence himself, that his 2007 victory was stolen.

Despite all odds he has managed to sell this narrative, again, about the 2013 elections; to the point many people locally and internationally speak of a Uhuru Kenyatta’s ‘slight majority’ win despite the fact that Uhuru was ahead of Raila by over 800,000 votes!

This ability to effectively manage post-loss narratives is extremely important in keeping Raila’s political strongholds intact. When a Raila diehard hears ‘Baba’ say ‘Do not give up on supporting me; we did not lose the elections; these thieves stole our victory; but we have learnt; we will not allow them to steal our victory again’ he buckles down for the long haul, does not move on past that election, and does not consider the government in power legitimate; all to Raila’s benefit. This powerful narrative also ensures that no one else challenges Raila’s political supremacy in his strongholds.

The other main reason why Raila does not fade away after losing elections is that how he rides the victim-hood narrative, in between elections. My good friend Professor Peter Kagwanja calls it ‘wedge politics’; a ‘wedge’ being a narrative that separates one part of Kenya from another. Raila used the anti-Kikuyu victimhood narrative to build momentum towards the 2007 general elections.

Against all odds he managed to keep it on track post-2007 election as he needed to keep his strongholds from integrating with Kibaki’s strongholds in preparation for the 2013 elections. Today, as Professor Kagwanja explained very well on his Sunday column, Raila is preying on mutual ethnic animosity, social grievances like insecurity and poverty as well as the complexities of the war on terror; to wedge Kenya’s socio-political divisions even wider, in preparation for the 2017 elections.

This is the man the Jubilee coalition is up against and sometimes I honestly wonder whether they understand him at all. For example when Raila ignites calls for ‘National Dialogue’ countrywide, do they understand that all he wants is a national platform on which to re-engineer himself? When they respond to him, whether in support or against the idea, do they understand they are simply legitimizing him politically to his base? Do they also understand that if they do not take away this ‘national dialogue’ conversation from the former Prime Minister, he will use it to force them to keep legitimizing their administration to Kenyans, until the 2017 elections; and to ensure that this government and most of Kenya, do nothing else in between?

This is why I insist Jubilee must learn to govern politically.

For example, why not work with Governors to host ‘National Dialogue’ forums in each County, on 7th July 2014? First, all our problems, even those being called ‘national’, are local; and some having a different context in different counties so the issues raised at this level will be more legitimate and genuine; and less about political brinkmanship.

Two, everyone comes from a certain County so counties offer the best platform for all stake-holders to be represented; even Uhuru and Ruto can go to their counties for this. Three; each county can summarize its concerns and then present them at THE national dialogue forum, later. Jubilee also needs politicians with the capacity to engage CORD toe to toe; and it cannot be done by the President or his Deputy.

Maybe this why Moses Kuria needs to be the next MP for Gatundu South.

(Wambugu is the Executive Director, Change Associates Trust)

17 Replies to “Does Jubilee really understand politician Raila Odinga?”

  1. Thanks for speaking your mind Wambugu. I am sure your article will be accepted as work of genius in Gatundu South or wherever you come from, because it echoes the feelings of most of your kinsmen. For most parts of central and Rift valley, this is the true gospel.

    But allow me to point out just two things.

    First, let me correct you that Raila has never really lost an election. Perhaps, only when he was still a light weight politician in a hugely divided opposition in 1997.

    Two, Raila is so popular, and will continue to be, not because of his “ability to effectively manage post-loss narratives” but rather because he has and stands by ideologies that most kenyans identify. For example, how do you talk of counties being ” the best platform for all stake-holders to be represented” and yet forget that the same devolution (majimbo) you are talking about was spearheaded by the same man who you feel should be contained ..(am laughing at this)… by of all people Moses Kuria… (my libs are hurting).

    1. Douglas Mbura, in full agreement with you. I am one of the few ones in RV who go against the central and RV gospel.

  2. Wambugu your idea is all about MOSES KURIA TO WIN THE ELECTION NOT RAILA,The hidden agenda is awesome but cheap.

    1. Give us a break! If you have limited your reading to Kenya only, then you are right in your view. How many other countries did you compare with Kenya? You are as ethnically oriented as anyone you suspect.

      1. I have no apologies to make to Jubilee and their arrogates like you who thrive on ethnic domination, exclusion and deprivation of Kenyans who lack ethnic numbers to enjoy equality and inclusive participation in their affairs. You better learn that you can dominate a people but you can not kill their resolve to gain total freedom, economic and political emancipation.

  3. He is the type of person who loses an election and then turns to his followers and screams WE can’t be satisfied because I’M not satisfied. It is very difficult and painful for an older politician to accept defeat especially when they have been beaten fair and square by younger politicians. Oh yes! It is a very bitter pill to swallow!!

  4. Whatever Raila and his team never did while in Government is what is
    ailing Kenya. Kanjwang was a Minister, Orengo was a lands Minister,
    Nyongo was a Minister, Kalonzo was the VP, Raila was a Prime Minister
    and 50% president. Their quest for power and “bado mapambano” song has
    led to the deaths of many Kenyans since the 1982 coup. Time is up for
    empty noise and theatrics. Failure to respect the institutions set up
    under the constitution has led to the shedding of innocent blood… Raila’s blood is that of complaining 24/7. We agree that there are issues that need to be addressed and that is why Governments all over give time for elections after every 4 or 5 years. The CORD Manifesto should be sold to the public after 5 years and if they agree, they will get 5 year term to implement it. In the USA, Romney lost the elections in a margin, he left politics and got back to his business since the people had decided. It does not matter the margin even if it is that one vote. We cannot allow Governments of National Unity just to accommodate the pride of one man. If that is the case, then lets us go back to the one party system. Raila’s father died while singing “not yet Uhuru” His son is following the footsteps by sing crisis crisis everyday…. The crisis we are in can only be dealt with slowly and by the end of the 5 year period, Kenyans will sit down and give marks. Not after one year only. Can someone tell us how many motions Raila, Orengo, Kanjwang, Namwamba and their team have tabled in Parliament successfully.

    1. You are letting us down! These guys were only ministers on paper. Power rested with another lot that would casually say Nairobi stock exchange was not a fish market. And thats without realizing that was a communal slur! You can not therefore pretend these guys failed to perform simply because they couldnt. Power mafias were busy sabotaging them, if not diverting funds for these guys’ pep projects! Remember for instance, Kibaki’s government largely succeeded by wholesomely tapping on Kalonzo’s ideas. Once admission of failure surfaces, question of waiting becomes irrelevant. Thats why I was shocked beyond core when president Uhuru agreed to auction his mandate! I can guarantee you that if he doesnt go along with his initial pronouncements and carefully manage the talks, he will be in for a huge shock. In politics you dont anyhow change positions on critical issues. His case has no reverse given the way it was communicated. Stories that bring back bitter betrayals can’t help this country either. You need to understand Raila’s father gave way to Mzee Kenyatta to lead this country. Had he been consumed by raw toxic tribalism thats so pervasive today, Mzee Kenyatta probably would have rotted in prison! Imbued with that knowledge, you should weigh your words carefully and in the process, avoid making a bad situation worse.

  5. By the way who is feeling the heat of cost of leaving. I am alone in this. Politics wont give us food

  6. Ngunjiri,

    I could not agree more with you on your observations. And the answer to your query on if Jubilee understands is: NO! And neither do the millions of Kenyans. Raila is fixated with the idea of being president, and nothing but being president; the president! “HIS EXCELLENCY, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE KENYAN ARMED FORCES, THE PRESIDENT, OF THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF KENYA, RAILA AMOLLO ODINGA, Esquire, ETC, ETC, ETC. With due respect, at around 70 years of age, 2017 is not acceptable to him, the sooner the better- and that is his ambition.
    From a social psychological perspective, I will be wasting my time in trying to persuade anyone that Raila cares for nothing and no one but himself. He has not very successfully used similar techniques used by some churches/ and so-called evangelists to get followers. By exploiting and maintaining imaginary tribal animosities/differences, he uses invisible hypnotic techniques. Ever paid attention to his hands during speeches? Hand gestures speak and command. They are not spontaneous and are meant to influence the masses. I sympathize with the DP and others who laugh and scoff at Raila when he non-expertly launches into his “vitendawili” ploys. They are not rubbish. They are pure Ericksonian hypnotic ploys to divert attention, and implant suggestions on to the masses. Ever really wondered why he appears popular??? What about the ploy of appearing mysteriously at Uhuru park when arriving from US??? What is that trick intended to trigger off, subconsciously, especially if you attended Sunday school?? Someone once said; “Let me be President, even for ONE DAY!!”.

    So guys, it is not the hullabaloo about poverty, terror and what-have-you: It is about keeping a sacred promise, to someone loved, before it is too late, and: AT WHATEVER COST!! So Kenyans, watch and be part of the show, without your knowledge. It will never end until Raila gets his way; at the mercy of the unsuspecting Kenyan citizenry pawns.


  7. While the assessment is nearly right, Raila has no laid down plan to do anything, let alone the capacity to run any effective government. I guess, thats why he has failed time and again! He practically flopped in every sphere when he was the prime minister. He was short of ideas! But completely superb in manufacturing lies. He specializes in character assassinations. However, beyond that, he is as clueless as anyone can imagine. Anyhow, he is currently enjoying the run-arounds that he is giving to jubilee. We have noticed instead of responding rationally to matters raised by Raila, jubilee is simply coiling and recoiling around unbelievable items. If Raila says they have failed in ensuring security for Kenyans, jubilee coalition should be able to respond to that in the best way possible. Turning personal only makes the population believe even more Raila is right. When Raila truly says cost of living has become unbearably high, jubilee should not talk of incitement to violence! It should tell Kenyans what it is doing to alliviate the situation. On tribalism, jubilee has not only miserably failed to address the matter, but also failed to be pro-active. Jubilee should be able to respond to all issues raised by CORD without rushing to to press the panicky button!!!!

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