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Raila will hold a mega-rally in Narok while DP Ruto will be campaigning in Ukambani. /CFM

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Hesbon Owila: The two-horse race factor in 2022 elections

The current political situation has some echoes of Chinua Achebe’s most cited quote, “when we gather together in the moonlight village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”

When political leaders attend each other’s national functions, like we have seen in the recent past, they succeed whether by design or default, to remind the voters that they are all first among equals and it is for Kenyans to make the last call of who to give power. Today, critics have lamented the push by President Kenyatta to push leaders towards a certain direction. Whether true or not, there seems to be some concerted effort to bring leaders together which for all intent and purposes is good for Kenya. It is not for President Uhuru Kenyatta to prescribe for Kenyans who to elect as his successor, but as a Kenyan who occupies a fairly privileged position to see what is good for Kenyans, he has a right to play his part.

What is clear is that the President is not going to tell us who to elect as his successor, that is if he has not done so, but he certainly has done what I would say is great for Kenya. Through the handshake and his rallying call to unite Kenyans, he has made the level playing field even and fair for all aspirants seeking to succeed him. I doubt he is giving anyone a head start, but he is certainly making it easy for Kenyans to have their way. Word is out there that efforts have been made to bring like-minded political kingpins together in some sort of unity of purpose and churn the best way forward, but it does seem that three OKA principals have deemed it fit to marvel at the moon from their own compounds. If the moonlight village ground meetings are good for Kenya, then these three principals are poised for a back clash from their kinsmen and Kenyans at large.

It is at the village ground that statesmanship is demonstrated and elders get to see who among the village elders is fit to lead. In effect, the conspicuous absence of the three who, also missed the People’s President swearing-in in January 2018 technically suggests that the game is now on and the two-horse race is turning into reality.

Well, I’ve been in this space for some time and a lot of critics lament the two-horse race narrative asserting that it bundles all Kenyans into a narrow array of two choices. Granted, democracy is better served when there is a plurality of choices and the media provides a platform that allows a wider array of political players to reach the mass public with their agenda. But it is also instructive to note that the public domain should be a preserve of substantive public interest discourse and not the parochial interest of self-seekers whose space in the public sphere may not necessarily provide substantive choices.

OKA principals might be substantive, but dilly-dallying on giving us a third choice that is substantive or backing the two major front runners puts them at risk of losing their political clout. In fact, Senator Gideon Moi proved that leadership is about substance and worthy competition. As a presidential candidate himself endorsed by Kanu, he has elevated himself to this privileged position that will put him in good stead going forward.

Whatever happens going forward, especially if he rallies behind Raila Odinga, Gideon has endeared himself not just to Raila Odinga’s inner circle of power, but also his loyal supporters. Remember the loyalty of Raila’s supporters is unwavering. But then his three OKA colleagues should be reminded of the rise and rise of Hon Adan Duale, who in the run-up to the 2013 general elections took a decisive step at a time when leaders from the North Eastern region and the significant Somali voting block were dilly-dallying. He emerged, was decisive and today he has the distinction of having served as the first Majority Leader of Kenya and is by no means a powerhouse who the Deputy President cannot afford to do without.

But before I digress let me get back to track. The failure by OKA to show us the third formidable way and Raila Odinga’s grand show of force and support by folks who have won President Kibaki and President Uhuru Kenyatta elections raises very pertinent aspects of the two-horse race. That now more than ever before we need to keenly listen to both the Deputy Presidents and Baba and ask them hard questions about what their presidencies portend, and perhaps start thinking of the reality of a Raila Odinga presidency.

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The consistency as a social Democrat, which is now turning to a reality of Ksh 6000 social welfare to address the plight of the power, the fight for the common mwanaichi and now the confluence of all these into Azimio la Umoja speak of both new dawn and a continuation of what President Uhuru Kenyatta has done in the last five years.

It doesn’t matter whether we see president Uhuru Kenyatta’s hand in Baba’s candidature or not, a Baba presidency seems to be coming at an opportune moment when Uhuru’s legacy of solid infrastructural development needs a safe and sober kind of leadership. Whether Baba offers that is for Kenyans to decide, but obviously, we are moving to this space where track record, past leadership credentials and temperament will come to bear. Whereas Baba had moments with President Moi, he worked with Moi in the interest of Kenyans, buried the hatchet and moved on.

He worked with President Kibaki, fell out, but found it within himself to work with Kibaki in the grand coalition that began the journey of transformation. At no point has he hit back or even disparaged president Moi or Kibaki. His relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta is fresh in Kenyans minds and to get into the handshake for the sake of Kenyans at the expense of a few loyalists that he probably lost in the process, speak of selflessness to many, but also a betrayal to some.

In fact, if there is any doubt about the Uhuru and Baba commitment to a Kenya of shared prosperity then one needs to go back to president Uhuru’s reaching out to Baba in March 2018 to allay those doubts. The president did not have to do it, he had won an election and had been sworn in as a legitimate president for five years.

His reaching out to Baba speaks of his genuine desire to deliver on his promises in the last term and from my political communication mind, lay a foundation for a legacy that would change the paradigm of Kenyan politics. Politics of ethnic and regional balkanization is already a thing of the past and we are witnessing an electioneering period where leaders can traverse the entire country and sell their agenda without any fear of political intolerance.

Suffice to say, President Uhuru might not say much about who succeeds him, but he has already done enough to ensure that whoever succeeds him is the choice of Kenyans. It does seem that we will be looking at the next presidential elections against the backdrop of bottom-up approach and Azimio la Umoja. One is trying to buy Kenyans into running away from what the Jubilee government has done in the last few years while the other is bringing Kenyans together as we build on the gains we have made as a country in the last few years.

The author is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies and Political communication.

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