Although I admire Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the selfless role he played in widening the democratic space in Kenya, championing the cause of the voiceless and the statesmanship he showed when President Kibaki stole an election victory from him, his just-concluded homecoming party in Kisumu failed to address pertinent issues that directly affect his own people.
Judging by the furious reactions that greet any comments perceived by his fanatical supporters to be negative, I’m aware that what I’ll say here will not be sweet music to them. But that is democracy. As much as Raila’s supporters are entitled to their own views, they should in the same breadth respect alternative views – whether they agree with them or not.
Raila’s home-coming party was of major significant. He was the second person after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta to occupy the post of PM. Raila is a man who has selflessly fought for democracy for the Kenya people. He has been detained for a total of eight years by retired President Moi. Raila has spent more years of his political career in the Opposition than in the Government. And he won the hearts of many Kenyans and the international community when President Kibaki shamelessly stole the presidency from him in the last December 27 General Election and he humbled himself to the lesser post of PM for the sake of the Kenyan people and the nation.
The new PM deserved the home-coming bash. However, Raila home-coming parties on Saturday and Sunday largely dwelt on raw politics and self-glorification. Matters that directly affect millions of lives in the Luo Nyanza - development and economy, education, the shameful poverty, the untapped fishing industry that is Lake Victoria’s goldmine for Luos, the need to tone down high-voltage politics by the residents of Nyanza and go back to their farms and businesses to uplift their living standards, etc etc – took a back seat. The home-coming parties were turned into a hero-worshipping affair and Raila loved it.
Being a PM with executive powers and with the majority MPs in Parliament, Raila wasted a good opportunity over the weekend for he failed to explain to his people how they will benefit from the Coalition Government he laboured so hard to put in place. Had I been in Raila’s position, I would have seized the occasion to tell my people my vision for uplifting the economy of Nyanza and the pathetic living standards in the region.
Kenyans watched Raila on TV being at pains to explain to his supporters which of his MPs got which ministry portfolio. That’s fine. But he should have gone ahead and explained what benefits his people were going to reap by having the region represented in key decisions of the coalition government.
Had I been Raila, I would have told the huge crowd that turned up to fete him that I would convene a meeting of political leaders, professionals and top brains from the region to come up with a blue-print of turning around the economy of the region for the benefit of the common man. Raila must realise that his supporters can’t feed on raw politics from January to December year in year out.
It’s a known fact that Nyanza region – especially Luo Nyanza – lags behind in development despite producing some of Kenya top brains. The region has been neglected by successive post-independence governments and this has been linked to the abrasive kind of politics played by leaders from the region.
I liked Raila’s plea to his supporters to change their long-held mentality of being in the Opposition and know that they were now firmly in the Government. Since Kenya attained independence in 1964, Luo Nyanza has been the bedrock of Kenya’s Opposition and this has impacted negatively in the economic development of the region.
Together with Thika, Luo Nyanza has the highest rate of HIV/AIDs infections in the country. Apart from individual performances by students, Luo Nyanza scores poorly in overall performance in national examinations. After Kenya attained independence, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s rallying call to his own Kikuyu community was that they should go back to their farms. He also spoke about hard work every time he took the podium to address his people. Luo Nyanza needs water supply, good infrastructure, industries etc.
Instead of sitting down and mourning about neglect, leaders of this region should sit down and chart the way forward for their community. This should have been the focus of Raila’s key note address to his people.
How will the Luo community or other communities benefit from their MP flying the flag? It’s time it dawned on Kenyans who abandon their daily chores at the expense of politics that the real beneficiary of ministerial and public service appointments are the individuals and their immediate family, and sometimes a few of friends and sycophants.
The thousands who turned up at the home-coming parties should reflect on what they personally achieved after braving the scotching sun to give Raila a hero’s welcome, crown him a Luo elder and listen to empty political speeches. Next time an MP or a Cabinet Minister or the PM holds such a bash, the people who will attend should tell the politician that: “we are happy you have realised your political dreams, but now tell us how we, as your loyal supporters, are going to benefit from the job we fought so hard for you to get.”
The benefits of the public offices held by the MPs should trickle down to the common man just in the same way the MPs keeps demands that the benefits realised by the Government trickled down to the common man. It’s not a question of MPs bursting their bellies with food while the people who fought for them to get the plum jobs die of shameful poverty.
Unless Raila dwells less on being glorified like a semi-god and focuses more on real issues that affect his subjects in Luo Nyanza and the rest of Kenya, he’ll realise when its too late that he is on a self-destruction path.
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