Minister for Information & Communication, ODM-Kenya Chairman and MP for Kacheliba Samuel Poghisio, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Nairobi February 6, 2008.
When it comes to alternative leadership, many Kenyans are quick to mention names like Maina Kiai, Mutava Musyimi, Wangari Maathai, John Githongo and so forth.
Has anyone looked at parliament in search for alternative leadership or does Kenya truly have a Barack Obama within our midst?
Me thinks there is!
Information and Communication minister, who is also the ODM-K MP for Kacheliba , Samuel Losurwon Poghisio is one such person. He also happens to be the latest Kenyan to declare his interest to run for presidency in 2012, presumably on ODM-K ticket.
In an elaborate series of thanksgiving and homecoming ceremonies in West Pokot district last week, Sam Poghisio not only announced his intention to run for president in 2012 but was also seemingly ‘endorsed’ by ODM-K party leader and V-P Kalonzo Musyoka, himself an interested party to the presidential ticket.
Sources reveal that before making this announcement, Poghisio has since late last year held deep consultations with Pokot elders, local MPs and political personalities who matter in the Upper Rift Valley region who have all showered him with praise, paid glowing tribute to his lengthy public service record and unequivocally supported his noble intentions to go for the presidency. Some of them have been quoted asking why ex-President Moi did not see the potential in Poghisio early enough.
Former Daystar University lecturer ‘Pogs’ (as he was popularly known by Daystar students) turns 50 this year and will be 54 by the next general elections in 2012. One of the longest serving MPs, Pogs was was first elected to parliament in 1988 at the age of 30 and has been consequently relected in 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007.
The 2007 general elections were most remarkable for Pogs, considering ODM swept most of the parliamentary seats in Kalenjin land. One of those that were spared was Kacheliba which elected an ODM-K MP, reputed to be the only one in the entire expansive Rift Valley province. Perhaps his strongest selling point is that, unlike most of the leading Rift Valley politicians, Poghisio is among the few moderate former KANU MPs who did not inherit their political mantles and remain largely untainted by corruption or ethnic cleansing allegations normally associated with bigwigs of the former ruling party. Interestingly, these KANU moderates, which featured the likes of the late Bonaya Godana and Robert Ouko, were generally acceptable to opposition supporters before and after the struggle of multi-party politics during those dark Moi days.
Most of his colleagues in parliament cutting across political parties rate Poghisio very highly and civil servants who have had the pleasure to serve under his ministry describe him as a strict but amenable boss.
Political analysts and a few Western diplomats believe a Poghisio presidency could help heal and unite the country. It could also offer the best chance for facilitation of fair, representative and acceptable constitutional reforms because, unlike ALL potential candidates from the so-called major tribes, Poghisio does not have any significant personality scores to settle with anybody in Kenya, and neither does he nor the Pokot people have any historical grievances that might cause a split in this country right down the middle. In other words, he carries no political burden that would work against him in the eyes of all Kenyan people.
What are his REAL chances of being elected president of Kenya?
To begin with, while still in ODM-K, Pogs has to contend with going beyond V-P Kalonzo Musyoka, who by virtue of being a sitting Vice President and the party’s former presidential candidate, has a huge headstart over Pogs. Even more challenging, the party is still in the hands of Daniel Maanzo who remains more of a Kalonzo ally than a Poghisio ally.
Beyond Kalonzo lie national challenges. Mwai Kibaki, Daniel Arap Moi and Jomo Kenyatta were all elected and supposedly ‘re-elected’ to the presidency under varying circumstances. But if the truth be told, they had to use incumbency to manipulate things in their favour so as to win. Pogs faces an uphill task and unfortunately Western diplomats or leaders who have so far endorsed him do not provide the millions of votes required to win a presidential contest.
One of the shortest ways to the the top of the political ladder is for Pogs to effectively market himself. And here, effective could mean staging a bloodless coup in ODK-K where he is already Chairman but his aim should be to take over and declare himself party leader. He has willing partners in the Kilonzos and Kubebea. Thereafter, he should immediately embark on establishing alliances with parties that can be sold countrywide as opposed to briefcase parties.
As a former high school teacher and university lecturer, Pogs is a man of modest means and even then, hails from one of those tribes that most Kenyans have very little knowledge of except perhaps cattle rustling and other backward behaviour. The Pokots are sometimes considered to be non-Kenyans and are frequently derogated to join their Karamoja kinsmen in Uganda. One important aspect of any presidential campaign in Kenya is the ability of the respective candidates to marshall funds that can adequately finance a formidable campaign effort. A conservative budget for both party and candidate can be placed at Kshs. 5 billion. Is Pogs ready to raise and part with this mind-boggling amount considering it is a risk that carries no guarantee of winning?
Controversy sells. As a politician who is on the threshold of his third decade in parliament, I bet he knows this very well. As a Pokot MP, he has courted many controversies, just like his mentor Francis Lotodo. But West Pokot District is not the same a platform as national politics. Poghiso will need to adopt radical positions (similar to what Raila Odinga, Martha Karua and William Ruto have done) so as to capture the national psyche. With the constitutional referendum coming up, it is a perfect opportunity for Pogs associate himself with the push for anything that identifies with the masses in West Pokot and the country at large (eg. devolution or parliamentary system) and then openly and radically push for its enactment in the final draft.
Poghisio belongs to the Nilotic Pokot sub-tribe of the Kalenjin who occupy the West Pokot and Baringo Districts of Rift Valley, Kenya and also in Eastern Karamoja on the Ugandan side of the border. There are less than 150,000 registered voters in the entire West Pokot district comprising three constituencies of Kacheliba, Kapenguria and Sigor. He is already popular enough in West Pokot, he needs to extend this popularity in to neighbouring districts and eventually to the larger Rift Valley so as to be at par with, if not greater than, the William Rutos of this world.
In 2002, Mwai Kibaki’s election not only brought an end to KANU’s 40 years grip on power but it also successfully united the country as never seen since the formation of FORD in 1992. If any of the two leading political parties (ODM and PNU) could put ethnicity aside in 2012, then form an alliance with ODM-K (assuming the party nominates Pogs) and all rally behind Poghisio’s run for presidency (like they did Kibaki’s), then Kenyans can begin to boast to belong to the same league of 'tribeless' societies like Tanzania.
ODM- Kenya soon goes to its own retreat to discuss how it will comply with the provisions of the political parties act. Other than this challenge, the party will also have to discuss and resolve its future relationship with PNU and by extension the thorny issue of internal rebellion, as well as the recent declaration by its Chairman Samuel Popghisio that he is gunning for the presidency in 2012.
Please ODM-K, do not let brother ‘Pogs’ be another Julia Ojiambo running mate circus!