There are things you can hear whispered around inner political circles that are easy to dismiss as nonsense. Like this persistent rumour I have been hearing.
I have realized that too many times “nonsense” and propaganda turns out to be true. Let me remind you folks of a deadly mistake many Kenyans made in the run up to the 2007 general elections. The story started with political columnist Mutahi Ngunyi warning in 2005 that he did not believe that Mwai Kibaki was capable of handing over power peacefully. Then as the elections rapidly approached there was talk that the president’s men were planning massive rigging to keep him in power at all costs. Many people dismissed this as pure nonsense. How could the gentleman golf-playing former don of Makerere University do such a thing? That had to be pure propaganda by ODM fanatics.
This view persisted even when evidence started cropping up all over the place. The most memorable for me was when an angry Musikari Kombo told his constituents in an unguarded moment; “you are wasting your time. The outcome will not be what you think.” I still hear his voice and shudder at those words.
Well we all know what happened next. Mwai Kibaki will go down in history as the president who brought the country to the brink of total disintegration. The mess caused by the honorable member for Othaya will take at least a century to heal—maybe more.
But now other whispers have started emerging.
The story this time sounds like pure fiction. The first time I heard it, I laughed loudly and dismissed it. But it has persisted and now I have started taking it seriously. I have to admit that the motive is there (that is the first thing you look for in a murder and in politics too).
It is whispered that Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki have made a deal concerning the Kibaki succession. Bearing in mind past experiences, there are some kind of irrevocable guarantees that both sides have made to each other.
There are some interesting things that have happened that seem to confirm this. Top on my list is the behaviour of one Kalonzo Musyoka at around the time I am told this deal was sealed. The Vice president was suddenly eagerly talking about 2012 and the alliances he had in place. It seemed that the statement (which angered many Kenyans) came out of the blue. However those who know the VP better will know that he is the kind of politician who always reacts and hardly ever initiates anything. What triggered the VP to suddenly start talking about 2012? Was it this deal that had just been concluded between the president and PM? Was this his move on the political chess board in an attempt to remain relevant?
But even as we seek answers to those questions, what is the essence of this deal?
The idea is that Mwai Kibaki will not retire from politics in 2012. Instead he will leave the presidency but defend his Othaya seat. He will then support Raila Odinga for the presidency and Raila will support Kibaki for the premiership. The rationale here is that the political class has a lot to lose if things go wrong in 2012 and so it is a choice between sticking together or hanging separately.
I promptly stopped laughing at this theory when I read the screaming newspaper headlines about the last hurdle to a new constitution being the division of powers between the PM and the presidency which will be ironed out by the two principals. What is not public yet are the hurdles that have been put in place to block the possibility of any pumbavu ever rising to the presidency. What the political class wants is to retain as much control as possible over what will happen in 2012.
The whole problem about this new Kanstitution (as the late Kijana Wamalwa used to call it) is that it is being put together not for posterity as it should but for the benefit of the current political class. If these guys had their way the clause for the presidency would read something like this; the president must either have a gap between his front teeth or be a pot belied golf playing former don of a well-known university. The presidency may (with consultation between the two types stated) descend to some soccer loving MP who represents a Nairobi constituency, but only with assurances that he will not be controlled by a pumbavu public that cannot be trusted to make wise decisions for the country.