Raila Odinga has been a key player in Kenyan politics for the last three decades. Right from the 1982 attempted coup to his fight for the second liberation. He also attempted to clinch the presidency three times without success. He has become a formidable force that endears himself to the masses. To his supporters, Raila Odinga is not just a person. He is an institution!
With his good and bad credentials in politics notwithstanding, many people are calling for him to retire. They want him not to vie for the presidency in 2017. Even the opinion polls by Ipsos Synovate keep repeating the same question on whether he should retire. Many of his supporters have called these polls a sham, but they present people’s perception on Raila Odinga’s legacy.
Talking of legacy, there comes a time when every kingpin relinquishes his position. Before then, they choose a successor who will take over from them. For those who refuse to do so, they leave their thrones disorganized and their people disillusioned. While some local communities have changed their regional kingpins, the same has not happened for the Luo Community.
Raila Odinga family’s firm grip on Luo Community
For the Kikuyu community (alongside GEMA), the legacy has changed three times. It started from Jomo Kenyatta, to Mwai Kibaki and now to Uhuru Kenyatta. The next possible candidate is Peter Kenneth. He has never been vocally critical of the current regime. He always seems to play cool with matters pertaining to Uhuru and Ruto. This was evident during the presidential debates before the 2013 general elections. After the elections, he went underground (disguised as a political hiatus).
For the Kalenjin community, they had Moi as their regional kingpin for 24 years. Moi never named a successor. He thought that he could hold onto his influence of the Kalenjin community after leaving office. He was wrong. Moi left the position of the kingpin vacant when he left office. William Ruto took it from him and Moi never anticipated the coup.
Up to now, Ruto wields the authority for the community. The Moi family’s influence is only concentrated in parts of Baringo County. They have tried to make the community rebel against Ruto to no success. The Kericho Senatorial by-elections proved that Moi’s influence is dead.
The Odingas have been the sole kingpins of the Luo community since independence. They are the sole authority on any political matters pertaining to the community. No person can thrive politically in Nyanza politics without seeking the endorsement of Raila Odinga. If you come from Nyanza and you fight Raila, then it becomes your ticket to political suicide.
Raila Odinga has kept his support base intact
When Dalmas Otieno questioned the sham party elections in ODM at Kasarani, Raila and his party sidelined him. Raila did not even attend his daughter’s funeral. When Kidero went to Nyanza to take part in a Harambee, they accused him of undermining Raila. Raila’s forces came out guns blazing and told Kidero to return and conduct his Harambees in Nairobi County.
Despite that, Raila Odinga deserves applause for keeping his community support base intact. Now comes the dilemma. Since he is the sole authority, he should be grooming someone to replace him. He has not groomed anyone.
Many thought that he was secretly grooming his son Fidel to replace him. With the unfortunate death of his first-born son Fidel, the thoughts of a successor turned down. With old age catching up with him, Raila Odinga should groom someone before his time runs out.
Who is fit to succeed Raila Odinga?
That will not be easy if he keeps deploying his forces to fight those who compete against him. He has to cultivate a genuine appreciation of competition. The reason why he lacks a genuine candidate to succeed him is obvious. Sycophants surround him and use his name for their own selfish gains.
Raila needs to stop listening to the old guard who mislead him. He has already done enough damage by alienating the so-called ‘young Turks’ in his party. The imminent departure of Ababu Namwamba tells it all. The goons called ‘men-in-black’ that disrupted the party nominations in Kasarani made the situation worse. Some claim that Raila had a hand in that to maintain his firm grip on the party.
If he does not choose or groom a successor, he will leave his community a divided house. It will not stand on its own. Already, many members of the Luo community harbor deep feelings of bitterness. They feel that Raila Odinga was rigged out in the 2007 and 2013 presidential elections. This has left them feeling sidelined by the past and present government and out in the political ‘cold’.
However, who is fit to replace Raila Odinga? He is already chosen to run for presidency in the coming August 2017 elections.