Why Raila Odinga could be the corner stone that builders rejected
By MILAN KIPLAGAT
In ancient times, builders would put great care and consideration into selecting a cornerstone. A cornerstone is literally a stone at the corner of a building, joining two walls. It’s an important stone; its sense of “foundation” means it is an essential element.
When a building goes up, putting in the cornerstone is usually a big deal. Many cornerstones are engraved with historical information about the building, such as the year the structure was put up.
For Christians, “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” as outlined in Mathew 21:42, may ring a bell. Through his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus became the cornerstone of the church.
That Raila Odinga has become the cornerstone of Kenya’s politics and democracy is no longer in question.
Raila has played a key role in shaping Kenya’s modern political life. But it is impossible to analyze his future without recognizing that he is the perfect politician, with unmatched ability to steer and sway national politics.
Look no further than the fact that he has been able to rise to his current stature in Kenyan politics despite only having been officially in government for five years since 1992. They don’t call him an enigma for no reason.
As a matter of fact, Raila has been through the thick and thin of Kenya’s politics and understands the country’s political terrain all too well. Having evidently studied the setting while working both in government and in the opposition, he now appears to have a proper answer as to what is good for the country.
While he had the hallmarks of a nationalist since his days in Ford-Kenya in the 1990s, he has in recent years proved to be a true statesman, who believes in the greater good and puts the interests of the country first.
Just like Thabo Mbeki and Kwame Nkrumah, Raila belongs to the “it doesn't have to be me” school of thought, an attribute that has earned him admiration.
The former prime minister is a politico whose epitomes have proved compatible with those of President Uhuru Kenyatta as they seek to take Kenya to the next level where the centre can hold. The current political tranquility in the country is principally thanks to their unique political sacrifices.
Raila has had a chequered relationship with the Mt Kenya people in the past. He joined hands with Kenneth Matiba and Mwai Kibaki to challenge the Kanu regime and guided the mountain to the presidency in 2002 before facing off with Kibaki as Kenya went through one of its darkest epochs in 2007/8.
While he was a thorn in Uhuru’s flesh in 2013-17, the ground has significantly shifted after the Handshake, giving critics a chance to see his other side. He has lately enjoyed warm receptions when he tours Mt Kenya.
Considered a rich voting bloc with over six million voters, Mt Kenya region appears ready to rally behind Raila, a once-hated figure who has already proven his ability to safeguard Kenya’s unity and political stability.
Undoubtedly, persons opposed to Raila courting the region, mostly DP Ruto followers, are just playing Machiavellian politics.
The other week, Raila and his family were warmly received in Murang’a by key leaders who openly endorsed his candidature in an apparent departure from the past, when the region was deemed hostile to him.
The signs of the times were clear as Mt Kenya top guns, among them Mwangi Wa Iria, Ndiritu Muriithi, Anne Waiguru and Peter Kenneth uncharacteristically welcomed Raila to seek support for his presidential bid in the region.
They praised him as a second liberation hero deserving of the presidency, echoing messages that had been made by top businessmen who hosted the opposition leader in the region weeks earlier.
But there are still pockets of resistance to a Raila presidency across Mt Kenya. Some leaders such as Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro continue to dread the thought of Raila at the helm and are still terming him “not sellable”, in the region, warning leaders who try to prop him up that they were putting their political career on the line.
To jog the memories of leaders like Nyoro, Ruto was the most-hated politician in the country, especially by the Kikuyus, in 2007/8. In fact, in 2008, a rumour that the then Eldoret North MP was to be appointed Internal Security minister at the height of the March 2008 Coalition-Cabinet negotiations between Kibaki and Raila troubled many Kikuyus so deeply that protests were planned well in advance.
Many Mt Kenya residents could not reconcile themselves to the idea of Ruto as the minister in charge of the security apparatus.
With President Kenyatta leaving office come 2022, the region has not fronted any ‘serious’ candidate, unlike in the past, making the region a political battleground for Ruto and his political nemesis, Raila.
But if Uhuru’s speech in Kisumu during this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations is anything to go by, Raila has finally found his rest.
Milan Kiplagat is a regular commentator on social, economic and political affairs.