Friday, October 5, 2007

Kibaki's re-election master plan: a study on how not to get re-elected

Kibaki attempts to keep a stiff upper lip amidst torrents of humiliation
suffered at the hand of Raila Odinga's ODM.
Kibaki still has a lot of life in him, but this has been more disastrous than anyone ever imagined. They started terribly with the referendum too, but this was brutal.

Why is it that Kibaki cannot hold on to any other region, save for Central Province? Believe me, it's not for lack of effort.

Kibaki's plan all a long was premised on the myth that once Raila is nominated the ODM candidate, the Luhyas would rebel and Mudavadi will be forced to decamp and Western will be in the box. We told him he was dreaming, but of course he chose to listen to his paid helpers. They are hopeless. Kibaki's people believed ODM could hold neither Western nor Rift Valley.

The disaster for Kibaki started when the ODM tremor left him with nothing. Kalonzo ran away with Ukambani, and ODM consolidated their base. Kibaki got zero. Then the mistakes started raining in. The trouble for Kibaki is that all these blunders are initially propped up as master plans, then they quickly fall a part.

The second problem for Kibaki after the crumbs from ODM never showed up was the concept of a partyless president. Kibaki was getting bad media about the fact that two months to the election he had not chosen which party to run with. Then, in panic, Kibaki jumped onto this Panu thing. But my sense is that they didn't think it through.

Originally, it was announced that only Kibaki would contest for the party. Then everybody started laughing at the very idea. Then somewhere along the way, some genius realized they needed joint nominations, and the discussions and disagreements about that have never stopped since. Today, the big agenda for Panu is whether they will have joint nominations, or go solo as parties.

It was quite amusing to see Kibaki jumping from Ford-P meeting to Kanu meeting. In both meetings, they said "We should support Kibaki, but we will nominate our own candidates," etc. Can you imagine the president of the republic with no party, and having to jump from one to the other looking for votes? I was surprised Nyachae didn't meet him with his warriors when he "invaded" his meeting.

The bottom line is that everybody is confused about the direction Panu will take in nominations, and you can expect them to fight over that for the next month. In fact my guess is that nobody is going to be talking about Panu now that the launch is done and dusted. They will go back to bickering and fighting, something they have perfected.

On the whole, Panu has become something Kenyans have resorted to joke and laugh about. They even call it names like panua, which ranks it up there in the dirty words list. That is not a place you want the president's party in.

The idea of Kibaki-friendly parties looked good at the beginning, but in reality it will kill all those parties in one swoop, leaving ODM as the only national party for a long time to come.

Imagine for a moment, that Kibaki loses the election; Panu will die a natural death because it is a party formed for the sole purpose of getting Kibaki re-elected. If that doesn't happen, then the party will disappear as Kibaki walks into the sunset of retirement, and then we will have Narc-K and DP based in Central, ODM-K based in Ukambani, and both Fords will be history. Has anybody thought about what that may mean for the country? I'll tell you what it means: there will be no viable opposition.

Remember also that the new law to finance parties from the Treasury also speficies that when different parties vote for the president, then those parties will only be financed on the basis of their MPs's votes. In other words, all Panu parties will get zero money if they don't participate as individual parties in parliamentary elections... just another unintended spanner thrown in the works. When it rains, it pours for sure.

The third blunder for Kibaki also started as a big boom. Moi endorsed Kibaki, and Kibaki supporters were all rah-rah about the so-called professor of politics being on their side. Unfortunately, Moi's support has helped Raila and ODM big time.

The one item Raila and ODM has that resonates almost wildly with Kenyans is the idea of change. Kenyans are telling their
politicians that the status quo is not an option. Nothing makes Raila and ODM look better than to see the forces lined up against them. When Moi goes nuclear accusing Raila of all sorts of things, it confirms something for Kenyans - finally they have someone out there who can stand up to the Mois, Nyachaes and Kibakis. Once again, something that was supposed to be good is turning bad; very bad.

Problem number four is Uhuru. This was another move cooked at State House to shock and awe us. It has failed. The Uhuru connection reinforced the Gema cliche, and has given Kibaki no new votes. And then Uhuru comes in with his own demands of fielding Kanu candidates, futher muddying the over-mucky waters.

Nyachae's shameful and violent actions were pretty bad for Kibaki as well. It set a bad tone and made Kibaki and his crew look terrible. Then Nyachae, being who he is, didn't know what to do. Seeing him make an angry speech at the Panu launch I almost threw up. Angry old men with personal vendettas are not going to help Kibaki. Same with that fool Mwakwere with his Maitha nonsense, which is also just embarrassing Kibaki.

Kibaki's supporters are good at only one thing - abusing Raila - and for four years, they have done it with very little to show for their efforts. If I was them, I would change tactics. But wait for them to hold competitions on who can win the Raila-bashing trophy.

ODM has done well to ignore them. ODM now must focus on their theme of change and tell Kenyans exactly what that change will be.

It is interesting that everybody says the constitution is no longer an issue. In reality, however, it is the biggest item on the campaign agenda. When Kenyans say they want change, it has everything to do with a new constitutional dispensation. If Kibaki did not sabotage the new Katiba he would now be walking back to State House.

The change mantra also has a lot to do with Kibaki's perceived tribalism. Why is Mutua buying newspaper ads to print the names of employees? Why is Kibaki talking about the poor? Simple: Kibaki knows he is losing this election because of tribalism that has infested and made a home at State House and Office of the President. He also knows the 6.1% growth is not selling to the majority of Kenyans who are living in poverty.

The sweet news for ODM is that they have become the incumbent without state power. Kibaki is playing catch-up and responding to their overtures to Kenyans.

The message of trust between the people and the leaders which Raila spoke about in Bungoma, that too is resonating. Kibaki and his people thought the trust item was going to be used against Raila. Remember the "Raila cannot be trusted" slogan That has backfired. Raila is now the one very convincingly telling Kenyans Kibaki cannot be trusted, based on his unfulfilled promises to Kenyans. Even that much-maligned MOU has come back to haunt Kibaki. Nobody is willing to make deals with Kibaki because nobody trusts him. How come everybody is now making deals with Raila?

The one thing Kibaki and his folks underestimated is Raila's ability to network with the common mwananchi. People are comfortable with him because he is directly accessible, as opposed to Kibaki, who is layered behind all sorts of formal and informal power structures, not to mention two very jealous wives. Even little pranks like visiting that widow in Bungoma and the one hundred car tour of Nairobi on Sunday are not helping. Kibaki is not a people person. That is just they way things are.

So on top of all these things, comes the latest polls from Steadman just when Kibaki is set to launch his party. That was a gift from hell. I don't trust Steadman polls, but one has to admit it hit Kibaki in the wrong place at the wrong time, coming hot on the heels of another disturbing Artur report which, for the first time, fingered Kibaki directly as the man behind that hideous act.

Also, one has to marvel at the sheer magnitude of ODM's logistical support. Look at how they turned around the fiasco with Kibaki and Co. stopping their rally in Nairobi. In just 24 hours, they switched their operations from Nairobi to Bungoma at the drop of a hat, and held one of the most successful rallies in recent memory... and Kibaki had just been there! How did they pull it off?

It was an amazing act that took the air out of Panu in a very big way. Imagine Kombo and his dwindling group of Ford-K supporters. Here was Kombo in Nairobi talking about "One Dangerous Man" (ODM), and here was the "dangerous man" holding a huge rally in Kombo's own constituency, and being accorded a hero's welcome. Kombo must have been a very disturbed fellow during the launch.

So that is the week that was. But knowing the ODM crew, they are not resting on their laurels, thinking "we got this in the box!" This is a marathon and Kibaki is going to put up the fight of his life, but it could get really bad for Kibaki.

If things don't getter better, Kibaki and his crew are going to go nuclear, and then they are going to make some real huge mistakes. But we are ready for them, whichever route they want to take out of State House.

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