Friday, December 21, 2007

Kibaki's Grand Trek to Muthaiga

A frequently asked question, whose answer only lies with President Kibaki, is whether in defeat in the contest for State House, he will take up his Othaya seat.

While one can’t tell if he will win re-election as President, one can bet with certainty he will retain his Othaya seat without sweating. His invincibility in Central Kenya is not in doubt. It is because the President chose, with prodding from those around him, to fight for re-election, that he raised the stakes for himself. For the President it must have been like plotting a coup: it is only ‘illegal’ if it is abortive.

The first, and the most obvious risk, is that of being driven into ignominy along with the tag of Kenya’s first President to be toppled at the ballot. Few African leaders go that way. Which is why in many parts of our continent, it is considered a disgrace to lose office with all its arsenals on hand to use and abuse.

That could explain why the President is doling out whatever is in store — new districts, water and electricity projects, anything the government can give. The backbone of his campaign programme, like in Kanu’s days, is our public resources. The other supportive bone is the provincial administration, which smoothens the ground for incumbents. Used discreetly, it is a powerful force. These days, they need not organise power blackouts during vote counting. More can be achieved with intelligence and information warfare.

The other risk Kibaki took, and which can only make sense as a technicality, is to lose and end up the leader of official Opposition for the second time in his life. That way, he will take over from Kanu chairman, Uhuru Kenyatta, who — because of Kenya’s ongoing tribal realignments — walked the office into Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.

There is also the assumption anchored onto the falling fortunes of Mwingi North MP, Kalonzo Musyoka. The ODM-Kenya candidate is now telling the world he said was waiting for his presidency that he is ready to join anyone on defeat.
It seems that before us is a two-horse race between President Kibaki and Orange Democratic Movement’s candidate, Raila Odinga. The ‘prophets’ do not think so, and are waiting for Godot. The hilarious side is that in the normal order of things, and in a Raila win, Kibaki will be on the opposite side of the House leading the thumping of the feet to ensure that which is against Government passes.

The other risk, and which is not of his making, given his age, and the toll he took from the unfortunate accident in Machakos in 2002, is that he would still try and make whistle-stop tours of the country for days on end and be the awesome hunter.

The final risk, which to me has the funnier side, is that being the first President to carry his ‘bed’ to State House, he will have to endure the media glare in defeat since they will be at all gates to capture on camera the great trek to Muthaiga and Othaya. Photojournalists will shove and elbow each other to get the best picture of the caravan out of State House.

With all this in mind, my answer to the question whether Kibaki will take up his parliamentary seat is ‘No’. It will probably go to one of his children. Who would want to be in the Opposition benches when the ministers you sacked so unceremoniously are in Government? My guess is that not even Kibaki.

These thoughts run through the mind when I see the feeble nature of Kibaki’s campaigns. His rallies are predictable, only the goodies change. PNU is yet to settle down, and Kanu is cunningly carving for itself a place at the high table because Narc-Kenya, where the President initially locked up the strongest of his ministers, has been reduced to the same level as Shirikisho, Mazingira and New Ford Kenya.

The President could be feeling the heat and that is why we had a Kenyatta Day unlike any other. The President simply turned it into his boxing ring with Raila, the object of attacks by his campaigners. The point is that not many in his camp seem to appreciate the many risks he took. They are too busy demonising (nay, lionising) Raila instead of building bridges with communities that long lost trust in his leadership because of the callous and insensitive way it used the surgical knife once it landed on their hands.

There is also the tribal face of the ‘lucrative’ arm of his Government!

But as some argue, maybe they also feel it is too late to mend the broken eggshells Kibaki and his men walked on once in power. However, politicians often take the leap of faith. The problem with this kind of leap is that if it backfires, the consequences are grim...

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