ODM-K must stop playing games with electorate
By Denis Onyango
ODM-KENYA is beginning to talk to itself but pretending to be talking to its supporters.The monologue is evident in every move the party has made lately. A debate is simmering that the party picks a flagbearer through consensus. Aspirants are discussing it in hotel boardrooms. Alongside the consensus conspiracy is talk that the party needs to pick the one best suited to easily beat President Kibaki in election later in the year. Somebody is trying to make the next elections look like 2002’s.
Then, the pressing issue was to beat Kanu. Kenyans were willing to vote for anything, as long as it looked likely to beat Kanu.But this year, the situation is different and whoever thinks Kenyans are simply looking for Kibaki’s replacement is off the mark. The Kibaki regime is miles ahead of the Kanu Government Kenyans wanted to replace in 2002.
The party and the aspirant seeking to run against Kibaki must not think the urgent thing is to replace him.
Avoid attracting outright failures.ODM-Kenya, in particular, needs to understand that the nation is looking for who can take it a step farther from where Kibaki has put it. Kenyans are not simply looking to replace a regime and an individual as was the case in 2002. One of the tragedies of the presidency in Africa is that it has largely attracted low fliers and, sometimes, outright failures.The desire to leave a mark on the world never bothers African presidents. ODM-Kenya, like Narc, promised to change that. Narc did change the aspirations of the nation. President Kibaki’s regime may not be a starling success, but it is a distinct improvement on the previous regime.
ODM-Kenya was to make Kenyans aim even higher. But the party cannot do this if its immediate task is simply to find one who can beat Kibaki.That is the stuff of nations, leaders and parties without ambition. It is the kind of leadership that will start reasoning that at least we are better off than Somalia. In all progressive nations, elections are a lot more than replacing the incumbent. People look for leaders who can mobilise and motivate the nation. Elections should be about long-term plans.
Party leaders getting smart with the public
The reason J F Kennedy’s legacy refuses to die in America is the perception of his role. Kennedy came to the presidency with the ambition of taking man to the moon in a decade. He never lived to see it happen, but he set in motion a process that came to pass.After talking big for close to a year, ODM-Kenya is now talking to itself and in low tones. Last month, out of the blues, news filtered into newsrooms that the party was heading to London on a peace-building mission.
Presidential hopeful and Mwingi North MP Mr Kalonzo Musyoka broke the news and praised the initiative at a rally in western Kenya. Party leader Mr Mutula Kilonzo confirmed he knew about it, but he would not attend. Another presidential hopeful, Eldoret North MP Mr William Ruto, knew about it and prepared to attend. Mr Uhuru Kenyatta never talked about it. Mr Raila Odinga, who was out of the country, said he would attend. But just before take off, some leaders called a press conference and disowned the trip. After the London debacle, which has never been fully explained, a section of the ODM-Kenya leadership has been demanding that presidential aspirants hold joint rallies.Alongside that, is a quiet push for the party to disown the nomination process, sit in a hotel and pick the candidate. These are signs of a party and leaders beginning to get smart with the public.
It is the kind of smartness that betrays a party running away from something. Proponents of joint rallies say the strategy will save the party from disintegration. The push for consensus is also being touted as a way to keep the party together.
Attempt to confuse the public
For close to a year, ODM-K has gone round the country promising to conduct US-style election primaries that would be a pacesetter in Africa. In the US, no party imagines joint rallies. None fears that an aspirant could defect due to internal campaigns.The idea of a Council of Elders to pick a candidate for the US Democratic Party or the GOP cannot appear even in the dreams of party members.
In the US primaries, aspirants run separate campaigns until the voters make the final decision. Either ODM-K is admitting that its plans were too ambitious or it is running away from something. There is more to being President than winning the highest number of votes. Individual campaigns and subsequent nominations give party supporters a glimpse of the organisational capacity of the campaigner. Putting a rally together requires good management of resources, timing and believers in your cause. An individual who is able to do this successfully makes a statement about his or her abilities. The one who hides behind the party is equally making a statement. Campaigns provide an opportunity for the public to see the candidate’s capacity to rally support. That support should see the candidate win or lose the nominations. Above all, campaigns bring out the ambitions of the aspirants and the extent to which the ambitions resonate with the nation.What is going on in ODM-Kenya now, where the party wants its aspirants to hang together, amounts to an attempt to confuse the public about where the buck stops now and where it will stop if the party takes power. Clouding issues is a strategy ODM-Kenya has pulled on Kenyans.You only need to look at the London trip to notice that the party escaped by spreading blame without anyone taking responsibility. The buck never stopped anywhere and the public may never know the truth about London.The aspirants shut themselves at Nairobi Club, exchanged bitter words and came out claiming they had resolved the issues.The writer is a senior reporter with The Standard
ODM-K must stop playing games with electorate