A dear brother, Jackson Kimeli, asked me in very unequivocal terms who I would vote for between Hon Peter Kenneth and the Rt Hon Raila Odinga. A straight question deserves a straight answer – but alas, I am afraid I cannot just give one name or the other, for that would imply that these are the only two candidates worthy of consideration!
I am a firm believer that every one of our aspiring presidents must be judged on the basis of their past record in ALL respects, their vision for the country, and their action plan for achieving that vision. Their past record enables us to evaluate the probability of their success in the future, and their vision must reflect our vision as citizens. Their action plan, by laying out their proposed objectives, milestones and ways & means towards both, enables we the voters to judge whether they are merely making deceptive and unattainable wild promises or actually describing an achievable dream. Most importantly, that action plan enables us to hold them to account in the course of their term in office, and at the next election.
I have a reasonable idea of Hon Peter Kenneth’s past – and I have the privilege of sharing an alma mater with him. I know of his exemplary management of Gatanga CDF and the anarchic Kenya Football Federation. I know that he has always paid his taxes, long before the public outcry and long before it became politically fashionable for Members of Parliament to do so! I know that he is a man who has often gone against the general political trend, and that he has had the courage to defy the acknowledged Ethnic Chief. I love the fact that he has no fanatical ethnic constituency, and that his party is, so far, devoid of the usual recycled political villains that litter our political landscape. I know that issues have been raised about his integrity, but that no one has so far presented evidence that is even remotely believable to backup those allegations. From his website, I know that he has an intriguing outline of an action plan for the future of this nation – an outline that I find attractive and compelling.
I also have a reasonable idea of the Rt Hon Raila Odinga’s past – I know that he stood up to power at immense personal cost when lesser men and women chose the path of cowardly silence and/or collaboration – lesser men and women who now stand against him with amazing intrepidness. I know he has been consistent in his demands for an expanded democratic space, even as he has often been accused of being a ‘dictator’, whatever that may mean in the circumstances in which the accusations have been raised. But I also know that he is a man with a fanatical ethnic constituency, and there are those in his entourage that have derided and even harassed those that are seen to be opposed to him – he is in fact an Ethnic Chief! I know that his party has within it persons with a less-than-stellar political past, and whose integrity has been called to question. I know that issues have been raised about his personal integrity – but I am also aware that despite him being probably the politician with the most enemies in Kenya, none of these enemies, some immensely powerful, have been able to initiate and/or sustain any criminal case or other legal censure against him for these alleged acts of indiscretion. I know in as much as there are those that accuse him of being the primary cause of the bloodshed of 2007/8, there are also those that insist that peace was only restored because he was willing to surrender his claim to the presidency and accept an obviously inferior position. I know that there are those that from time to time cite the abortive coup of 1982 against him, without consideration of the political environment in which that ill-fated event happened. I know what his action platform was for the 2007 election, and have a good idea of what it is likely to be for the 2013 election. It is a platform as good as any. I am also aware of those that cite the desperate circumstances of his Kibera Constituency – making it appear as though the poverty and desperation in that constituency is unique, or that it is his personal responsibility to end it.
Having considered all these, I reject those that say Hon Peter Kenneth’s quest for the presidency is a lost cause and I also reject those that say that the Rt Hon Raila Odinga should ‘retire with President Kibaki’, or that he cannot possibly win the presidency! As for whom I would vote for between the two? I must hasten to say my choices are not limited to the two! I will vote for the candidate that will most likely place the nation above self; that will promote national unity above ethnic hegemony; that will be prepared to declare their personal wealth and how they acquired it before they step into office; that will be ready to suspend their active participation in private business for as long as they are in office to avoid even the mere impression of conflict of interest; that is prepared to subject themselves to the proposed integrity audit, whether or not the laws have been successfully diluted and adulterated as to make them useless for this purpose; that is not seeking political alliances just for the purpose of winning office or seeking office for the express purpose of subverting the cause of justice; that is willing to bring to justice by fair and timely due process the crooks, the thieves and the killers that litter our political past, without converting the same into a political witch-hunt or vendetta; and that will courageously and resolutely implement the Constitution, including reversing the adulterations already committed against it, with a view to addressing the entrenched poverty, inequality, and marginalisation.
I will vote for the candidate that has most likely sat where I have sat, that most likely shares my fears and aspirations, that most likely understands the pains of personal definition by ethnicity! I will vote for the candidate that has very personal reasons to desire and work for a future Kenya that is prosperous. Above all, I will vote for the candidate that is most likely to entrench and nurture individual sovereignty and the rule of law! Which of these two best suit my profile for Kenya’s 4th President? I dare say I have given the answer!