Run Prof, run! They are setting a trap for you!

OPINION

By ONESMUS KILONZO

My party chairman Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, greetings! First of all, let me congratulate you most profusely for your sterling performance as Governor of Makueni. You have shown exemplary leadership as far as good governance is concerned. Just like during your days at the helm of NCEC (National Convention Executive Council), where you provided the gravitas that led to the constitutional reforms that many Kenyans are enjoying today.

You have been a beacon of hope to the people of not just your county of Makueni, but also to the rest of Kenyans. Just to mention some of the projects that have brought joy to your people (as well as inspiring fame, and possibly fanning flames of jealousy from among your fellow Governors) – there is the Kikima Dairy Processing Project, then the Kalamba Fruit Processing Plant. Your Health Plan for Makueni residents has also been cited as a resounding success. In fact, Makueni has recently been cited as a perfect benchmarking county for those who wish to see how counties should be run.

Following these strings of successes, many Kenyans have come out in online forums to urge you to run for the Presidency in 2022. It is quite obvious that many Kenyans are yearning for a breath of fresh air in leadership, after many years of frustrations emanating from people-unfriendly regimes that have been fostering tribal disharmony and unfettered corruption. They think you could just be the panacea they need to put to an end to the unbridled impunity that has so much characterized our leadership as a country.

Indeed, there is no reason why you should not consider taking up the gauntlet and vie for the top seat when that time comes.

My beef with you, however, is that you have of late started throwing brickbats at your party leader, Hon. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka who heads the Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya. It baffles why you have decided to pick up a fight you know very well you cannot win.

However, I can hazard a guess about the reasons for your recent bravado. Apparently, your success at the county levels appears to have gotten the better of you. Like the proverbial bird “Nza” in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’, you have perched on an anthill and started thinking that you are on top of the world! You are even showing your intentions to challenge Kalonzo political senior – your “Chi” or a personal god in politics – to a wrestling match. You are trying to wrest from him the mantle of leadership of the Kamba Nation.

You see, Kenyans in online forums can be so convincing. They can make a politician believe that he will be President through online popularity. If you doubt this, just look at Peter Kenneth the former presidential candidate on Kenya National Congress ticket. With his “Tunawesmake” mantra, and egged on by a massive, enthusiastic Facebook and Twitter battalion, PK, as he is popularly known among Kenyans, was sure of a huge success during the 2013 Presidential poll. Earlier on, PK’s Gatanga Constituency had been rated No. 1 in terms of management of constituency development funds. With such a sterling record, PK looked as a sure bet for Presidency among Kenyans. When the results were announced, many were shocked to see PK trail even hitherto unknown candidates, such as Ali Dida!

Earlier on, in 2007, Raphael Tuju of Rarieda Constituency had been felled by an opponent with little development record. This was despite the fact that, during his tenure as MP from 2002 to 2007, Tuju had made Rarieda a model constituency, development wise.

My point in bringing to your attention the fate of these two great politicians, to offer you a word of caution as far as politics is concerned. Kenyans have proven that the so-called “development” does not rank among the hot favorites when it comes to political choices, or rather, “development” per se does not determine the fate of a presidential candidate as far as his/her popularity is concerned.

For a long time, Kenyans have proven that ethnic interests far outweigh these so-called “developmental” matters. PK and Tuju fell because of going against the grain – that is, going against community interests through failure to support Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, respectively. Indeed, you, yourself, became a victim of the same when in 2007 you chose to vie as Makueni MP via the Party of National Unity (PNU), a hugely unpopular outfit in Makueni at that time, whence you were whitewashed by Kalonzo’s ODM-Kenya candidate. I reckon that you faced the voter backlash after having earlier decided to take up Kalonzo’s Environment minister position after he had been dropped by President Kibaki following the latter’s crushing defeat during the 2005 Referendum!

In 2013, having taken note of Kalonzo’s popularity in the South Eastern Kenya region, you had to vie on Muungano Party but with a rider that your party was fully part of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). You won, but with only a minority number of MCAs from Muungano on your side, a factor that caused you a lot of problems in terms of the running of Makueni affairs from 2013 to 2017. In 2017, however, you played your cards right. Now you can work smoothly, what with the majority Wiper MCAs showing full support to your county government.

Examples abound of many other famous leaders from the region who have fallen by the wayside and rued the day they challenged Kalonzo’s political popularity in Ukambani region. Many are hardly heard of nowadays!

The reason I have decided to rejig your memory is just to bring you into my next point.

Which is that this so-called “development” tune has been sung against other national leaders by their opponents with little success. Raila Odinga, for example, has been severally besmirched by being associated with the high levels of poverty in Kibera slums, having been MP for the area for so many year. Many of his detractors even forget that Kibera was just one part of Raila’s Langata Constituency that also includes the highly affluent Karen area! But despite the “Lord of Poverty” claims, Raila is still hugely popular in the slums themselves! Those slum dwellers have been voting overwhelmingly for Agwambo over the years, claims of alleged neglect by Raila notwithstanding!

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard of Gatundu has for long been associated with high levels of poverty, characterized by rampant alcoholism and jigger manifestation. Despite that, Uhuru has been getting more than 90 per cent of the Gatundu presidential votes since 2013!

Similarly, Kalonzo’s detractors have used the high levels of poverty in Ukambani (the poverty is not unique to the region, anyway) to badmouth him as a leader who is not development-conscious. They have been harping on this issue since 2007 when Kalonzo first vied for Presidency, and also in 2013 and 2017 when he was Raila’s running mate, but with little success. Every time, Kambas have voted overwhelmingly for Kalonzo’s camp to the chagrin of those who have used the apparent “lack of development” in the region to fight him.

Am I justifying poverty and election of leaders who have no development record? No! The point I am driving home is that as a leader, you can only hold onto your so-called “development record” to run for Presidency at your own peril. Kenya is yet to reach the level of industrialized Western Nations where the populace looks at the development record of those vying for top leadership. Maybe in 20 or 40 years, we could be in that league, but for now, I think we are still “my tribe and my leader” first. Then the rest of the issues follow.

And, to be honest with you, “development” is the reason Kalonzo was elected five times as Mwingi North MP. When he took over as MP for the region, banditry was rampant in the area. By 2013 however, it was almost unheard of, courtesy of the security measures he had put in place with the assistance of the Central Government agencies. Mwingi Town has been enjoying clean water for decades courtesy of Kalonzo’s efforts that ensured that piped water was brought to Mwingi from Kiambere. When he became Mwingi North MP, there were only six secondary schools in the whole region, by the time he left in 2013, the number had risen to over 100. Tseikuru Hospital was constructed after Kalonzo sought the intervention of donors for the project. Is it any wonder, then, that he was elected five times by his constituents? And remember, this was happening in the absence of Devolution! But I digress.

Professor, I hope you have learned something from those past voting trends. Do not be duped by an overzealous online gang that you can make any big stride into the Kenyan Presidency as of now, or in 2022, or in 2027, or even in 2032. No, Sir! The odds are stacked against you. In fact, I can bet to my last shilling that you will be lucky to emerge even a distance fifth in any presidential race, present or future! And this, due to the reasons I have just stated above.

So, what next for you, Prof? I reckon that your best bet would be either to retire from politics, or to “exchange” positions with Mutula Kilonzo Junior, who many believe is poised to take over the Makueni gubernatorial position from you in 2022. In fact, you can make an excellent senator, if I may add.

Alternatively, you can choose to retire honourably and become a much sought-after elder on matters national!

But if you continue to attack your party leader in the hope that you can outsmart him in Ukambani as well as nationally, that will be your Waterloo.

Run, Prof, run! They are setting a trap for you!

 

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