The Raila Odinga Show

As the local cameras canvased every face on the stage and the international lens stayed focused on Bashir, all Kenyans in attendance were watching one man.

It makes a statement when your entrance causes noticeably more cheer than that of the President of a nation. Say what you will about Raila Odinga, the people love him and swear by his every word.

So much so that he couldn’t even read his Oath of Allegiance without the crowd punctuating every comma with a cheer and every sentence break with an ovation. It was a sight to behold: every which way he strolled, dignitaries reached out to shake his hand. In the distant crowds, grown men and woman, jumping out of their seats reaching towards the man as though he were not hundreds of metres away and could indeed somehow reach out and touch them back. All this as he calmly waltzed the stage, commanding more power with every step. You would soon forget that he had just had brain surgery. You would even sooner forget that a certain Mr. Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic, was actually the most important man on that stage.

More important, Yes. More powerful, maybe. But when it comes to popularity in Kenya, Tinga sets the bar way too high to conceptually comprehend. Put it this way, if there were a Solar Eclipse right now and this man climbed on stage and began talking about it, the rest of the world would witness the eclipse; we’d hear about it from Odinga. He is a veritable force of nature. This is evidenced by the roars that follow every entrance he makes, the fact that he clocked in as a higher ranking trending topic on twitter than both Kenya and Bashir. And maybe even the fact that, two years out, a lot of people have already decided that he’s going to walk away with the elections.

I wasn’t around for the 2007 elections. In fact, at the time they were going on, I was pinballing between Europe and the US, trying to make some money. So it was that I spoke with a Kenyan colleague in Germany who said something to me that I will never forget. Before the post-election violence even erupted, he said: “People won’t just vote for this man, they will do whatever he says. Win or lose, his power is scary.” True to this fact, we’ve witnessed him shepherding the nation, time and time again, and then walking away as though all he did was raise a finger.

So for as much as we are celebrating a New Constitution and a New Kenya as we march towards our chance at new leadership in 2012, it seems that our government will yet again been headed by familiar faces.

Perhaps the most familiar face in the land.

It’s his country; we just live in it.

23 thoughts on “The Raila Odinga Show

  1. Lol iCon. Raila’s theatrics enthrall you that much? This is more than a mere puff piece, this is akin to worship.
    Raila…has no power. It is a game he’s playing. Yesterday was his way to show Ruto that he’s no match for him. Simply. Politics is always beyond what you see in the press.

    Ps: did u see that ashlar passed under the guise of the conrnerstone upon which we rebuild our country during the parade before the armed forces? And you still want to claim Mason’s weild no power in decision making in Kenya?

    • Don’t get me wrong, Py. I’m not entertained by Raila. But people are. A lot of them. And that’s what gets me.

      I didn’t even watch the promulgation: spent my day in the office reading, working, writing,…making a real change in my life.

      But when I stepped out, I had to witness 100s and 100s of wananchi blowing so much smoke up his ass that I’m sure he was coughing some out wherever he was.

      Politics have never moved me beyond the human dynamics behind them. I was in Atlanta when Obama won. I spent that day designing logos and shopping online for the Air Max 1 You-Breathe . That’s what stood out to me that day; acquiring rare sneaks. Obama, meh. I’m just impressed so many people are on his sac that his genital region has the population density of Hong Kong.

      Likewise with Raila. I don’t know the man’s politics; none of us do to be quite frank. To the best of my recollection he never says what he will do, just says what he’s done. And when he does say what he will do, he falls short. But he’s a politician. Put that description on any of them and watch it apply. But we do know his tactics. As far as being a populist, this man is one of the best out there.

      I didn’t see the ashlar though. Still havent watched the whole thing. The man to talk to about specifics is misterNV: he was actually in attendance.

      • “Likewise with Raila. I don’t know the man’s politics; none of us do to be quite frank.” You underestimate people.
        The agenda is simple. He can go out drinking and crash in his ride and get out of hospital claiming cranial pressure. Whatever. That’s small time. The big agenda though is quite clear all you have to do is stop watching the news. During the drafting of the promulgated constituition, Raila was against it all. Against Kibaki. How comes time for Yes & No he was on Kibaki’s side? Do you realise what position that put Ruto and Uhuru and Kalonzo is?

        Raila isn’t loved or adored. He has been booed repeatedly, stones have been thrown at him in his very own shaggz. I know fellow students who are paid millions to get UoN students to fill political careers. That is their occupation. Yesterday, Kibera was empty. If everybody around you says, regardless of what you believe, Lady Gaga is awesome; tada! She becomes awesome in your eyes for a flash of a second if you have reasoning powers. If you do not reason then you will not question.

        Just for the record, I’m not decrying Raila over here because I’m with his opponents or something. I just don’t like the man.

      • I don’t not like him, nor do I like him. I just always find him impressive to watch in public. He’s mastered the ability to draw crowds and adulation. THAT is how he steals the show. Yes, it’s properly coordinated and such, but hate it or love it, he gets the pop vote he needs. Just like Lady Gaga sells records…

      • Icon,
        It is true the crowd was bouyant to see Raila but as someone commented, yesterday was one day you would walk in Kibera with no fear after all all the residents were in Uhuru Park. Raila will for sure become president if it will be that crowd and the whole of Nyanza whose votes will matter but unfortunately. Raila will need to win all the Kenyan hearts to be elected not just the Kibera Uhuru park crowd. Kenyans have grown beyond euphoria to real substance politics (a little that is). Fabregas & vitendawili yesterday was really odd. Kalonzo actually had a better speech for occassion. 2012 if a not a foregone conclusion. It is a very open field and I am telling you that people have gotten tired of the so called political alliances during campaign which are there to propel a single candidate. I am sure Raila nad his handlers know this. If it is only the Kibera & Nyanza votes that matter, yes he is surely the president for life, unfortunately not.

  2. During the promulgation, I was interested in a rather peculiar group of people: the Presidential security and the First Lady.
    Raila did not attract my interest because I’d sensed that he’d start his football (and ‘vitendawili’) theatrics. They really bore me!
    Anyway, the Presidential security detail captures my attention due to the way they seem organized, watching every step the President takes, and put on a sharp look at all those who come closer to the President, including the First Lady( just take a look at today’s Saturday Nation, where the First Lady is admiring Kibaki’s Elder of the Golden Heart “garland”, there are those two hawk-eyed security detail in the background).
    I do admire these guys for sure.
    The First Lady is probably one of those feared people in Kenya – call her tough or whatever, she’s the darling of many. I watched her because she’s a mother figure – we’ve not had one when Moi occupied the Presidency for 24 years.
    You cross her line, man (or woman), you’d in hot soup. I hope to meet her before she becomes a citizen.

    Maybe my taste is odd!

  3. Raila Odinga is a crude manipulator of the masses. One international analyst* calls him an “ill-advised populist” with “heavy handed political instincts”. He has predictable ways of whipping up public fervour… the most obvious being the mandatory ‘disappearance’ from public sight ahead of any big event. (He picked this from the ’48 Laws of Power’, which he loves so much he shared it with Mungiki leader Maina Njenga.) Also obvious are the hired hecklers/goons. They were cleverly interspersed in the crowd and were leading the wild cheering. Watch the clips of Raila’s speech again and you’ll see one or two times when they tried to get people to leap to their feet for a standing ovation and failed.

    * Patrick Basham, if you must know. And before you ask why I’m quoting a foreigner, it is because you would dismiss local praise singers and critics for furthering tribal agendas.

  4. Some of the 48 laws… the language of manipulation… Law 3: Conceal your intentions. (Don’t tell Moi you plan to eviscerate his Jogoo) Law 6: Court attention at all cost. (Wear a yellow suit. Hummer!) Law 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit. (Mwakwere, Delta. Shitanda, Kibera slum upgrading. Need I say more?) Law 11: Learn to keep people dependent on you. Law 14: Pose as a friend, work as a spy. (Moi again) Law 16: Use absence to increase respect and honor. (See above. Travel abroad before big rallies.) Law 27: Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult-like following. (Railamania) Law 37: Create compelling spectacles. (My name is not on the electoral register!) Law 45: Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once. (Jury’s out…)

  5. u people dont understand a thing, raila to me is what the koreans refer to kim jong, but in this case, with chronic honesty. he is ‘our dear leader’, whichever method you say he uses to whip up emotions in his favor, he has always been a consistent leader and most of his detractors like some of you guyz are always intimidated by this. And of course the vitendawili are a good source of escape from the boring bureaucracy and officiality in the media and public functions, and that is just the kind of leader i like. I think u guyz are the Ndumakuwilis the guy usually talks about, yes?

  6. @kenyaMpya

    My brother, you clearly should’ve just praised Kalonzo’s speech n stopped. Clearly you are not Kenyan and if you are, then you are the types that say ‘ I don’t give a f*ck about politics ‘ which is not bad, but why talk something you have no understanding of? Yoooooooooo!!!

    Kenyans tired with alliances? All I read in that statement is You a f*cking dumb kenyan(That is if you are) who don’t really know where we are from as a country and where we going to as a country.

    Not to disrespect you but get ya history books on my brother. That’s all.

  7. Haha i like the section about Raila.
    To be honest i think that man sums up all our shortcomings as a nation. What is it..20yrs in the bunge and kibera still grows. I dont even know what he does that qualifies as leadership qualities and yet people will climb the heavens for this man. It just makes me disappointed.

    • I have never understood this why when it comes to this particular guy, people bring up Kibera, its like people erase the grossly impartial nature of Moi’s patronage system…when the guy became an MP, Like hate the guy just be honest about it don’t go around being dishonest with no sense of history of how Kenyan politics is/was in the first half of his political career….

      Oh and its 18yrs..

      • Should we just ignore the biggest slum in the continent because he is so beloved!!!
        I think he keeps it that way for whatever purposes it serves
        I hate the guy but thats not the issue, its that he does nothing for the same people who cheer n i think thats just disappointing.

  8. ‘It makes a statement when your entrance causes noticeably more cheer than that of the President of a nation.’

    The cheer could be because most of his constituents turned up at the Uhuru Park grounds. Remember that most of his constituents are not in education or employment hence they have all the times in their hands. Why some people are disillusioned with Raila is the fact that despite being an MP for 18/20 years (depending on whom you believe) Kibera’s dwellers plight remains the same. At least with Moi during his reign, he ensured all his fellow tribes people had good jobs and the like. What really has Raila done for people? What is he going to do? We want to see change. We want to see corruption eradicated. We want to see security in all areas of Kenya. We want to be able to travel at all hours of the night without fear of being attacked and ambushed by thugs.

    And one more thing, Raila did let us down when he failed to calm his supporters when they were yelling ‘No Raila no Peace’ and proceeded to kill and maime people as well as destroying property belonging to others notably Kikuyu’s. He should have been the bigger man and urged his supporters to cease doing that and then we can all worship him. I for one will not be worshipping him until I see the change that he delivers.

  9. To guys like Rockistani who don’t seem to understand why populism is bad, and think getting the crowds to love you is all there is to leadership: It leads to demagoguery (saying anything to be loved, elected) and to bad decision-making. Proof? Raila is on record saying he would ban ETR machines (the single most effective mechanism of collecting indirect taxes and a key reason why KRA shines) just to please a few traders.

  10. He was also ready to spark a violent confrontation with Uganda, our single largest trading partner, over some minor fishing dispute. I’m even of the opinion he only made the right decision on the Mau Forest Complex because the numbers were on the side he chose. I’d like to see if he has the balls to take an unpopular position if the masses are on the other side of the issue.

  11. I envy the politician Raila will pick as a running mate in 2012.. it’s almost like Biden with Obama in ’08: It’s a sure win!

  12. The expansion of kibera cannot be blamed on Raila. Blame it all on the tribal sectarian economic policies of past regimes that drive these people out of their poverty ridden homes into the city. Besides, Raila has only been in a ‘real’ postition of influencing policy in this country for under three years now!n yeah skyscrapers are already rearing their roof tops over Kibera’s skyline!In any event this talk of Kibera is shallow…truth be told the man has endeared himself to the masses, how he does it is none of my business…show me any one else who does it better i’ll change my mind..

    If he’s made it without all you bitchy haters n he’s just began!He’s takin it all soon n there’s nuthin you can do about it!oops!

  13. Raila ,,,,Raila…… what else does he have except slogan sydicates……we are fed up of vitendawili and football tricks………..i think if we want to watch football tricks, then we would go to DSTV and see how Drogba does it.

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