Raila can do himself good by retiring from politics

Raila can do himself good by retiring from politics

It can be tortuous when a highly treasured dream is not fulfilled. It is even more painful when you have been so close to it a number of times, but it remains elusive nonetheless. Apparently, Raila Odinga has a consuming desire to occupy State House. It looks like he took some sort of oath to be president before he retires from politics.
Don’t get me wrong. It is perfect to have dreams – even lofty ones – and spare no effort and resources to realize them. Goals that are not backed by resolve, resilience and a burning desire are not worth the paper they are written on. No one can fault Raila on this score. He has done everything to bag his ultimate prize – the presidency. He has been in the race for a record four times. And the Supreme Court ruling has handed him a priceless chance to have another bite of the cherry.
Raila’s desire to clinch the presidency is so consuming that he never ever accepts defeat. He has never written a concession speech, and as things stand he may never do so. Well, not accepting defeat is not entirely a bad thing as it speaks to your fortitude and stubborn attitude not to be wrestled to the grounds by challenges. Motivational speakers and authors invariably drum into us that when you fall down in the hot pursuit for your dreams, the wisest move is not to wallow in self-pity but to stand up as quickly as possible, dust yourself up, learn hard lessons, recalibrate your goals and embark on your journey with renewed vigour. Possessing enough fire in your belly to fuel your rise from the ashes as it were. These are indisputable gems of advice.
But there is a reality check. To avoid constant heartbreaks, your goals must be attainable. They must rhyme with your strengths and weaknesses. You set yourself up for despair and even depression when you cling to goals that do not match your abilities. Holding on to unachievable goals also breeds a sense of inadequacy and a feeling that perhaps you were not cut for great things. Set ambitious objectives, yes, but temper them with the realities on the ground.
What does this got to do with Raila? Whichever angle you look at it from, his dream of getting to State House is proving to be a mirage. In fact his best chances look like they are in the past. He came closest in 2002 general election when his party ODM had the highest number of Members of Parliament. Since then, the ground has been shifting away from him, gradually extinguishing his ambition to be the head of State. The August 8 polls outcome indeed loudly sounded a death knell to his dreams and the current political tremors are actually the result of the last virulent kicks of a dying horse. These are no easy times for Raila Amolo Odinga.
His Nasa co-principals, particularly Kalonzo Musyoka, had only agreed to play second fiddle to him after he promised them that he would be in the race for the last time and if he won, he would go for one term. This means in 2022, his name will not be on the ballot. And if he trashes the MoU with the Nasa principals and have another go at the presidency, he will run the risk of being a lone ranger, which will only invite another humiliating defeat. Moreover, age is not on his side. To mount a serious campaign, you do not only need massive financial muscle, there is also a place for a good dose of energy for the grueling electioneering period. He won’t certainly be fit to give the best to this most demanding undertaking.
Taking into account these factors, it is easy to understand Raila’s current pain, frustration and predicament. He is in that defining moment when a cherished dream held so dear for so long is as good as dead. He is not going down so easily. He is politically drowning but he his screaming, lashing out and clutching on straws such as the Supreme Court ruling and loopholes in the Constitution. He is also seeking salvation by exploiting weaknesses in independent institutions such as the IEBC and coming up with all manner of flimsy excuses to hold the country at ransom. This a messy end to what could have been a glittering career in the service of the public.
It is a pity that Raila, by his own folly, is threatening to jeopardize all the good things he has done for the nation. Few can match the reformist credentials he has amassed and the sacrifices he has made in the expansion of democratic space and a raft of civil liberties. Friends and foe agree that this country would not have attained the remarkable progress we enjoy and take for granted were it not for Raila’s valiant efforts. Despite our myriad differences with him, we need to give the devil’s his due, salute him and sing his praises to high heavens for this incomparable selflessness.
Fast forward to the current impasse. I am one of those who strongly believe the prevailing political cul-de-sac has been engineered by Raila because he is refusing to accept the cold hard reality that his presidential dream will remain a pipe dream. If I were him I would have taken it in my stride. Why not. Save for the presidency, he has held every possible position in government, rising to be the venerable position of Prime Minister. Add this to the solid reforms CV and you have a brilliant political legacy many can only dream of.
Instead of beating himself up for failure to attain the presidency, it’s time Raila cut his losses, count his blessings and honourably bolt out of active politics. There is plenty he can do out there. The world, particularly Africa, is crying out for leadership in other diverse areas than politics. From climate change to the fight against poverty and diseases. He can pick one of them, run with it and bring to bear his zest and the pan-Africanist image he has cultivated to address it. He can glean vital lessons from Al Gore who lost to George W Bush in the battle for the White House, but ended up carving out a big name in the realm of climate change.

By Benjamin Washiali, MP


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