By Jerry Okungu
June 30, 2010
Dear Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga,
First things first; let me, my colleagues and fellow Kenyans convey our sincere words of comfort to you at this moment in time together with your immediate family at this point when you are recovering from a minor operation at Nairobi Hospital. Millions of ordinary Kenyans who may not personally visit you in hospital wish you a speedy recovery so that you can resume your normal national duties and obligations.
The news of your hospitalization on Monday evening caught many of us unawares especially when the whole weekend and Monday, we had been following your activities in Western Kenya and Nairobi. Your abundant energy that has been on display for years now made many Kenyans almost believe that you cannot be put down with a minor health issue like a cold or fatigue. It is this public perception of your persona that got Kenyans deeply concerned.
Much as it came to many Kenyans and the international community as a surprise, it also reminded us that as human beings, we are mortal and therefore vulnerable to the forces of nature, the more reason Kenyans must ask you to take a break and rest meaningfully in order to reenergize.
What was intriguing was the message that your hospitalization conveyed. That as an individual, you can command the headlines in all networks in this country at a time when prime time news have been dominated by either the Red and Green referendum campaigns or the World Cap tournament in its crucial stage in South Africa. Therefore, much as you are a well known political animal in this part of the world, your hospitalization took the thunder out of political news as we know them. For us, you became that human interest story that this country so badly needed at this point in time. It was a break from the usual politics that Kenyans badly needed.
When Kenyans went to bed with the news that you had been operated on, more so when most national networks had repeatedly carried it the whole day, the fact that you dominated the entire headlines in four leading newspapers was something to write home about. From the Daily Nation to the People Daily; from the Standard to the Star, you were the headline story almost word for word in every newspaper, radio station and TV network.
The reason your story has been so important to Kenya is simple. They remember very clearly when President Mwai Kibaki was involved in an accident during the 2002 campaigns. When Kenyans were worried that the presidential candidate would no longer lead the campaign, you were quick to assure them that “though the captain was injured, the game would go on”. And indeed the game went on and Narc worn the match.
The reasons Kenyans have been concerned and worried about your hospitalization are rather straight forward and clear. First, it is the love they have for you as a person and as their leader.
Second, they do not want anything to go wrong with the campaign for the constitution at this crucial stage in our lives.
They know your resolve and commitment to deliver a new constitution for this country before the end of this year. They also know that you share in this ideal with the President, the Vice President and all those political leaders that have been on the campaign trail with you.
If Kenyans were worried that your hospitalization would adversely affect the Green campaign in the coming days and weeks, the Naivasha MP, Hon Mututho couldn’t have captured that mood any better.
The controversial MP confessed that your campaign style and lobbying techniques were unparalleled in crucial moments like this. To Mututho, even a phone call to MPs from you on your hospital bed can turn tables in a crucial campaign such as this one.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing that has happened to Kenyans at this time is that you have unfettered the flow of information in this country. Yours was a case study in Freedom of Information as Kenyans envisage it in the proposed constitution. They have followed in detail information that has been freely given by your doctors. Video footages coming from the hospital have confirmed to Kenyans that though you were hospitalized and even operated on, you are indeed on the road to a quick recovery. Nobody, not your family, not your doctors tried to create barriers to communication and in fact they generously gave details about your ailment.
In contrast, in the past, Kenyans have been treated to guess work and rumor mongering whenever a senior government fell ill. This mystery about our leaders’ health has always fuelled cheap gossip and unfounded rumor with devastating effect on our lives. Kenyans have a right to know if their leaders fall ill and the nature of the ailment. You have just done that the first time you have been hospitalized in Kenya.
We wish you well Waziri Mkuu.