By MAKAU MUTUA
July 28 2012
It’s an attempted take-down of Raila Odinga and his political machine by a disgruntled former employee who was fired
They say you should get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat. And you shouldn’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.
But you must lie in the bed you make, even if it’s made of thorns. Methinks these truisms probably apply to the “man with the same name twice”. That’s why I’ve decided to do an intellectual audit of Miguna Miguna and his book – Peeling Back the Mask.
Let me state the bottom line upfront. Mr Miguna is merely a lawyer, not an intellectual. That’s why his book shouldn’t be read as a labour of the intellect. It’s not a work of theory, or good political science. It’s a gossipy political screed.
I laboured mightily to get through Mr Miguna’s book. That’s because it’s carelessly written.
It’s too long for no reason – it’s 614 pages, but I believe Mr Miguna could easily have condensed it into 200 pages if he was disciplined. There’s too much wasted verbiage, repetition, and bad organisation. The problem is that Mr Miguna wrote the book in a hurried huff. That’s why Peeling Back the Mask doesn’t fit into any known genre of writing.
It’s not really a memoir, as Mr Miguna claims. A memoir is an autobiographical literary genre. But Mr Miguna’s book is rather a “political expose”. One might best describe it as a tawdry “scandal sheet” meant primarily to bring Prime Minister Raila Odinga down.
Most importantly, the book lacks intellectual integrity. It reads like a fireplace chat with a narrator who worked in the corridors of power. Mr Miguna fails to grasp that Kenya is a post-colonial state that has yet to cohere as a nation. No one can truly appreciate the near-collapse of the state in 2008 – and the coalition government – without this overarching theoretical architecture.
Shockingly, the book makes no pretence to reference scholarly works on Kenya, or establish an analytical frame. One wonders whether Mr Miguna has read – and understood – any serious books on Kenyan political history. There’s no evidence of any scholarly research. That’s why the book often sounds like a hatchet job by Mr Odinga’s political opponents.
But there’s more. I was particularly struck – even dumbfounded – by the crudity of Mr Miguna’s language.
Language should be a friend, not the enemy, of the writer. But Mr Miguna easily turns this wisdom on its head. There’s too much gratuitous violence in the book. It’s an epithet-ridden tome that’s jarring to the civilised ear.
Mr Miguna refers to somebody as Raila’s “dog”. There isn’t a more despicable name that one Kenyan can call another.
Nobody deserves such an unthinkable slur. In fact, no human being does. But that’s Mr Miguna for you – his mouth and pen are ungoverned by any moral code of conduct.
The book is nothing but vendetta. It’s an attempted take-down of Mr Odinga and his political machine.
But it’s written by a disgruntled former employee who was unceremoniously fired.
After he was sacked, Mr Miguna sounded like a “jilted lover”.
He confessed that he “loved” Mr Odinga and couldn’t understand how he could’ve been shown the door.
This is either hubris, or an unhealthy obsession with Mr Odinga.
None of us is indispensable in our jobs. Mr Miguna acted as though he had “a right” to the job. I think he forgot that he was just one of the many cogs in Mr Odinga’s political organisation. He conflated himself with “his master”. That’s why he can’t let go.
I’ve seen lame attempts in the press to christen Mr Miguna as a whistleblower.
That word shouldn’t be thrown around like dirty water. Mr Miguna is the farthest thing from a whistleblower.
The term refers to an employee who “blows the whistle” on his superiors while still on the job, or resigns in protest to “spill the beans”.
It doesn’t – and can’t – refer to an employee who attacks his boss out of pique because he’s been sacked.
An employee who only talks after the sack lacks courage, or moral integrity. Such an employee would’ve continued to serve loyally – in spite of his boss’ misconduct – had he not been given the boot.
There are disingenuous attempts to equate former anti-graft czar John Githongo to Mr Miguna. That’s baloney.
Mr Githongo wasn’t fired – he quit to protest at corruption. He was a true whistleblower.
He had no personal animus or vendetta against President Mwai Kibaki or any of the ministers implicated in Anglo Leasing.
He never – even in private – used primitive and crude language to dehumanise them.
In contrast, Mr Miguna has such personal bile against Mr Odinga and his close aides that it’s impossible for him to be objective.
He’s blinded by fury. That’s because he left a comfortable middle class life in Canada only to see his dreams of a high-flying political career in Kenya go up in smoke.
I wrote last week that Mr Miguna had a right to write his so-called “memoirs.” I still do.
In fact, I encourage Kenyans – especially those who have shaped the character and nature of the Kenyan state and society at the highest levels – to write their own memoirs.
But I urge they do so as objectively as possible – and without pique.
Don’t write cheap books to settle political scores with opponents.
Seek help from real writers or editors to avoid inflicting pain on the reader.
Mr Miguna fails on all these counts. That’s why I grade his book a “D.”
Makau Mutua is Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of the KHRC.