Wednesday, August 31, 2011



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 28, 2011

Raphael Tuju is no ordinary Kenyan. He is not a village idiot either. He was one of the better known cabinet ministers who lost out in the bitter struggle for power between PNU and ODM in 2007. Coming from Nyanza, the stronghold of ODM then as now; and based on the fact that he was the only senior minister to have pitched for PNU in Luo Nyanza, it would have been a miracle if he had survived the Raila Odinga election machine.

However, there was a slim chance that he could have parted ways with Raila Odinga and still gotten elected in that part of Kenya. MPs James Orengo of Ugenya and Joe Donde of Gem had done that in the past. However, between Orengo and Donde, it was Orengo who went out flat in 1997 to recapture his Ugenya seat on a Ford Kenya ticket despite the NDP onslaught then. Donde on the other hand had the fortune of going almost unopposed when the NDP candidate failed to present his nomination papers on time. Under the circumstances, Raila Odinga chose to back Donde even though he was a Ford Kenya candidate. His driving objective then was to lock KANU out of Luo Nyanza since his friend the late Oki Ooko Ombaka had declined to defend his seat due to ill health. Failing to back Donde would have meant the seat going back to KANU through Mama Grace Ogot.

Raphael Tuju’s entry into the arena of presidential candidates may mean many things to many people. Some may see him as a spoiler for Raila Odinga especially for those who come from Luoland. And one can understand the yearning desire for Luos to finally produce a president of this republic, a post that has eluded them since 1962 when Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Raila’s father could have easily assumed the presidency while Jomo Kenyatta was still in detention.

That missed opportunity by two Luo politicians T J Mboya and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was to haunt the community for almost half a century when the quest became more difficult after the political playground ceased to be level. Kenyatta’s 15 years of reign was nothing short of autocracy. Within the first 24 months of his rule, Kenyatta quickly consolidated power and became ruthless with any person that imagined either sharing power with him or dislodging him through a democratic process.

Anybody doubting Kenyatta’s resolve to rule unchallenged must ask what happened to Bildad Kaggia, Achieng’ Oneko, Kungu Karumba, Fred Kubai, Pio Gama Pinto, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya, Joseph Murumbi and JM Kariuki. Those who didn’t lose their lives like Pinto, Mboya and JM were either detained from time to time like Jaramogi, Achieng’ Oneko, Marie Seroney, and Martin Shikuku or were simply shunted aside like Joseph Murumbi, Bildad Kaggia and Fred Kubai.

Whatever others may think, the fact that the Luos have never produced a president in Kenya’s 50 years despite being the most politicized community is definitely a factor in Kenya politics. It is what drove Jaramogi to establish himself as the doyen of opposition politics during the reigns of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi when KANU ruled supreme.

At that time competitive politics irritated the political class and whoever dreamt of offering alternative politics was considered a dissident and at worse, an enemy of the state.

If Jaramogi chose to seek the presidency in his twilight years in 1992, Raila Odinga joining the race in 1997 after the demise of his father and James Orengo having a stab at the presidency in 2002, it was the quest for this lost opportunity way back in 1961 when it was there for Jaramogi on a silver platter that drove them to run for the highest office on the land.

However, by a twist of fate, it had to be one of Kenyatta’s tribesmen that put the spanners in the works, split the FORD party, formed FORD Asili and finally split the opposition votes leaving the field wide open for Daniel arap Moi to romp home in victory albeit with a slim majority. Jaramogi garnered a paltry 900,000 votes in that election.

Ten years later, it had to be Jaramogi’s son Raila Odinga who confounded friend and foe alike when out of the blues, he declared Kibaki tosha for president in 2002, a government he only served for only two and a half years before Kibaki kicked him out just like Jomo had done to his father Jaramogi 38 years earlier.

When in 2007, Raila Odinga chose to contest against Kibaki, he garnered support from the unlikely quarters- the very Kalenjins he had thrown out of power just five years earlier. The Kalenjins had calculated that he was their best bet to reclaim the power they had lost; after all he had worked with them briefly between 1998 and 2002 during the KANU-NDP cooperation.

Now that Raphael Tuju has joined the presidential race, could the fear of Raila presidency- Railaphobia be at play here? Are there other forces in the political class that may be planning to mollify the Luos by giving them their lifetime dream- the presidency as long as that person is not Raila Amolo Odinga?

Is Ralph Tuju attractive enough to other communities to make him beat any other contender including Raila Odinga and become Kenya’s fourth president? In other words, can Kikuyus, Kalenjins, Luhyas, Embus, Merus, Maasais, Mijikendas, Kisiis and Kurias vote for him even if Luos reject him?

Whatever it is that has driven Raphael Tuju to resign his lucrative post in Harambee House and declare his candidature 12 months ahead of the next elections cannot be taken for granted, wished away or laughed off. Tuju is nobody’s fool. There must be something that only he knows that we don’t know.

Whatever it is that is driving Raphael Tuju, we can only hope that time will tell.