You’ve got to give it to Opposition leader Raila Odinga, head of the Azimio Umoja One Kenya Coalition, a ‘Big Man’ of Kenyan politics (like his father before him), still the ‘Big Man’ of Luo politics, five times a candidate for the presidency of Kenya, five times defeated or denied the top job: he has an indomitable spirit and he doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Mr Odinga has announced that he now has ten million signatures gathered from Kenyans in protest at the high cost of living, or some other ‘unstated cause’.
Odinga’s 10 million signatures: played close to the chest or a busted flush?
Odinga told a press conference in Karen, Nairobi, on Saturday: “We know what we will do with them [the signatures] … I do not want to speak but watch this space.”
The Standard on Sunday covered the press conference under the headline, ‘Raila keeps his cards close to chest on next political move.’
It is a good idea to keep your cards close to your chest at all times, particularly in politics and particularly when you’ve not got much in your hand in the first place.
Ask no questions
But journalists at the press conference don’t seem to have asked Raila any questions, such as, “Where are the signatures?”
Consider this: 10 million signatures is one signature in for every five Kenyans (a population of approaching 50 million). Have you signed the petition? Know anyone who has?
Trying to find anywhere online where you can sign proved beyond this columnist.
I emailed a couple of contacts in Kisumu, both Raila Odinga supporters. Have you signed, I asked? Where can I sign, they replied?
I spoke to a couple of colleagues, again both Raila Odinga supporters. They haven’t signed. They didn’t now how or where to sign.
10 Million signatures since July? That was quick!
Perhaps Rail’s team have been out on the street manually collecting signatures (since July when the petition idea was announced), I thought but then I thought again.
Try this. If a Raila team collected a 1,000 signatures per day it would take over 27 years to collect 10 million.
Perhaps they could collect 10,000 signatures each day. That would take just 2.7 years.
Even 25,000 signatures collected every day would only reach the 10 million target in one year and 35 days.
So, forgive me if I’m skeptical.
What’s happened to Kenya’s ‘Fourth Estate’?
Why didn’t journalists at the press conference ask for evidence of the 10 million signatures? Why didn’t they shout, “Show us the signatures!” Is the Fourth Estate not meant to hold our leaders to account?
Why report a press conference at all when all that’s said is, “We don’t know what we are going to do yet and anyway we are not going to tell you!”
Raila Odinga makes me think of Shakespeare’s ageing, declining and bewildered King Lear, impotently railing at the world, exclaiming, “I shall do such things – What they are, yet I know not”.
Assassination plot allegations – again
In July, Odinga alleged that a ‘trained killer squad’ called the ‘Operation Support Unit”, embedded in the official security agencies, had been formed to target top opposition leaders.
Have we heard any more of the plot, or the Operation Support Unit? Again, did any journalist in Kenya follow up on the story?
Again, no and again forgive my skepticism but we’ve been here before, time and again (see Kenya archive articles below).
It’s time Kenya’s journalists fulfilled their role as watchdogs of the media, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, reporting the truth and asking awkward questions.
Raila Odinga “Assassination Plot” – Fact, Fiction, Farce or Diversion? (5/8/2022)
Raila Assassination Plot: Facts, Gossip or Political Intrigue (2012)
Raila Odinga assignation Plot? Jakoyo Midiwo’s Allegations must be Investigated (2012)
‘Death Plot’ Kakoyo Midiwo to be Arrested (2012)