If the water can rise in Kenya…, By Wole Olaoye

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Kenya’s President-elect William Ruto

…if young Nigerians, like their Kenyan counterparts, decide to use the ballot box as a vehicle for achieving the better tomorrow they demand, 2023 could well be just a repeat of the Kenyan feat. Water can rise.

How far does the last presidential election in Kenya foreshadow what is likely to happen in Nigeria in 2023?

I’m not one to draw undue parallels, knowing that there are different intervening variables and subtexts that can make broad generalization fruitless. However, there are many similarities that signal the possibility of hidden meanings for the discerning Nigerian observer. In Kenya’s tumultuous politics, the water ran uphill. Can this happen in Nigeria? Does the Kenyan Oracle predict anything about Big Brother Nigeria?

President-elect William Ruto’s message at the start of the campaigns reminded us of our own Goodluck Jonathan. He told the rags-to-riches story of how he sold live chickens and peanuts on the highway as a young boy in order to make ends meet. He walked barefoot until he was 15 when he acquired his first pair of shoes. He has since done well with a solid education up to doctoral level and a sprawling business, including a 2,500-acre ranch, investments in the hospitality industry, an insurance company and a massive poultry farm.

By all traditional calculations, Ruto was an underdog. He was nobody. Indeed, he once joked that the impartiality of democracy allowed him, nobody’s son, to enter into political dissent with someone’s children – referring to the duo of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the hon. Raila Odinga, whose two fathers were founding president and vice president of the country respectively.

His message touched the vast majority of the population, especially rural people and young people who, indeed, were desperate for a political champion with whom they could identify. His campaign speech to what he called a “nation hustler” was anchored on getting a better deal for ambitious, hard-working young people who are frustrated with the current system. He pledged to harness their talents, energies and ideas so that they can play a major role in creating a new Kenya.

If you consider the fact that the demographics of Ruto’s hustler nation – those at the bottom of the pyramid to whom he pledged to deliver sustainable growth – resemble those of Nigerian millennials who midwifed and sued the EndSARS protest in 2020, you can begin to see why no one can rule out an electoral revolution championed by Nigerian youth in 2023.

Ruto is a millionaire who has managed to break away from the elite. In his “us” versus “them” rhetoric, you would think he was looking for the next meal, like the rest of his young followers. One could say that he orally committed suicide in class in order to put himself on the level of his modest constituency. Public relations specialists must be fascinated by the way a rich man can be seen as another poor man by the majority of the poor, simply because he puts himself on their level and speaks the language of the street.

Who among the presidential candidates roughly approximates Ruto in the Nigerian political space? If Kenya is any indication, the ‘usual suspects’ might not make the cut in 2023.

As in Nigeria, there was a generational undertone in several aspects of the campaign. The younger generation wanted someone more in tune with their digital habits. The Old Guard, represented by the Venerable Hon. Raila Odinga, made his calculations based on tribal loyalties and elite consensus. President Kenyatta endorsed his old enemy, Odinga, with the hope that the dynastic rumble of ‘Turn-By-Turn Kenya Ltd’ would once again prevail. In terms of the established wisdom of traditional politics, victory was a foregone conclusion.

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“The lesson of the Kibaki era,” argues Kagwanja, “is that special vehicles assembled just to win elections were unstable by their very nature, and when they took power, contributed to a government hobbled by internal disputes and power struggles, and consequently to national instability.

But, against the law of gravity, in the 2022 elections, the water ran uphill!

The famous heirs to the Kenyatta and Odinga political dynasties, Uhuru and Raila, are the big losers. Kenyatta has come to the end of his decade at the helm. If Odinga had won, Kenyatta could at least expect to be relevant in the scheme of things knowing that he had helped install his successor. But fate had something different in store.

Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party was routed at Mount Kenya, which was to be one of its strongholds. Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) won most parliamentary seats. Kenyatta is the boss of the Azimio Council, made up of his Jubilee Party, Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and 21 other smaller entities. Azimio la Umoja (Swahili: “Resolution for Unity”) had Raila Odinga as its presidential candidate and Martha Karua as its vice-presidential candidate. The fact that incumbent power didn’t matter much in deciding who won is instructive.

For this reason, can we feed a fleeting flashback to the last gubernatorial polls in Osun State in Nigeria, where the office counted for nothing?

Peter Kagwanja, columnist at Kenyan Nation newspaper, traced the current state of affairs to the fact that Kenya has had a history of numerous coalitions by rival political parties, aimed at wresting power from the ruling party. Often, once the goal of ascending to power has been achieved, the constituent elements of the coalition return to the trenches, causing unnecessary distraction for the government.

The Kenya African National Union (KANU) ruled the country for 40 years before its decline. President Mwai Kibaki flew the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) flag for his first term, but opted for a new National Unity Party as his political vehicle for his second term in 2007. In 2013, the Alliance National Party of Kenyatta (TNA) entered into a coalition with Ruto’s United Republican Party to form the Jubilee Party, with a coterie of smaller parties in tow.

“The lesson of the Kibaki era,” argues Kagwanja, “is that special vehicles assembled just to win elections were unstable by their very nature, and when they took power, contributed to a government hobbled by internal disputes and power struggles, and consequently to national instability.

This observation is certainly true of Nigeria where alliances and mergers are orchestrated to seize power, after which political jujitsu becomes the raison d’etre of all commitments and calculations, while governance takes second place. plan. It happened with the NPN/NPP agreement in the Second Republic of Nigeria. This is happening with the APC which currently controls the reins of power at the federal level. These contraptions are designed to create distance between falcon and falconer, causing things to collapse.

The Azimio party is heading to court to overturn Ruto’s declaration as the winner of the presidential election. Ruto, for his part, is already mobilizing the troops. “There is no looking back now, we are looking to the future. We need everyone on deck to move forward,” he said.

Speaking of similarities between events in Kenya and Nigeria, Dr Ruto decamped from the Jubilee Party to the United Democratic Alliance when it became clear to him that his boss, President Kenyatta, wanted Odinga to succeed him.

In Nigeria, Peter Obi left the PDP for the Labor Party when it became clear to him that the presidential primaries process had become dollarized. In the same vein, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso left the PDP for the NNP to find a possible way to power this brand new vehicle.

The defection virus that plagues politicians seeking relevance in Nigeria is also active in Kenya. Already, outgoing Mandera County Governor Ali Roba has abandoned Raila Odinga’s Azimio movement to join President-elect William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition.

Sound familiar? In Nigeria, have we not seen state assembly legislators switch to the opposition party as soon as a court verdict or other process overturns a gubernatorial election in favor of the opposition? Politicians, whether Kenyan, Nigerian or American, do not like the political winter wind.

Meanwhile, Odinga’s Azimio party, with 159 MPs, and Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza, with 161 seats, are battling for control of parliament. Ten of the parliament’s 12 independent MPs have indicated their intention to join Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza. Azimio has 21 elected county governors, while Kenya Kwanza has 22. Neck and neck, no doubt, but Ruto and his Kwanza coalition have just that slight advantage that makes for victory.

The Azimio party is heading to court to overturn Ruto’s declaration as the winner of the presidential election. Ruto, for his part, is already mobilizing the troops. “There is no looking back now, we are looking to the future. We need everyone on deck to move forward,” he said.

Perhaps if Nigerians had to choose between the presidential candidates in Kenya, they would still have voted for Ruto. Reason: his eldest daughter, June, is married to a Nigerian, Dr. Alexander Ezenagu, an assistant professor of law at a university in Qatar.

And if young Nigerians, like their Kenyan counterparts, decide to use the ballot box as a vehicle for achieving the better tomorrow they demand, 2023 could well be just another replay of the Kenyan feat. Water can rise.

Wole Olaoye is a public relations consultant and seasoned journalist. He can be reached by [email protected] Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021.


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