21 April 2007

Kenya: Opposition Ignore Kibaki's Lead in Opinion Polls At Its Own Peril


Nairobi — The pollsters are telling us that President Mwai Kibaki is miles and smiles ahead of the competition in the race for State House, later this year and I do not doubt that. Maybe the figures have been stretched out, but what does that count for?

My primary school teacher used to say that a miss is as good as a mile - you miss, you miss.

But why don't I doubt that the Big Man in the Big House on the Hill is likely to extend his tenure by another five years as the pollsters are saying?

To start with, I have read where a certain Robert Guest, a British journalist says of us, the people of Africa, that we live in the shackled continent. We obtain in shackles of many kinds. And it is not that we all do time in Kamiti, Kiambu or in Kirikiri, Kinshasa, or in Luzira, Kampala. It is just that we are in the shackles of ignorance, poverty and disease.

And being in these shackles, we exhibit alarming capacity for inability to think straight. When we are told that Kibaki is beating us in the opinion polls, we immediately cry foul. We say he has funded the polls and that neither Steadman nor the International Republican Institute (IRI) will be voting later this year. We dare them to wait and see.

Tired of listening to old record

The bad news for the political opposition is that they had better start taking the pollsters seriously; otherwise they will be licking their wounds in December. They will be smarting under the pain of defeat and talking of rigged polls. Kibaki will be smiling all the way back to State House.

Why, has it never occurred to the political opposition that they are sounding like a broken old record? People get tired of listening to the same old record, particularly when it is scratched. In the old days, before they invented DVDs and that kind of stuff, you bought a music disc that Leonard Mambo Mbotela used to call "Sahani ya Santuri".

In Emanyulia they said it was crafted from soil. You handled it very carefully lest you dropped and it would break immediately. Then someone discovered that plastic could not break.

But the plastic disc had a new problem. If you scratched it, the stylus that generated sound could not go beyond the scratch. And so you would be treated to an irritating monotone of the sound segment.

Now this is the problem with our political opposition and the reason I would believe Steadman and IRI.

Wealthy jokers

ODM-Kenya seems to be shackled in the narrow confines of personal ambitions. What inspiring message are the contestants sending out to Kenyans? What will make you a better leader than President Kibaki? What memorable clarion call do we associate you with as we think less of Kibaki and more of you?

Perhaps I do not live here, for I cannot think of any clear message from the political opposition, beyond Kalonzo Musyoka's Mwelekeo Mpya (New Paradigm/ Direction). But even this remains vague and needs to be explained to the voting Kenyan.

Which is this new paradigm? Why should we embrace it?

Raila Odinga is worse off. He has not said anything new apart from "Kibaki Toka" and that his MOU with Kibaki was betrayed. Najib Balala is wasting valuable time, space and money, posting all over the place meaningless word plays derived from his name, such as "Ninajibu".

In essence, he is trying to tell us that he has an answer. Which answer? To what? Pray, go preach it out there, or forever be satisfied to be seen as a wealthy joker who threw funds around on meaningless billboards. The less said of the rest the better.

Go beyond rhetoric

Now with this kind of setup, it should surprise nobody that Kibaki has taken a resounding lead in opinion polls. Rather than cry foul, the rest should be asking themselves what they have not done right.

It is not about whether it was Stanley Livondo of moneybags legends, or whether it was Raila who invented the Hummer like some people are saying in Kisumu.

It is about what you intend to do for Kenya over the next ten years and how different you would be from Kibaki. It is about Kenya's population that doubles every two decades and how you are preparing to give future generations a better country.

What these gentlemen don't know is that Kenyans do not really know what they stand for, beyond rhetoric and public displays of annoyance.

They also have never heard it said that sometimes the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know.

Perhaps they can now wake up and break from the shackles of narrow raw ambition or prepare to lose to Kibaki.

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