These road shows mean little; get on with the real job

The so-called luminaries of ODM Kenya are putting some rather grand public displays designed to demonstrate how united they are.

There was the press conference in Nairobi last Friday followed by the rally in Nakuru on Sunday. Any visitor from Mars witnessing the two occasions would have presumed that the very public displays of affection indicate a party with no problems whatsoever.

But there is the fact that the public love-fest is dictated by the need to put on a public display of unity, itself an indicator that there is little love lost between the main contenders for the party’s presidential nomination.

As they put on the road-shows which have the effect of selling a big lie, time is running out. If it is clear that the attempts at brokering a compromise are not getting anywhere, then ODM must immediately put in place a timetable for party primaries.

There is the argument that the primary poll will be too expensive and divisive, but if there is no better alternative, that will be the only way to go.

The process can be simplified so that instead of a poll involving over a 100,000 delegates, the numbers are reduced to something much more manageable.

All that ODM needs to do is to organise grassroots elections limited to card-carrying members, which will result in the election of between 3,000 and 4,000 delegates who would then elect the presidential candidate as well as office-bearers.

That is the exerise that will separate the serious candidates from the no-hopers and joy-riders. And if the party is go the consensus way, then a way must be found so that those involved in the negotiations are weighted according to the numbers they bring to the table.

It will not be enough to assume, for instance, that Mr William Ruto controls the vast Rift Valley or that Mr Musalia Mudavadi controls the Western Province vote. All the polls so far show that the two are are relative minnows.

ODM can take the Steadman polls or commission its own and use those numbers to weight the candidates.

That way, those who are being called luminaries merely because they have declared they are also standing for president, yet they have absolutely no chance, will not be able to claim equal billing with the real candidates.

The fact of the matter is that the contest for the ODM presidential nomination is a two-horse race between Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, with the former pulling away and the latter going backwards. The rest are in the race merely to make up the numbers or to bargain for Cabinet posts if ODM forms the next government.

SOME ARE THAT BY SOME MIRAcle, they can sit back and be declared the compromise candidate. Others are so weak even in their own constituencies that they cannot be confident of winning a parliamentary seat. So they hope that the “luminary” tag will earn them free passage for the ticket in their respective constituencies, or if the worst comes to the worst, direct nomination to Parliament after the elections.

Surely such people, the likes of Mr Joe Nyagah, Dr Julia Ojiambo and Mr Najib Balala, have no place sitting on the negotiation table as equals with the likes of Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka. They should not even be allowed on the table.

It follows that the effort to reach a consensus must be based on identifying the candidate most likely to secure victory for ODM. Such a candidate can only be identified through a process based on real facts and figures, not mumbo jumbo about somebody being more electable.

Whatever method ODM settles for, delegates or consensus, time is not on their side. By now there should be a clear timetable for selection or election of a presidential candidate.

Ideally, there should be no harm waiting until just two or three months to the general elections, but that would be extremely risky in a situation where their main rival controls the election timetable. Remember ex-President Moi and his “election date is my secret weapon” pronouncements of years gone by?

There is nothing even today to stop President Kibaki dissolving Parliament next week. They could be called when the ODM leaders are still taking their fake unity road shows across the country and proclaiming undying love; but with daggers aimed at each others’ backs.

I do not, as a rule, publicly endorse candidates for political office. But I am tempted to buck the trend and root for Local Government minister Musikari Kombo and the civic leaders who are pushing some of the toughest “no smoking” rules in the world.

Mr Kombo and Nairobi Mayor Wathika, backed by rather overzealous city police, have ensured that my daytime nicotine fix has been radically reduced. Nairobi must be the only city where “public place” in reference to smoking means even the great outdoors.

Anyway, after years of vain struggle, the new anti-smoking rules have forced me to involuntarily cut down on the noxious weed. But only during the day, for immediately I get to a “safe” place – where there will be no council police to extract cash – at the end of the day, the tendency is to make up the arrears.

So, overall ,nothing has changed. I still need something to cure me of that deadly addiction.

Publication Date: 2007/07/17

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