I have been watching. And listening. And I can tell you that the fall-out between Ababu Namwamba and ODM did not start with the IEBC protests. It started when he accepted a boardroom deal from Raila Odinga after ODM unleashed the men-in-black and snatched a people-driven victory from him at Kasarani. I was extremely disappointed when he accepted a boardroom deal from the ODM tribal Kingpin, and I remember thinking to myself, “politically, this guy is finished”. From that point on, he was Raila’s marionette, since he owed his SG post to him and not to the people. It is not true that Raila handed him a gun without bullets. When he accepted the boardroom deal, he accepted a gun with one bullet, and now he has turned it on himself. Political greed, self-preservation and manipulation is what drives “political parties” and their tribal tin-god owners. However enticing the deal you make with them in the boardroom is, you are just a pawn in their game of tribal arithmetic and power brokerage. Cavorting with them is like mounting the proverbial tiger. You cannot disembark, because if you do, it will eat you. Ababu has disembarked from the ODM tiger, it will devour him. A good question to ask is, how could he have not seen this?
Ababu is not a fool. In fact, compared to the average Kenyan politician, even those he was serving in ODM, he would pass for a genius. I used to read his articles when he was a columnist in one of the dailies. I would not say they were exceptional, I have read better. But they proved that he is a guy who is moderately read and can wrestle with ideas and he can hold his own in average intellectual debates. How could he have gotten this one so wrong?
I have consistently said that in spite of what the political class would want us to believe, there are no political parties in Kenya, except KANU. And on this count I will have to agree with Moi. All other “political parties” are tagataga (garbage). No wonder their tribal kingpin owners throw them away like the garbage they are, when they are done with them. Check the garbage bin after the jubilee merger, you will find discarded garbage called TNA and URP! All these “political parties” are masquerades, tribal briefcases for the tribal kingpins who form them to bargain at the political market place that only knows ethnicity, impunity and mediocrity, siasa ya ukabila, ukora na upuzi as their currency. Their owners can buy them and shut them down at will, ODM is no exception. If Ababu was listening, he had been warned as much before the ODM Kasarani Kisirani by non-other than George Aladwa, he of the one-bullet-remaining, people-must-die-for-Raila-to-be-President fame. He had said without mincing his words that ODM:
party leader is Raila Amollo Odinga and he owns this party. And this party is a private club and it has its own members. (See this videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vjgWbKdOWQ.) (Emphasis mine)
When they unleashed the men-in-black on him and the other aspirants, Ababu should have read the writing on the wall. I have argued before that this is the most embarrassing and degenerate public act by any “political party” in Kenya’s history. Raila and ODM would not have survived this incident in any other civilized country. Only in Kenya. Raila demonstrated beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt that he had no intention whatsoever of letting democracy defined as “the will of the people”, reign in Kenya. He defines democracy to mean him and what he wants. For him, ODM delivered a democratic election in Kasarani. Beyond discrediting Raila as a leader of any sort, the incident ruled out the possibility of ODM being trusted with power. The last thing you want is to give the instruments of state power to hooligans and anarchists. That Raila survived and today calls ODM a “national party”, a “government in waiting” is thanks to jubilee’s incompetence and corruption that makes some Kenyans contemplate that ODM can be an alternative. It can’t.
The Kasarani debacle was Ababu’s moment of reckoning. He had two choices.
The first was to tell the King he was naked and demand another election. And mean it. ODM attack dogs would have pushed him out in what would have been seen as an act of treachery. Taking the treachery he would have demonstrated his mettle and principal and become his own man. He would have been out but taking this option would have bought him martyrdom, a prized title in politics. This option was akin to facing and doing battle with the tiger, he didn’t have to worry about losing, he would have become a martyr.
The second option was to hand the King a loin cloth to cover parts of his nakedness by accepting a poisoned boardroom deal that purported to give him the position they had denied him on the floor at Kasarani. This is akin to mounting and riding the tiger. Instead of option 1, facing the tiger, he decided to take option 2 mount it and go for a ride. This seemed more enticing, faster and thrilling. Tigers are magnificent animals and pretty fast. A top the tiger, he still believed himself to be a general. But by this one act, he had been disarmed and given a single gun from the authors of the men-in-black debacle. He says it was not loaded. He is wrong. It had one bullet and by disembarking from the Tiger he has turned that one bullet on himself.
Previous examples of both options exist. Ruto, took option 1. He was pushed out of ODM in what was seen as an act of treachery and he achieved a political martyr status. Today he has joined Raila as a tribal tin-god in his own right. Raila would prostrate under his feet for audience. Martha Karua took option 2. She mounted the PNU Tiger in 2007 and disembarked, it devoured her political career. Before she dismounted the tiger, they used to call her “the most powerful man in Kibaki’s government”. After she disembarked, she is a run-of-the-mill politician who is now following Raila and CORD around, and still inexplicably harbors dreams of being president. She still doesn’t get it – “It’s game over”. I don’t know what she stands for. I doubt she will ever recover from this incident.
What is the lesson for aspiring young politicians from this Ababu debacle? The current political class is only interested in you to the extent you are of use to them. If you have something they can use, they will charm you. Once you have served your purpose they will spew you and crash you. I know of another promising and in my assessment brilliant secretary general of another tribal briefcase for a certain former Moi man from Ukambani, he of your-name-betrays-you fame. I have always had a lot of respect for the young man’s intellect and political ability. But he must know that he decided to mount the Tiger. If he does not want to end up like Ababu, he better have a more strategic exit plan. The same goes for some youngsters who have been offered hollow positions in TNA. They are brilliant at defending their indefensible benefactor. My advice to them is to watch Ababu, and learn.
The current political class has no use for new ideas and new approaches, but more importantly, they are too full of themselves that they have no space for a new young generation that would bring these ideas. Ababu Namwamba bought into the hype, imagined that there was space for new ideas in ODM and mounted the tiger and disembarked, it will devour him.