The Odinga have put themselves in harm’s way at the risk of losing everything just for others. Both started off as teachers but did not allow the noble profession to tie them down.
Both father and son have confronted the Kenyan regimes but also made peace with them to live and fight another day.
Paradox of rejected presidency
First, Jaramogi confronted Britain’s Gulag, or the detention camps for political prisoners. But he astonished the nation when he rejected British colonists advances to sidestep jailed Jomo Kenyatta and lead Kenya to Independence.
For reasons that have never been explained, Jaramogi spat out this bait with the popular retort that Kenyatta is the black man’s god. Instead, Jaramogi insisted on Kenyatta’s release from prison to lead Kenya to Independence as its first president.
Jaramogi then became content to fill the seat of first Vice President of the Republic of Kenya.
Speaking to a veteran Kikuyu politician of pre-independence Kenya, he confessed that Jaramogi action angered even some Kikuyu who could not understand why Kenyatta was being fast-tracked.
But with hindsight and looking at countries that have been faced with similar challenge and took the easier option, we can see only now what Jaramogi foresaw 70 years ahead.
In pre-independence, even though many areas of Kikuyu land took an armed British-loyalists stand, even in the new Kenya, nobody remembers that. However, had Jaramogi taken up the presidency, the militant Kikuyu in the forest would have not seen the difference between the colonial government and the new Kenya government under Jaramogi.
“You know how my Kikuyus do not take a different view kindly. Like in Rwanda, this chasm would have opened widely. The poverty in Kikuyu land would be seen as a Luo-perpetuated neo-colonialism.”
But this stand-by-Kenyatta devotion did not stop Jaramogi, after Independence, from denying President Kenyatta the role of rubber-stamping his policies. For instance, Jaramogi rejected the 1966 Limuru conference resolution that sought to reorganise the KANU party, introduce a new constitution and also cut up his vice presidency into eight slots for the eight provinces and remove him from direct presidential succession.
Jaramogi then resigned as he saw no more relevance in the post.
Fight for land, democratic rights
Similarly, Jaramogi’s robust push at the British empire was one of the red-hot issues that forced the calling of the Lancaster Conference, where he insisted the British buy back Kenya Highland farms from the White settlers and redistribute to Africans squatters.
Jaramogi argued that the British government had benefited from taxes off the White farms and had repatriated the profits.
Back in Kenya, Jaramogi forced the Kenyatta regime back on the land issue and so did he again when President arap Moi tried to lure him back into government. To date, the former White settlers’ land issue remains a hot potato and provided the underlying flashpoint of the 2008 post-election violence in the Rift Valley.
Once more, Jaramogi and pro-democracy activists exposed the misrule under a single-party state and Moi had to give way to pressures to return Kenya to multipartyism and democratic governance.
Like father, like son
Like his father, Raila’s track record needs no belabouring.
He could have easily served his bit in the comfortable life zone. But Raila chose the bruising fight for democracy, and good governance.
Apart from his career, Raila turned his back on President Moi’s transition government, Kibaki government and twice on the Uhuru government.
After the freeing of political space, Raila rejoined arap Moi in a coalition but later exposed the misrule directed at the Kikuyu and the rest of Kenya. First, he spoke for the Kikuyu under the thumb of arap Moi; then Raila spoke against the bad constitution.
And for these, Raila became an enemy of the Nyayo regime under arap Moi.
Raila next confronted President Kibaki and the misrule directed at Kenyans with a not-fit-for purpose constitution.
Finally, Raila also exposed a wicked centralised government, which after being exposed, agreed to devolve government resources to the counties.
And for their troubles of resisting and exposing the exploitative and corrupt system, both Jaramogi and Raila were imprisoned. For the three times Raila came to confront and expose the system, he was jailed and his little life taken away by exile and stolen elections.
Raila kept on doing it not only more times than Jaramogi, but until the systems crossed over and changed.
Jaramogi the pacifist
Even if we forget Jaramogi’s decision to work with Nyayo [President arap Moi] in later years, Jaramogi non-violent stand speaks volumes of his natural pull to a future Kenya.
Given his pro-East stance, Jaramogi was spoilt for choice for ccountries such as China and Russia that would give him resources to destabilize Kenya, but not even his many arrests and detentions pushed him to that path.
Several coups were hatched, but Jaramogi’s nearest association was with the 1971 coup where the plotters merely wrote him off and indicated Jaramogi would be released but play no further role. Even President arap Moi one time sensing a trap to kill Jaramogi, placed him under house arrest, for safety.
Jaramogi also freely travelled to Zanzibar on secret rendezvous but never plotted any vindictive agenda against his own Kenya.
If you add this to secured scholarships, and communal business ventures, then Jaramogi placed community above self-interest. The same could be said of his love-hate relationship with President Kenyatta.
Odinga, Kenyatta love-hate bond
One afternoon, on July 5, 1969, Kenya’s first president Kenyatta was having an afternoon nap. Kenyatta had suffered a massive heart attack and was recuperating.
Following his heart scare, power jockeying was rife.
Legend has it that Mzee Kenyatta was woken up and told that Tom Mboya, his key minister and labour leader from Luo land, had been shot. And word was that Mboya was dying.
Like any criminologist will tell you, Kenyatta’s first words were very important.
Kenyatta, as legend has it, exclaimed, “what have my Kiambu people done now?”
Kenyatta’s words apparently cleared him of any suspicions of the assassination.
Kenyatta too never suspected Jaramogi of orchestrating a reprisal or badmouthing him.
Even at the traditional Luo vigil, Jaramogi seemed to point out at a clique and not Kenyatta.
This means whoever wanted Mboya out was not anybody in the Kenyatta family or the outcast Kikuyus past Mount Kenya.
This assassination was a Kiambu Kikuyu elite affair; and not all Kiambu, but just a few ambitious rivals in the frontlines. But that is another subject for another day.
Six months later at a function to open a hospital in Kisumu, in a public spat like children in a playground and angry with Jaramogi, Kenyatta said in a fit of anger, “Jaramogi if you were not my friend, I would have locked you in.”
It appears that in Mzee Kenyatta’s eyes, Jaramogi was not really a troublemaker. He cared about Kenya and could take personal loss than jeopardise the future generation.
Stolen polls and handshake
Raila on the other hand has not seen as far as his father had, but has shown brinkmanship of his own. The high point for Raila was the 2007/2008 election hiatus. And even if it is much-maligned, the 2017 poll fallout was even bigger.
Countrywide, there were bloody suppression of demonstrations that were demanding electoral justice. Kenya had become ungovernable and was grounding to a halt and Raila’s ODM party-controlled Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu counties and cities.
In the provinces, Raila had five of the eight provinces in his back pocket and they were ready to take the worst pain any illegal occupant in the State House could dish out to them.
Then came the handshake on March 9, 2018, which startled everyone and had Raila and his nemesis, President Uhuru Kenyatta, striking a deal to the exclusion Deputy President William Ruto.
By the time the August 2022 poll date was called, Raila and Uhuru had become political bedfellows as Ruto stood outside as an isolated onlooker and fierce critic and political opponent.
This masterstroke was not as far-reaching as that of Jaramogi but was truly dramatic.
Extracted from Odinga versus Odinga II, https://www.namlolwe-anecdotes.com/