Monday, November 05, 2007

‘Kibaki Tena’ no match for the idea we need change!

Published on November 5, 2007, 12:00 am

By Dominic Odipo

Who is President Kibaki’s most serious opponent in the battle for the presidency this year? Is it ODM’s Mr Raila Odinga or ODM-Kenya’s Mr Kalonzo Musyoka?

To get the answer we really need here, this question needs to put slightly differently: What is the most serious obstacle standing between President Kibaki and a second presidential term?

Put this way, the answer becomes not only clearer but much more helpful.

The most serious obstacle standing between Kibaki and a second term is neither Raila nor Kalonzo. It is an idea, a feeling, an ‘ill wind’ blowing through thousands of villages and towns all across the land. It is the idea that the political status quo needs to be changed.

It is the feeling that the real dream and promise of the Narc rebellion of 2002 has not only gone unfulfilled but has actually been abandoned.

It is the feeling that a horrendous mistake was made in the run-up to the 2002 General Election, which now needs to be corrected.

No army, no weapon of mass destruction and no international boundary can stand before an idea whose time has come. The President’s people need to recognise that if their man loses the presidential election, he will have been beaten, not by an individual but by an infectious idea whose time appears to have arrived.

The once almighty British Empire of the 19th and 20th centuries was not destroyed by Germany’s Adolf Hitler but mainly by the basic idea that colonialism and imperialism were out and self-determination for all the peoples of the world was in.

The moment this idea found expression in the policies and actions of US President Franklin D Roosevelt and other like-minded people in positions of power, colonialism was dead and the British Empire was fast on its way to extinction.

In the 1980s, we all watched with awe and wonder as a set of new ideas marched across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union sweeping away government after government and establishing a totally new world order.

No government or army in the region could stand up against the idea that communism was basically incompatible with human nature and that the human spirit was greater and stronger than any government anywhere.

The ideological forces unleashed jointly by then US President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II destroyed the entire political architecture of Eastern Europe and changed the course of European and world history.

The weapons required to fight an idea are very different from those required to fight an individual. Just like we do not fight highland malaria with guns or pangas, we do not fight ideas by unleashing our gunfire on individuals.

Both Reagan and Pope John Paul II have since passed on but the ideas they epitomised, preached and proliferated could live on for a thousand years.

One of the greatest enemies of the conventional wisdom is the force of naked facts. If the ideas that we hold are directly challenged by the facts before our own eyes, we tend to abandon those ideas and embrace those that match the facts around us.

Where the facts do not so obviously contradict the ideas that we hold, the only way to fight an idea is to unleash a bigger, better and more alluring idea against which the old one will recoil and retreat.

So far as we know, there is no other weapon available for fighting a powerful idea.

If you do not understand who or what your real enemy is, you are likely to come up with the wrong remedy or the wrong weapon.

A close look at the Kibaki re-election campaign leaves little doubt that some very big guns in there have not really understood what they are up against.

If they had understood what they are really up against, they would not have structured their campaign around a slogan like "Kibaki Tena".

In this context, to shout "Kibaki Tena" from the rooftops or the tail end of an aircraft is akin to standing at the barricades and stubbornly trying to hold back an idea marching across the landscape.

It is as ingenious and as futile as if the Eastern European leaders had fought back against the new ideas of the 1980s with the slogan: "Communism Again". It simply would not have worked against the promise of freedom.

Can the President’s entire campaign focus and strategy be overhauled within the remaining 50 days?

My take is that it is very unlikely. Which means that, almost certainly, the President will be out of State House by the end of the year.

The writer is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi



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