THE MAN THAT IS RAILA ODINGA

More than five years on from Raila’s job application speech, many Kenyans, including important figures within Raila’s strategy team for the 2007 elections,are wondering what has happened to the promises he made at the KICC that evening. Raila has been the Prime Minister of Kenya since April 2008. He is a co-principal with President Kibaki. He sits atop the office of the Prime Minister, a humongous and elevated institution in Kenya, with a budget that runs into billions of shillings, a large staff and extensive reach and influence. What is
preventing him from using his office to pursue some of his pre-election commitments? Five years after taking up office he is still behaving like an opposition activist, complaining about the ‘government’, despite being one of the leaders of that same government.
Another fundamental pledge he made in that KICC speech was to be accountable over corruption, nepotism and tribalism in government. He declared that staffing at his office “will reflect our national diversity”. He then challenged anyone to hold him accountable. He correctly decried the existence of “informal government structures that allow family members, personal friends and moneybags more access and control of State House than elected officials – more even than cabinet ministers. These will go…the informal structures that currently exist are rooted in tribal alliances and cronyism, and our history tells us that these have been the real engines running our past and current government.” Yet, from the off, the office of the Prime Minister has seemed to me to be a den of corruption and nepotism. While I was his senior advisor and joint secretary to the permanent committee on the management on grand coalition affairs, I tried to remind Raila, repeatedly, of those solemn undertakings to the people of Kenya. I openly challenged the decision to appoint his older brother Oburu Oginga as an assistant minister for finance; his cousin Jakoyo Midiwo as both the ODM and joint coalition government chief whip (which is essentially a full cabinet position); sisters Akinyi Wenwa to a diplomatic post in Los Angeles, California and Beryl Achieng’ to chair the Railway Workers’ Pension Board; as well as the appointments of his cousin Carey Orege as PS in ministry of regional development; Elkanah Odembo (Jakoyo Midiwo’s brother-in-law) as Kenya’s Ambassador to the US; his cousin Paul Gondi as the executive chairman of the Geothermal Development Company; another distant cousin from Sakwa in South Nyanza, Ochillo Ayacko, as the executive chairman of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Project and another cousin from Sakwa, Bondo, Joe Ager, as a senior officer of the Kenya Power Lighting Company. There were even credible storiesthat the newly appointed Controller of Budget, Agnes Odhiambo, was Ida’s first cousin. Even the (then) National Social Security Fund’s Managing Trustee, Alex Kazongo, and the Auditor General, Edward R.O. Ouko, were said to be related to Raila. In fact, immediately Raila was set to become Prime Minister, even before he was sworn in, he hand-picked another relative of his, James Ogundo, to be a member of the lucrative Constituency Development Fund (CDF) board. That was perhaps Raila’s first appointment as Prime Minister. But we should have detected Raila’s nepotistic tendencies earlier. Or more accurately, I should have. Twice, when I accompanied Raila to Minnesota and Colorado, I noticed that funds donated by diaspora Kenyans were handled by either his step-sister, Akinyi Walkowa, or his daughter, Rosemary Akeyo. Other
times, he would summon another relative (whom everyone at Raila’s offices refer to as “Kulei”), George Opondo, to handle cash. These weren’t personal funds. Kenyans were donating in order to support the ODM and Raila’s presidential campaign.
The personalisation of power is largely responsible for the Big Man syndrome and the vicious abuse of power, the tyranny and pillage of public resources that have occurred all over Africa for the last 50 years. Raila’s hiring of his family members, relatives and village-mates would be one of the worst kinds of nepotism I would ever encounter in my life, and in many ways, a harbinger for worse things to come. Raila, whom I had called an agent of change – a bridge between the old rotten system and the new progressive era – a person I had termed an enigmatic political genius of all times would turn out to be worse than Moi in my considered opinion and much, much, worse than Kibaki on every score. Unlike Kibaki, Raila had no honour and loyalty to his friends. His word meant nothing. He betrayed his close friends more than he did his enemies. He couldn’t be trusted not just with petty promises, but also with the power and leadership of Kenya. In a word: I would painfully discover that Raila was a dangerous man.
More than once (after Raila became Prime Minister), I sat in meetings where investors would propose to fund the development of various initiatives, including such things as garbage incineration. The French government made proposals of improving the infrastructure of Kisumu. But each time, Raila would crassly steer the discussions to Siaya County, specifically Bondo Town where he hailed from. The only place where a university college has been commissioned, built and opened since Raila became Prime Minister is Bondo. Is this what we worked so tirelessly for? The nepotism, cronyism and plain irresponsibility defies reason, logic or commonsense

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