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Raila Amollo Odinga’s five stabs at the Kenyan presidency have failed with two out of the five occasions showing statistically disputable outcomes. One would therefore expect that he would be cast as a washed-out politician, but, no. Like the legendary phoenix, the doyen of Kenya’s opposition politics always keeps rising and finding ways to reinvent himself.

Raila Odinga addressing an international symposium in the United States of America. Raila is often hosted with the dignity and honour of a Head of State. Photo: AFP

The perpetual comebacks. How does he do it?

Biographer Babafemi A. Badejo attempts to shed some light in the book “Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics.”


He analyzes Kenya’s and Odinga’s history from the time Raila was a child up through 2005 when President Kibaki reneged on his earlier agreement to make Odinga prime minister and the 2002 winning NARC coalition split into rival ethnic factions.

Badejo retells the political history of this period in Kenya while also adding colour to it. It is a history that has been told often. However, the author’s cutting edge is his ability to give the reader a detailed feel for the events he is describing and analyzing. He does this by capturing the words and thoughts of both Odinga’s cohorts and family members and those of a myriad of politicians who were some of Kenya’s leading political actors, then.

Even so, Babafemi A. Badejo does not reveal the source of the vim and chutzpah that always sees Raila come out of nasty situations smelling like roses. What is the secret of his staying power and remaining relevant even in defeat?

At the height of political tensions in November 2017 Raila called for a countrywide boycott of certain products associated with the Kenyatta family. Still he would show respect to authority whenever he met the president in public. Photo: NMG

Caroli Omondi and Miguna Miguna are Raila confidantes who eventually went public and spilt very juicy morsels on who the man behind the golden veneer is.

Raila does not offer bribes or unsolicited incentives, nor does he accept them. Some people call him stingy. An incident is told, however, when he ordered a clean-up of his 14th floor office at Treasury Building when he was Prime Minister. He did not care that some of the people involved in the importation of contaminated maize from South Africa were very close to him. They simply had to go. To this day some of them such as Miguna Miguna are still smarting from the pain of Raila’s brutal and incisive honesty.

Raila is a humanitarian at heart. In 2007 after Samuel Kivuitu, the IEBC Chair announced Mwai Kibaki winner in an election that statistics show Raila could have won with a landslide, he abetted a bloodbath by accepting the results. His political allies, however, did not, and that led to the post-election violence.

The contaminated maize scandal squarely touched on the Prime Minister’s office and Raila’s handling of the incident has left him with permanent enemies. Photo: NMG

History is told from the perspective of the narrator but when the history of our day is written Raila’s efforts to reunite the Mountain with the Lake will perhaps be one of his most significant achievements.

Already there’s talk that the massive support from Government agencies could be geared towards leading Raila to the slaughter.

This brings to memory another great son of Africa.

The late Chinua Achebe was in literary circles what Raila is in the political sphere; a genius who never gets the ultimate reward. Despite his works being read across the globe by more readers than any other African writer, Achebe never won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

People reading mischief in the Kenya Kwanza administration’s wholesome support of Raila’s bid for the Africa Union Commission Chairmanship, rest assured Raila will have a comeback whether he succeeds or fails. It is his way of living. He is a master of comebacks – just like the legendary phoenix.


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