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In the footsteps of my father

Publication Date: 4/27/2008

As is the tradition in many African societies in which the father was the homestead leader, it is the first son who is the heir-apparent or the one who assumes the old man’s mantle.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga addresses the media at a past conference in Nairobi. Photos/ FILE

But here in Kenya, one man is defying the tradition. He has not only overshadowed his elder brother but also acts as if he is the one on which the father bestowed all political blessings.

The man is Raila Amolo Odinga, the resilient, tactical schemer who is feared as much as he is respected by friend and foe alike.

Unlike his elder brother, Oburu Odinga,  Kenya’s second prime minister since independence personifies what his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, stood for. And even though death nipped Mr Odinga Senior’s ambition in the bud of leading this country, Mr Odinga Jnr has succeeded where his father failed, even if in a position lower than that of the President.

Jaramogi was equally held in awe and held the Luo under his spell, so much so that whomever he campaigned for in the community was sure to make it to Parliament. And he had funny ways of “endorsing” candidates. Unlike the modern-day politicians who endorse candidates at political rallies, Mr Odinga Snr only visited his preferred candidate’s area to tell the people to pass his regards to him. And the person had the ticket.

His word was more than law among the Luo, and his powers bordered on the supernatural. The people of Luo Nyanza were charmed by stories of his powers and exploits. Boys and girls grew up knowing that Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was the be-all and end-all of Kenyan politics — an invincible politician who was always ready to fight for the people’s rights and those of the down-trodden.

He was feared about as much as he was respected, and if he told a Luo politician not to contest an election, that was it. Whoever went against his word was doomed to failure — at least in politics. But although the political establishment did not like this state of affairs, it did little to reduce the faith the people had in him. The government’s  determination to tame him only strengthened this faith.

He was detained several times by both the Kenyatta and the Moi administrations, but each time he came out stronger and more determined to continue with the struggle. There is not much difference between what Jaramogi went through and what his son has encountered in his political life.

A known fighter who commands fanatical support in Luo Nyanza, Mr Odinga Jnr is not only living his father’s dream, but also following in his footsteps.


About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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