Monday, June 03, 2013

The woods for the trees.

This is not the United States of America, we have argued before on this blog. Therefore, it follows that we do not treat public figures as the Americans do. Raila Odinga has been denied VIP status as a former Prime Minister of the Republic at our airports. One shudders to think that even in his current predicament that he would demand state favours for simply being Raila Odinga. It should go without saying that Kenya is not the United Kingdom either where the State awards honours on citizens for their achievements, especially in the political field. Kenya consciously rejected the idea of Lords, Earls and Knight Commanders of the Realm. Mr Odinga, for all that he has done for Kenya, is now an ordinary citizen. A very wealthy man, but an ordinary citizen nonetheless. Even his position atop the CORD firmament means absolutely nothing if he does not hold any meaningful position in the Government of Kenya, whether in the Executive or Parliament.

Some will argue that since the end of their terms, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki should be treated as ordinary citizens too. The State favours and kow-towing by the State to their various whims should come to an end. But that would be facetious and petty. Mr Moi and Kibaki, for all their flaws, were Presidents, symbols of national unity. Mr Odinga for all he has done for the people of Kenya was not a symbol of national unity, even as Prime Minister. He is highly controversial and very polarising. He has an on-going political contest with the incumbent at State House. It is improper for him to demand, or to be offered, State largesse simply because he is a Big Man.

It is a lesson that Kenyans must learn. Politics, and governance, is larger than any one man. The late George Saitoti realised this when Moi canned him. We must stop creating myths out of the men and women who rise above others in the political arena, whether they were good or not. The system must come first. Institutions must be larger than the men and women who created them. It is why parliamentarians must be reminded that they are not the reason why we have a government. We have a government because we willed it into life by ratifying the Constitution. The government exists whether they are there or not.

Mr Odinga is an important man to many. If they wish to canonise him, they are free to do so without the need to demand special favours from the State. If he wishes to be treated as a god, all he has to do is address a rally of CORD supporters. If he wants to enjoy the benefits of being a State VIP all he has to do is win an election once more.

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