Raila Odinga, and the Undying Quest for a VIP Status
“… I was sitting somewhere and saw people walking in, who have swindled this country and walk in through the VIP entrance at the airport, yet when they go to other countries, they are treated with the contempt they deserve. but when they come in here, they walk in as VIPs. I want to talk about one or two whom you know. They are here. They come as VIPs. They are swindlers. Where are the Pattnis and the Somaias? They are swindlers, yet they walk around here as free as birds and we give them all the respect.”
Hon. Shakeel Shabir, Kisumu Town East MP. Wednesday, 1st December, 2010. The Hansard
This week, the debate resurfaced, on who, exactly, qualifies to be a Kenyan very important person. It did not begin in Parliament but at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Raila Odinga, debatably Kenya’s most experienced politician, had checked in for his routine flight to Kisumu via the VIP pavilion but was turned away “on orders from a high-ranking official from the Office of the President.” The Kenya Airports Authority have since clarified the matter, but the Orange Democratic Movement, Raila Odinga’s wounded political outfit, is demanding “nothing short of an apology from the Office of the President.”
“…Mr. Speaker, Sir. Again, security at Wilson Airport is wanting. Any Member of Parliament, or person who feels like a VIP will go through the VIP lounge and gain access to Wilson Airport…”
Hon. William Kabogo, Juja MP. 12th June, 2010. The Hansard.
From the above statement, two things can be deduced. That being an MP guarantees VIP access to government installations, and, if you cant make it to parliament, for one reason or another, the only thing you have to do is to “feel” like a VIP, and voila! However, to restrict the VIP access pass to parliamentarians and brain manipulation is missing the point. There is need to understand why, or why not, Raila Odinga would require the limited edition VVIP pass.
Raila Odinga is no longer a local politician but a global brand name. In April, after the Supreme Court declared Uhuru Kenyatta President, a friend from a major newspaper confided in me that newspaper sales had declined ever since Raila Odinga ceased to be front page news. But why would Uhuru Kenyatta’s image attract such a targeted boycott?, I asked. “Because supporters of Raila Odinga are passionate fans who worship him almost to a demi-god status.” He gave me the example of reported cases around the country where interior decorations are made with newspaper cuttings of Raila Odinga. “They call him Baba”, he told me, “he’s a father figure to them, he’s more than a politician.”
Odinga’s heavyweight status need no reminder. This is one individual who has been the poster image of Kenya’s reform process. He stuck his chin out and orchestrated the most daring political acts, then, by arm-twisting iron-fisted Daniel Moi into signing a political merger then clearing KANU from within, planting Mwai Kibaki as NARC’s figure-head and completing Moi’s humiliation at the December 2002 polls. In NARC, he checked the government from within, consistently disagreeing with President Mwai Kibaki in principle, out of love for his country, and when the ‘Mount Kenya Mafia’ had had enough of his abrasiveness, they cut him loose with the hope that he suffers the same fate as his colleagues whose political survival depended on licking the boots of the President of the day. But Raila Odinga often rolls on his own momentum, and before long he was back again keeping the government in check.
Kenyans love him, few hate him. All agree that the sacrifices he has made for his country are unprecedented. If a badge of honour was to be awarded for the most consistent Kenyan patriot, Odinga would have no competitors. He’s folklore, his legendary status must be immortalized. A VVIP pass is the least we can give this man to say “thank you” for the physical and emotional scars he got in the line of duty saving Kenya from pig-headed, hyena-like enemies of this nation.
Gabriel Oguda, 2013