• Stephen Osieyo

ODINGA versus. ODINGA II.

Updated: Apr 4, 2021



The sword versus the cutlass. The file versus the rasp. The arrow versus the spear. The sommelier versus phlebotomist. The two Odinga’s are not that far apart. They are very close because they shared era, phase, space and even pace. I think there was learning from each other and an element of involuntary imitation at least. When pre 1991 general elections Raila declared that his relationship with his father was a biological accident, simple minded people misread the declaration. The truth however is that we are children of our fathers and mothers through a biological accident.


A comparison of the two Odingas is inevitable at some point in history. In Odinga versus Odinga part I, I looked at 4 key areas. I had promised that a friend of mine will compare them in terms of strategy, tactics and statesmanship. Unfortunately, none has taken the mantle. I have decided to jump in with two feet and let my friends correct my laypersons view of this very technical field of political science students.


After the first round of the four criteria, Raila was leading Jaramogi but just. I have continued with the same scoring of awarding a points out of 10 in boxing style scoring

5. Strategic Genius

Survival in politics and even success depends on how astute one is in the application of every ones of brains strategic thinking. Both the Odingas are experts in environmental scanning then addressing the problem before it arrives.

Who is more of a strategic genius? Who makes choices that covers several pitfalls for a longer period to avoid the expensive boardroom stumbles and eventualities. Of course all these are relative on the prevailing conditions. Jaramogi years may seem less complex compared to Raila years. However, if one looks at the crushing of people like Milton Obote, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba then one can begin to appreciate the magnitude and impact of cold war in the Vietnam years. At a time when African population was not aware of how much global politics was impacting on them, Jaramogi was wrestling a bigger monster than we can ever fathom.

Many of us have dubbed Jaramogi a quitter and an acquisant for such proclamations as "Kenyatta is black man's God", "No Kenyatta; No Uhuru". Few people step back to try to step into Jaramogi shoes. Let's roll back the clock at evidence of Jaramogi thinking.

I must confess that I am a student of Mario Puzo great works the Godfather which has been certainly turned into one of the greatest movies of our time and used as anecdotes in top universities all over the world including Harvard in delivering strategic management units. My lecturer once remarked that you will not be able to read all these books cover to cover but read the Godfather by Mario Puzzo cover to cover and I can guarantee you that you will graduate. A look at Jaramogi and Raila is very much a comparison of the two sons of Don Corleone, Santino and Michael. And if you like add on Oburu as Freddo then picture is complete but I am not getting into Oburu/Freddo shenanigan.

In Nairobi and Kisumu there are buildings and residential areas named after one Ofafa. Ambrose Ofafa was a civil servant in the colonial government. He was shot by assassins who faked a stalled car and Ofafa died later in hospital. Jaramogi on hearing this rushed to Nairobi from Kisumu.

While Ofafa was struggling in hospital Luo youth in Nairobi were preparing a retaliatory attack against Kikuyus. And it would have been bloody. Why?

By then Kikuyus were marooned in estates like Bahati. And they were still under the thumb of the colonial government feeling the full force of the British knee on their throat and Kiambu loyalist holding onto their wriggling legs. This meant that any government reprisal would have been double assault on the Kikuyu community as the easy target to wipe out. This is the sort scenario that would have yielded an eventuallity worse than Congo in 1960 or South Africa and Nkatha backlash that threatened to rip South Africa apart before independence. Kenya would have been permanently damaged that even a secession or majimbo government would not cure.

Enter Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his foresight. Jaramogi quickly raced to Nairobi and organised a series of impromptu face to face meetings with Luo youths. A former Nairobi chief told me that he had never seen Jaramogi that livid. It was as if he had his back to the wall and was talking his way out of destruction. “Jaramogi was at one time fomenting in the mouth when cajoling, imploring pleading with the Luo youth to desist from that ill-advised course of action” ex chief Owino Daudi told me. By then young Luo man was still a very martial group very gullible to provocation, not the 7 day a week binge drinker of today. Generally, Luos were people of big girth and could easily subdue opponents in close short term street combat. A good number were veterans of WW1 and King African Rifles returnees. So military engagement came easily to them. For example, the Uyoma Asembo Seme was a cordillera of combat. Around this period, a Luo man who was forced to carry a Bwana Hobley(?) across a river in his in-laws territory watching had done the infamita. He just carried the mzungu half way the river then went under and an Hobley had to swim for dear life. He did this just for pride. Cases of spearing a local police were not unheard of. And they did not do it for any independence struggle. It was just for mundane things like their pride had been pricked. This is the sort of people Jaramogi was holding back not to engage another battle front.

Jaramogi clearly saw a feud that would outlast the Hutu-Tutsi vendetta. Jaramogi foresaw a future generation involved in endless war of vengeance and counter vengeance. Thanks there was Jaramogi to think of future generations and with a strategic master stroke defeat the Kiambu Kamatimo loyalists and colonial mischief.

Then there was brazen move by Jaramogi which has even been caught on film ceding the presidency of Kenya to Jomo Kenyatta and which has never been easily understood. All the trappings of the state instruments and the chance to direct Kenya to his direction was something that appealed to anybody. I still think know I would have taken that path. It was thought that once a president he could release Jomo Kenyatta and steer Kenya to a just government.

What is not so apparent is that even after the later Congo strife and Katanga secession, the South African problem that tore into the country and finally undid the Mandela Marriage that had withstood the apartheid oppression, nobody except Jaramogi could see what the colonial government was trying to do. That the colonial government was trying to do the same set ups in the foregoing sentences. In Kenya the Luo who had served in the colonial forces against the mau mau were being handed the presidency to rule over the very mau mau that were still under the gun. Also unbeknown to most Kenyans is the fact that most causalities suffered in the Independence struggle was Kikuyu on Kikuyu deaths. Senior Kikuyu will admit this to you. The colonial government did a lot of detaining and torturing and killings too, however the ghastliest killings were mau mau fighters against loyalties. This Kikuyu division still exists to date even if only simmering below the surface to ward off others. Here was a case when the British out of mischief was passing the same hot potato to Jaramogi. Again Jaramogi instead of falling for the trick to set himself against the mau mau took the very hot potato and gave Kenyatta. In so doing he cooled the potato and defeated the colonial mischief by sheer strategic thinking.

Strategically how would Tom Mboya or Raila have risen above those traps? I see Raila making moves to engage the Colonial government because after all it was obvious that Ofafa was such a close friend of Kenyatta that at one time Kenyatta running away from an alleged Kikuyu/colonial government conspiracy ran away and hid in Alego Kalkada sleeping in the much maligned grass thatched houses in that primitive Luo land. Raila would just say Go to hell and line his forces against Muzungu.

I also see Tom Mboya or even Raila falling for the Musungu trap and taking over the presidency and hoping to use his Trade Union politics to negotiate once in power and release Kenyatta in a coalition government. Is that not how he fell in for the Mau Forest trap and for the thorny Rift Valley land clashes. I am not mentioning Kibaki Tosha. In reality he did not fall for them he chose that path.

Strategically he would be limited in throwing a master stroke like say the Limuru Conference move of 1966 by Jaramogi that forced Kanu to come and fetch him with state staged riots on Kisumu after failing to make him react with Arwings Kodhek and Tom Mboya assassination. However, Raila was learning and his calm handling of Chris Msando killing and the destruction of computers in his office before 2017 elections means he had come of age.

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6. Tactical masterclass

Like Santino in the Godfather by Mario Puzzo, Raila is a master class tactician. What Jaramogi lacked in phases of the battle that required streetwise tactics Raila possesses in abundance. Jaramogi had to rely on Pio Gama Pinto and Ocholla Makanyengo to operationalise strategies and by then Tom Mboya had used the state operations to move steps ahead. Are you surprised that Pio Gama Pinto was gunned down and Ocholla Makanyengo framed? Failing which Makanyengo was constantly detained. However, I always say that despite Tom Mboya’s shrewdness and apparent trickery, Raila would have had Tom Mboya for breakfast because in military precision tactics Raila revels. In a very uneven combat, Raila has excelled because Raila needs close combat, Raila loves close operations. Any street tactics Raila would have destroyed Tom Mboya. Another comparison for another day

Raila was a football player and his chosen position was defensive midfielder. As a defensive midfielder, your position is to fix errors, watch the opponent’s scheme and react against them, throw in last ditch tackles because anything that passes you exposes and stretches the defence. Raila’s thinking is therefore a series of small kamikaze operations. In the army he would do well as a commando putting daring raids deep into enemy territory.

If he was studying accountancy, Raila would not enjoy the routine after routine units of mechanical and methodology of accounting but he would fail Operations research/ quantitative analysis several times just so that he can do it again and again and watch himself passing with top marks. This unit in accountancy qualification is composed of very unrelated topics like queuing theory, transport mathematics, I know-you-know-I-know-you-know-I-know-you-know Theory etc. All the topics in this unit are operations and stand alone. If you watch how Raila has dismantled the electoral issues in Kenya and they have been separate operations very unrelated with each other. The constitution review process was another dark alley street fight that illustrates his prowess. And see how wrecked the government machinery. It is difficult to stop him in those tactical manoeuvre waters and that is why I know Tom Mboya would have been swimming upstream against Raila. Say if Tom Mboya threw in that shitty little by election, Raila would not react by scanning the environment. No he would just take the fight to Mboya in those little by election and fight back to win them all. Then he would be off and join Tom Mboya next to Jomo Kenyatta and Mboya, and then it would be off for Mboya.

Notoriety is mistaken for fame

Notoriety is mostly mistaken for fame. Some of the Ugenya Kager clan fame is just notoriety. Only the Ugenya Kager tactic has stayed constant with Raila style of operations all along. The Kager clan are the most war like of the Luo clans, they are famous for infiltration then causing strife. It is fame out of notoriety. Infact 90 % would be shocked who Odera Akang’o clan truly was and how he infiltrated to become a Gem clan person of Kojuodhi clan. Also the folklore and the palace coups by Owiny Sigoma is ignored when you try to point at his infiltration ancestry. Both these characters have become so famous through notoriety that they are now jealously owned by them their would be victims. It is a deeper complex than the Stockholm syndrome.

There is a tactic associated with people of Ugenya Kager clan to extort errant brother in laws when they come visiting the wife’s home. In traditional days when men wore only skimpy leopard skin as attire, It was quite a challenge to visit the mother in laws place in Luo land because it’s a taboo to expose your modesty to your in-laws. What these Kager young Turks used to do is send the young-lings to pull the foot of the three legged stool at which point the in-law will stagger to the floor with his modesty exposed. The cultural clans demanded a goat to be paid to the in-law as a penalty for indecent exposure. It was not expensive in terms the hefty penalty but in terms of your modesty having being exposed to your in-laws it was expensive. The derision by sisters in laws is permanently labelled on you. Remember how Raila walked out of Ford Kenya after the competition with Orengo and company. His competitors were left confused because he just did a tum-kager. He then walked into National Economic Party or is it National development Party. Before long party President Oludhe my school mate found himself seated with bare buttocks on the floor like a Kager in-law. Another “tum-Kager”.

Then Raila in the Ugenya Kager style walked into KANU in peace but when he left, KANU was in pieces- “tum-Kager”. It’s a tactic in small operations that Raila has repeated again and again with the same desired effect. I wonder what he is doing now. Who is about to feel the full effect of “tum Kager”? All I know is the people of Ugenya Kager should have patented this “tum-kager” military operation.

In terms of close combat street tactic Raila is Indomitable. Remember how he dismantled the grand election theft by international organization without spending a single cent in the last elections. It was simply, “prove to the world how you managed to get your votes in a repeat election by running against yourself”. A masterclass in street tactics. Even Daddy Jaramogi would not think of this one.

I will score Raila much higher.

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7. Statesman.

A Statesman is concerned with the next generation not the next election. It is useless to narrate Jaramogi’s credentials here. And even more so with regards to Raila’s credential. The only difference is cold war did not let Jaramogi prove to the world that he was a statesman in the same way Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba died in an image they were not. However, Raila like Nyerere and Kaunda had time on their side and have demonstrated to the world that he is a statesman. Of that time has been kind to him.

I will nevertheless score them 10 each here.

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My Score card after 7 rounds.

J: 10 +10 + 08 + 08 +10 + 07 +10 +00 +00 + 00 = 63 points

R:10 + 07 +10 + 10 + 08 + 10 +10 +00 +00 +00 = 65 points

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If you haven't done so already, please read ODINGA versus ODINGA I


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