To Kivutha Kibwana…
Congratulations for tossing your hat in the 2022 presidential ring. If the reactions seen ― after your Twitter post announcing your candidature ― are anything to go by, you are going to win. Just like Peter Kenneth was in 2013.
Indeed, your candidature and persona remind me of Mr Kenneth back then. But at the same time I am reminded of Kalonzo Musyoka and a bit of Musalia Mudavadi. But before we go there let me buttress my congratulations.
If indeed you, Prof Kibwana, will be on the ballot, you’ll come with the best CV. Just like your friend and neighbour Prof Makau Mutua when he appeared before the Judicial Service Commission for the position of Chief Justice. You have done the people of Makueni County proud. Your term as governor there is second to none. You have done devolution proud, so I understand your obsession with strengthening devolution, which you highlighted as one of the major reasons for your candidature. I believe if you have made devolution work in Makueni, you can make it work in the other 46 counties. Especially Nairobi.
Added to that, I admire your intellect. Sometime in 2018, I attended a dialogue on devolution and public participation at the Goethe Institut, where you and Wanjiru Gikonyo (National Coordinator for The Institute of Social Accountability) were the speakers of the day. I was amazed to hear the professor in you devour the topic of discussion. I specifically will not forget the Makueni model of public participation. That was amazing. In summary, the model was very African and very workable.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can vouch for you. In fact, let me at this point promise you my vote. I hope with that I have made you smile. However, let me also ask you to buckle up. I am about to tell you some uncomfortable truths.
Prof Kibwana, perception is king in politics. I am sure you are aware of this. Many people think you would make a good president. But many others think you cannot win. Why?
Some say you are as dull as dishwater. To add to that, others say you lack charisma; that you cannot excite voters. I am sure you know Mr Mudavadi. Many people are comparing you and him – that the same way it is said of Mudavadi, you are like an egg without salt.
Let me explain. Kenyan politics is like Russian roulette. Not so much because of the players but because of the voters. You see, when you convene a political rally, those who come to cheer you on are not dressed in suits and ties. Instead, they come dressed in ragged t-shirts and some even carry dangerous weapons. Like the stones used by David to kill Goliath.
To manage such crowds you need some degree of madness.
Just like there is a thin line between romantic love and stupidity, there’s a thin line between politics and madness. Some people therefore think you cannot win because you are too normal for Kenyan politics.
Prof, there are others saying you have distanced yourself from the political reality in Kenya. These ones are comparing you to former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. They say that you, like Kalonzo, are suffering from an acute delusional syndrome. That somehow, some noisy Kenyans on Twitter and a cabal of Kenyan pessimists (in the name of civil society) have inflamed your ego and given you imagined political powers.
Let me describe to you, Prof, the sad reality of Kenyan politics. The political space at the national level is crowded by only two players. It is either Uhuru (Kenyatta) or Raila (Odinga). Anyone else must play second fiddle. Prof, deep down I know you know that in that ring, where Uhuru and Raila are playing, you can only be a cornerman. So I would advise that you cut your coat according to your size. There are many low-hanging fruits you can reach for.
For instance, if you continue attending the Building Bridges Initiative rallies, at night, and supporting their agenda ― like you have done before ― you can be sure of getting a position that will have been carefully crafted for you, if the Executive is expanded.
If you doubt me, I want to ask you to have a consultative meeting with (Deputy President William) Ruto. But even before you do that, I want to give you a simple task: Write down all the qualities and abilities you think Kenyans want in a president. How many can you check for yourself? And how many does Mr Ruto check?
My guess is, if you’re honest with yourself, almost all of Ruto’s boxes will be checked. Let’s not talk about yours but ask ourselves a simple question. With almost no boxes left unchecked, how come Ruto is having such a hard time?
If you still think you can be president, please carry on…