Every Kenyan knows that I was to be on the ballot for the fourth President of the Republic of Kenya. I evaluated the challenges we face as a nation, the socio-political forces at play and the possible future scenarios we face ahead and counseled myself that, for now, the future of Kenya will be best secured with Raila Odinga as our fourth president. As I have often said, Kenya is bigger than all of us. I therefore subordinated my political ambition to the bigger national interest. Raila has demonstrated more than once that he is guided by the same philosophy as I.
First is his life story. When the history for the struggle for democratization of this country is written, Raila Odinga’s name will feature prominently among the gallant sons and daughters of this our land and nation that faced adversities to create a nation that we, our children and children’s children will be proud to belong to. He stands tall as one of foremost champions of the Kenyan dream. He has been detained a multiplicity of times, his wife and other close relatives hounded out of public service jobs, and his businesses raided, all in the pursuit of building a Kenya that works for all Kenyans. Kenya is at a crossroads.
After two decades of an intense struggle, we finally gave unto ourselves a liberating constitution in 2010. But the Constitution is not an end in itself. It is a means to reforming our politics, reforming our economy and reforming our public institutions. Its full implementation will usher us into a community of progressive, prosperous and democratic nations. As our Constitution bears indelible imprints of Odinga’s efforts, struggles and tribulations, I believe that none of those running for the Office of the President can equal our candidate on the zeal to fully implement the Constitution, reform the police, deepen reforms in the Judiciary, reform the public service and give life and meaning to the Bill of Rights.
Second is his character. I have known and worked with our current Prime minister for over two decades – some time as an ally, other times as an adversary. I can therefore testify without fear of contradiction to his capacity to tolerate the most difficult people and/or situations one can imagine. I have watched him deal patiently with situations where lesser mortals would walk away in defeat or exasperation. I have seen him forgive and embrace his former tormentors or rivals. This capacity to see everything within the parameters of the bigger picture must be the reason the Grand Coalition Government has survived the full term. It is the reason we have teamed together to deliver third and final liberation to this nation in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).
The third is his social democratic agenda. Raila Odinga is fully committed to the ideology of social democracy. I worked with him, President Kibaki and other Kenyan leaders in crafting the NARC agenda in 2002. When some people ridiculed our resolve to provide free primary education to our children he was among those who insisted it could be done and had to be done. As CORD, we have presented an even more comprehensive social democratic agenda.
Our Constitution, to which he is so committed that he had come out of a hospital bed to campaign for, is a framework for a social democratic state. We at CORD are committed to giving this a meaning through a universal access to healthcare as we roll out of the National Social Health Insurance Scheme; to cushioning our senior citizens through a universal old age cash transfer scheme; to expanding cash transfers for the urban poor and orphans and vulnerable children; to progressive land reforms and; to free secondary education among others. These and other economic and social rights are dear to our presidential flag bearer.
As a social democrat, Raila Odinga knows that “tax-and-spend” policies are not sustainable. He knows that a thriving economy must be built on the foundation of hard work, enabling business environment and technology and innovation. That is why he made the improvement of infrastructure his focus, both as the minister for roads in the NARC government and as prime minister of the Republic. Their partnership with President Kibaki on this enterprise has yielded the outcomes we can all see. He is committed to continue with this as president. His current focus on jobs, jobs and more jobs is anchored on the understanding that economic growth and welfare must be based on a productive society. He also understands why emerging technological solutions must be used to address agriculture for food security. That is why, among other major initiatives, he spearheaded efforts to attract investment in irrigation like the Todonyang Irrigation Scheme.
I commend Raila Odinga to Kenyans.