Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi Needs to Counter Raila Odinga’s Propaganda Machine Fast
By Maurice N Amutabi
As a presidential contender Musalia Mudavadi needs to brave himself for the real Kenyan politics of bare knuckles and propaganda and counter propaganda. He needs to be prepared to make news and capture headlines in order to endear himself to majority of Kenyans. In the past few days, Mudavadi has just done this, by asking Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to retire together. This was the headline item on many newspapers and media houses. Few would have imagined just a few days ago that Mudavadi would make such a pronouncement. He made it to the headlines and that is very important in politics, because numbers go up by visibility and visibility comes by being in the news. To be in the news, one must say the unusual and move against the script.
Many political strategists would tell you that passion is more important in politics than reason. Mudavadi should come out fighting with passion for everything he stands for. He should speak the language of ordinary people, by accusing Raila Odinga of misdeeds such as the portfolios he held as minister which all underachieved during his tenure. The war of words has started and the Mudavadi camp should not move away from painting Raila as violent-prone. He should make more inroads to Nyanza where he is likely to be stoned and let Kenyans make the judgement. Pundits think that Mudavadi may not address a meeting in Luo Nyanza the way Raila Odinga did in Vihiga and walk away without a scuffle. Mudavadi should take this up, and go to funerals in Luo Nyanza. The more stones aimed at him, the more sympathy support he will get from the rest of Kenyans.
To be sure, there are gains that come by not being in the news, and Mudavadi has built his reputation for not being in the news because of his style of politics. But let us face it, people want to see courage and bravery from the country’s CEO. In the past, one could keep off controversy and ease into the presidency. Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki made it to the highest office in Kenya through this approach, but that was then. Today, one must speak out and be seen to be with the people. It is for this reason that Mudavadi needs to engage political strategists and think tank that should assist him in countering the propaganda from the other side, fast and smoothly. The strategists should not react to what Raila’s camp says, but should go after him, to put him on the defence. They should revive the Molasses Plant controversy, the maize scandal, the kazi kwa vijana issues, the controversial ambassadorial appointments and other positions in the civil service that have been given to mainly Luos and relatives and close friends and allies. In short, Mudavadi should be prepared to expose some dirt and even spill some mud in Raila’s face.
Mudavadi’s handlers need to unearth a lot of dirt in Raila’s corner. They need to paint him as too ambitious and one who is prepared to do anything in his capacity to stop his potential rivals. They need to court William Ruto, Najib Balala, and all those who have fallen out with him, in order to show that he is no democrat. They need to remind Kenyans that in 2005, Kalonzo Musyoka was the one leading in opinion polls in the unified ODK-Kenya and Raila became uncomfortable and left to ODM. The idea of party hopping in order to find easy opportunity should be associated with Raila Odinga. He should be painted as a party hopper and serial defector in order to make him look undemocratic.
Mudavadi’s camp should also let Kenyans know that Raila Odinga acts before thinking. They should remind Kenyans that it was Raila Odinga who shouted ‘Kibaki Tosha’ and destroyed an schemes and strategies that his side may have had up their sleeves. He shouted Kibaki tosha in order to defeat the interests of people like Kalonzo Musyoka who believed that they have a better chance than Mwai Kibaki. They should make Raila defend himself against allegations that he turned against Kibaki only when it became apparent that he would not give him support to become president, having believed the lie that Kibaki would be a one term president. Of course Mudavadi is wise to have left ODM because there were claims that Raila Odinga have vowed to be a one term president.
When Raila’s camp sends statements to the newsrooms accusing Mudavadi of this and that misdeed, Muadavadi’s camp should release their own on dossier on Raila Odinga and his camp. They present scandal involving ODM side of the government as Raila. They should jump on issues such as the NHIF controversy with gusto and determination, while defending Mudavadi against any accusation. They should accuse Raila of wrong doing, by insisting that he is to blame for mistakes of his appointees. There should be representatives sent to media houses to speak on behalf of Mudavadi to counter the views of so-called analysts and talking heads
Machiavelli noted that through the correct use and manipulation of propaganda people would be swayed to accept and believe that the private interests of the prince are for the common good, even if this is not so in reality. This is an idea that politicians such as Raila Odinga and his late father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga used to great effect among the Luo. Odinga made the majority of Luos to believe that his fate and that of the Luo were intimately and intricately intertwined. He would do everything in the name of the Luos and created a myth around himself. This is a myth that Raila has been riding on for quite some time now.
There has been the false façade that there is no politician in Kenya who knows tactics of smear campaign more than Raila Odinga. There are even those who make allegations that Raila is charismatic and a good speaker. Mudavadi’s corner should point out that those are manufactured lies because Raila Odinga is one of the worst public speakers in this country. He does not even articulate himself in a manner that is presidential. He stammers and words are sometimes hard to come out of his mouth, and when they do, they are unclear, disjointed and uncoordinated. There have been claims that Raila likes and cherishes chaos under which there is a false myth that he thrives better. The reality of the matter is that Raila Odinga’s is fashioned by spin and image creators who have always sought to create a political giant from a political squirrel.
Musalia Mudavadi needs to embrace the Machiavellian strategies, of making his opponents respond to him rather than him responding to them. He needs to know that politics are about competition of ideas. There are no good or bad ideas in politics, but only winning ideas. Machiavelli, the father of political theory and science of statecraft pointed out that virtue was not the commonly accepted moral and ethical considerations embodied by Christianity but rather a specific behaviour that “promotes the acquisition and maintenance of power” which comes with a lot of sacrificing of principles of fairness and good behaviour. For Machiavelli, it was better for a ruler to be feared than to be loved. To achieve a balance between fear and love from the people, the good prince needed to use “force and propaganda” in equal measure.
Musalia Mudavadi can start to assert his dominance in his natural constituency by going after those not seen to be on his side, borrowing a mantra from former American President George W. Bush who said that you are either with us, or against, and you cannot be in the middle. Raila Odinga did this against Anyang Nyong’o in 1997 and against James Orengo in 2002 when they lost baldy to opponents supported by Raila. Mudavadi needs to groom potential MPs and Senators and Governors in places he feels that he has strong support. He needs to move against all those seen to be supporting his opponents in order to make those who may think of speaking against him afraid of him.
Prof. Amutabi is a political analyst and teaches Political Science at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Amutabi@yahoo.com