By: Onchari Oyieyo,
The position of Secretary General happens to be the most significant in any political party. The very nature of the SG’s position means that the occupant is the face of the party.
An energetic and inspiring SG leads to increased excitement that attracts more members thus strengthening a political party.
In 1960, Tom Mboya, one of Kenya’s brightest political leaders took over as Secretary General of the newly formed Kenya African National Union, KANU.
The high calibre of Mboya’s intellect set the tenor of KANU’s leadership and injected into the new party the significance that it has carried over the decades.
The National Alliance (TNA), would not stand the test of time given the colourlessness of its first SG, Mr. Onyango Oloo. Jubilee has had some of the most lukewarm secretaries general such as Raphael Tuju and Jeremiah Kioni, fellows who do not inspire any confidence whatsoever.
How about the two strongest parties of the moment, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)?
ODM’s Edwin Sifuna came in first before UDA’s Malala. But the differences in the parties’ current strengths give us a picture of the two youthful leaders. Raila’s ODM received no jolt of energy upon Sifuna’s ascendancy to the position.
Unlike the exciting and eloquent Ababu Namwamba who’s tenure as ODM SG was characterized by press statements rendered in lofty prose, poetic phraseology, and outstanding diction that left newsmen and the general public in awe and admiration, Sifuna comes off as a largely flat fellow with forced articulation.
Malala on the other hand seems to possess a natural knack for drama with free-flowing humour that squeezes laughter out of his listeners’ mouths.
But the differences between Malala and Sifuna that basically amount to the two parties’ competitive edge do not end with Sifuna’s stiffness and Malala’s easy humour.
As individual political drive goes, Sifuna is totally unable to survive away from Raila’s shadow. This is even astonishing given that the former Prime Minister is from a different tribal extraction, meaning that even after Raila’s exit from politics, Luhyas will find Sifuna alien.
Malala on the other hand has practiced political nomadism from personal adventure as a Member of the Kakamega County Assembly through the Senate, and finally his arguably formidable albeit unsuccessful bid for Kakamega County governorship.
Malala seems poised to weather political storms and survive whether on his own or under the tutelage of any senior politician. He adds value to whichever faction he goes unlike Sifuna who, at this very moment will add absolutely no value to any of the big political groupings in the country.
Perhaps the greatest difference that is also at the heart of the value each of these two bring to their respective political houses is in their personality.
Malala is a typical homeboy, jovial, easy going, and almost always approachable. He is the kind of guy boys in the hood will comfortably share personal struggles with, even when their lifestyles might be starkly different. This relatability is vital in attracting new members to UDA. ODM SG Hon.
Edwin Sifuna on the other hand passes for your elitist cool kid who has had limited intercourse with the everyday struggles of “hustlers.” He brings the stiff and serious demeanour to most public addresses and his speech is peppered with the arrogance of a “final declaration bearer” as opposed to a political leader out to win an argument through persuasion.
No wonder he employs extremely limited dialogue with the audience during rallies unlike Malala who possesses a penchant for starting sentences and letting the audience complete them for him, a tactic whose effect is passing on ownership of the discussion to the people.
That Raila Odinga himself is excellent at this method of delivery and Sifuna scores zero on it points to his inability to learn from his master.
As Raila Odinga’s age advances and William embarks on his possibly final leg of his political journey given that the presidency is the zenith, political party survival will hinge on other personalities, and UDA is at this moment positioned for supremacy. During his time as ODM SG, Ababu Namwamba injected both intellectual rigour that is evident in his smooth articulation and a wealth of language and youthful relatability through his authentic militancy, factors that sold ODM as the party of young people and ideologically grounded adults from any part of the country. Sifuna lacks all of these.
The only challenge the UDA SG might run into is lousy economic performance by the UDA regime. But if it performs even modestly, he is likely to not only strengthen his political brand, but also entrench the yellow party in a manner that will see it last through countless years, way beyond William Ruto’s decade as the country’s president.
Evidence of Malala’s enviable stamina is seen in how he shook and choked both Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford Kenya with his bold declaration that they need to fold up now that their leaders are part and parcel of government. ANC, that had committed a fatal error of hiring a Luyha as SG quickly cracked while Ford Kenya squirmed into a tiny corner of political silence.
While the star of the game might be Malala, the real glow is with the manager who forwarded the star striker into the game, His Excellency President William Ruto. His hiring of Malala as UDA SG was a masterstroke. Will Raila be bold enough to replace Sifuna? If yes, with who? We shall see it all in the sands of time.
Award Winning Political Scientist.