‘One ought to be just before one is generous’

BY: Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
Voters make their choice based on messages of politicians
Voters make their choice based on messages of politicians

Raila Odinga, the veteran politician who led a coalition of the opposition to the August 2017 elections, has been served a fait accompli, the nyama choma sort that Winston Churchill may have been referring to.

Odinga has raised the headlines again and with it, a sobering evaluation of the quality of democracy in Africa. What he doesn't seem to have done is to have delivered the numbers at the polling booths enough to win decisively in his last attempt to be the first gentleman of the land.

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To be just and generous.  Either Odinga and the coalition simply did not have a compelling enough alternative message to drive enough Kenyans to make the hard choice between him and a final five-year term with Uhuru Kenyatta, or they had the numbers but the system was set up for him to lose - the obscene pre-election murder of the
IT manager of the Electoral Commission is a howling grievous indictment.  And/or unlike the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Ghana's 2016 election, Odinga didn't set up a back office agile enough to count the numbers on the ground, assuming they were actually there, that simply couldn't be disputed. All of the above I suspect, and few other fillips have come to awful overlapping play. Kenyan blogger Njorege Chege provides a sobering analysis.

With a GDP estimated at $70 billion, Kenya is their sub-region's largest economy.  International observers and significantly the US Ambassador in Nairobi have weighed in. Go to court, not to barricaded streets. Get back to work. Odinga will get very short shrift from them if he throws his last defiant hat into the ring.

Kenyans will get the government they deserve.  Like the ANC's Jacob Zuma, who survived a vote of no confidence in South Africa's Parliament last week, Kenyatta has got away with it. Or has he?  Zuma still faces a court case. According to the Associated Press news, 'nearly 800 charges of alleged corruption, racketeering and fraud' have been levelled squarely against him. There is also a new attempt by the opposition to impeach him. At best, Zuma will limp away from power. That Zulu warrior dance, like Kenyatta's perma red eyes, are looking tired.
 
'Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount.  And the tigers are getting hungry.'  What did it take for Kenyatta to hold the line, who does he owe for this pyrrhic victory and what payment will they extract?  Will the middle class, civil society, the unions, now coalesce to give him a run for their money every step of the way for the next five years?   

And the caravan, called the global economy rolls right along. Teutonic plates are shifting quietly, Kenya and its public growing pains are but a cliched minnow. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was announced amid fanfare under former US President Bill Clinton 17 years ago to allow free access for 38 African countries to export specific goods, tariff- free, to the lucrative US market.  AGOA expires in 2025. Has it worked? Kinda. Sorta.

In 2016, Ghana's AGOA exports to the US recovered from its lowest dip in 2012 to $29 million, the audacious ambition now is to increase exports annually by $20 million.

To benefit from AGOA, countries such as ours, must get over the drama of elections, work together - industry and entrepreneurs and policy makers - to actually improve the business climate at home to directly benefit locals and use this to access preferential export treatment. Don't go whining to Mr Trump; this US President has shown less than no interest in Africa.  Why should he?  As America has found other sources for oil and other imports, their trade deficit with the region has retreated from $64 billion in 2008 to a dwindling $8 billion.

I am having a serious Churchill moment in this column. Britain's wartime Prime Minister, a man also known to have taken liberally to the bottle before, during and after breakfast, is quoted as saying:’ 'Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.'’  Cold comfort if you are in the indignant opposition in many parts of Africa where it seems like democracy has been deliberately hot wired by the 'Founders' of independence and the authors of 'modern' constitutions to thwart and deliver lethal shocks.
 
Like Ghanaians, Kenyans are on their own. Next week's column is already writing itself. Never mind geopolitics, exactly how much money did we misappropriate, plunder and steal in 2016 from the public purse in ministries, departments, agencies and Local Government?  Fortunately, we have enough bucks left over to continue pandering, in a secular country, to religious groups.  Hajj pilgrimage underway. To be fair, this government has generously equalised the John (1) Rawlings era entitlement brigade to now include the hand holding of Christians to Jerusalem.    


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