Kenya heads to the polls in August for highly anticipated general elections that will see the election of officers at four levels. The presidency, governorship, Members of Parliament – MPs and Senators as well as Members of the County Assembly.
The most keenly contested race for its sub-regional and international dimensions is that of the seat of president. A two-horse race between incumbent and the main opposition as is usually the case across the continent.
Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, will lead the Jubilee party as he guns for a second and final term in office. His main contender is former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who is making his fourth attempt at the office.
At 72, Odinga is entering a make or break race according to some analysts. But could he be lucky as have two of his peers in the last two years. Two key West African countries have between 2015 – 2016 kicked out ‘younger’ leaders to admit relatively older ones.
Nigeria: Muhammadu Buhari vs. Goodluck Jonathan in 2015
The 2015 polls in Africa’s most populous country was widely hailed as the best since Nigeria’s return to multi-party democracy in 1999. It was the first time the then ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was dislodged from office.
It was a battle between Muhammadu Buhari, 73 years at the time. The Katsina-born former military ruler was taking his third shot at the seat and he was coming up against a third different opponent. In the end, his All Progressives Congress (APC) beat the then 57-year-old Jonathan and the PDP.
Issues at the heart of the poll included security – at the time Boko Haram was running rampage in the north east and had potency to hit urban areas like Lagos and Abuja. The issue of corruption and the economy also featured strongly.
Buhari had previously lost to Olusegun Obasanjo (2003), against the Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007 and against Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 but Jonathan failed to secure a second straight term in 2015.
Ghana: Akufo Addo beats Mahama in December 2016 polls
When the elections train reached Ghana, seven candidates were on the ballot sheet but it was a straight fight between the incumbent and the main opposition. 58-year-old John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was up against three-time candidate, 73-year-old Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.
The septuagenarian had previously lost against Mahama’s boss, Late John Evans Atta Mills in 2008, before being defeated by Mahama in 2012. A lawyer by training, he filed a presidential poll petition after losing in 2012 but the verdict said the final result could not be altered despite proof of irregularities.
The 2016 polls were Ghana’s seventh under its 1992 constitution. The period has been dominated by Akufo Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the NDC. The NDC has produced three presidents so far whiles Akufo Addo is the second NPP president.
Connecting the Nigeria – Ghana and Kenyan experiences
The Kenyan election bears some semblance to that of Ghana and Nigeria, aside the age gap between the main contenders, corruption in government is a major issue as is security to some extent.
Kenyans are known to be driven more by their tribal and ethnic leanings in choosing leaders rather than comparing policy. The opposition coalition – National Super Alliance (NASA) will undoubtedly give Kenyatta and the Jubilee party a good run for their money.
Question still remains: can Raila Odinga pull off a Muhammadu Buhari, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo style victory? Will Kenyans see enough reason to allow Odinga the opportunity to preside over national affairs? Only time will tell.
Brief about the man, Raila Amolo Odinga
Odinga, originally the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was Premier of Kenya between April 2008 and April 2013 under a power-sharing deal with then President Mwai Kibaki.
The 72-year-old was the Kenya’s second PM because the only other person to hold the post was Jomo Kenyatta (father of his main rival, Uhuru kenyatta) back in 1964. The office was abolished after 2013.
He has previously also handled different ministerial portfolios including Roads, Public Works and Housing as well as energy.
The NASA was formed eight months ago with the aim of wrestling power from Uhuru Kenyatta who will be running for his second five-year term. He won the 2013 race against Odinga, whose ODM is one of the five main opposition parties uniting.
Kenyatta’s presidency has seen the economy grow at a steady 5 to 6 percent a year, but has faced headwinds from a spate of militant attacks that have killed hundreds of people. He has faced criticism for not doing more to tackle corruption.
Odinga in his capacity as NASA candidate will be taking his third shot at the presidency. He disputed the results of the last vote in 2013 and the election in 2007, which was followed by weeks of ethnic violence in which about 1,200 people died.
A mechanical engineer by training, he is married to Ida Odinga and the couple have four children. He is the son of the country’s first vive president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Will he manage to go a step further than his father? Only time …..
Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo