By Ng’ang’a Gicumbi
Now that Miguna Miguna’s much awaited book Peeling Back the Mask is in public domain, one is bound to ask: What is he really trying to sell and to whom? To the more perceptive, Miguna is desperately keen on selling something more than a book. His reformist credentials? Maybe. His book talks about his reform credentials. His desire to see Kenya change? Probably. He positions himself as a ‘true’ mzalendo (patriot). His need for money? Likely. He has been out of job for some time now. His desire that Raila does not become president? I don’t know.
I will hasten to say Miguna’s interests would be taken care of better under a Raila presidency because they share a lot in common. I also hypothesise that the ultimate import of Miguna’s book will not be about destroying Raila’s career per se; rather it will serve to demythologise and crack open the Raila myth that has tended to ascribe to him some superhuman qualities and probably create a human Raila that people can relate to. This is the unexploited potential of Miguna’s book that Raila will need to capitalise on.
I suggest too that Raila and his handlers could benefit from the negatives about their man as captured in this book since they resonate with the general weakness of our body politic, which is linked to the various moral distortions from our collective national psyche. This way, Raila and company could as well steal the thunder away from Miguna and make his book an impotent cloud, with no thunder or rain. But let’s pause a moment and reflect on a ‘fearful’ possibility. What if this book achieves its alleged political objective, that of destroying Raila’s political career? One quick response is that Kenya’s political landscape will miss Raila’s political gravitas. But would this not be expecting too much from mortal man whom the Bible says is just like grass, finite? Again, the next president could roast Raila alive.
That Raila has come to exemplify the alternative ‘better’ option for Kenyans is something that is taken for granted in many quarters. He is reputed to have a sizeable national constituency that is willing to die with him, maybe literally. I guess the major worry for Raila and his handlers may have begun the moment Miguna made public his intention to write a book after falling out of favour with the ODM’s jakom (power man). I suppose the real head cracker for them right now is how to hold intact this ‘Raila constituency’, a fertile launching pad for the PM’s presidential quest.
But what if Miguna’s book fails in its alleged objective? I guess Miguna will join the ranks of Kenya’s whistleblowers many of who have faded into obscurity and earned the pitiable title – ‘the forgotten heroes of Kenya’. The only decisive way that can make Miguna’s book irrelevant and his accusations against Raila seem politically sacrilegious is for Raila to win the presidency. Anything less will be damning for him. In the short and more immediate term, Raila and company will need to urgently convene a damage control team that will methodically manage the disappointment and fury Miguna’s book has elicited.
It is my free suggestion that a legalistic approach may not help the Raila cause. He will need to establish credible spin machinery, which will be tasked with the job of thinking through convincing counter-points. So far the various pro-Raila campaign outfits are clearly short of properly delineated and articulated political agenda for their man and seem to be everywhere and nowhere. This deficiency only serves to make his presidential quest seem imprisoned by a mob.
It will also be interesting to reflect on how Miguna’s book will bolster the chances for the “Ocampo Four”. But this is a topic for another day. Now, if Miguna’s book carries the day and Raila is maligned irredeemably and his stab at the presidency emasculated, it will be because Raila and company did not adequately take advantage of the contrast effect theory first noted by the 17th century philosopher John Locke, who observed that lukewarm water can feel hot or cold depending on whether the hand touching it was previously in hot or cold water.
In psychology, contrast effect basically means that some perception (say weight, brightness or sweetness) will appear greater or lesser depending on a perception that came immediately before it because they contrast so strongly and the memory of one affects your perception of the other.
The question to ask here is basic: will the public memory of Raila as a ‘reform icon’ be damaged by Miguna’s revelations to the contrary? Will Miguna’s lesser stature as a hardheaded reformist and moralist eclipse Raila’s public stature and hence change public perception of Raila?
The writer is a behavior scientist