Gone in 60 Seconds: Did a Single Act With Uhuru Destroy What it Took Raila a Lifetime to Build?


By Washington Osiro,

It takes a lifetime to build (customer) loyalty and a single act of betrayal to destroy it – sometimes irreparably.

My District Manager (DM), one Jessie Garcia, shared this nugget of wisdom with me shortly after I started working at Jack-in-the-Box to pay for my way through college:

Washington, success in this industry (food service) is as much about the quality of the food served as it is about the relationship you build with your customers. You can get their orders right 99% of the time but the one time that you get it wrong is the one time they’ll remember – especially if they are asked to describe their experience at the establishment. If you remember this lesson, you’ll do very well in the industry.”


This exchange with Jessie occurred almost three decades ago in the late nineties. It is also one that has stuck with me and importantly, one that has been consistently borne out: Customers and humans in general tend to remember the one time they were betrayed, hurt, taken advantage of, mistreated – take your pick of descriptor for the negative event – by someone they respected and trusted.

I have an extensive public record documenting my support for Raila Amolo Odinga. My support for the man and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka culminated in a series of articles in the Huffington Post including two that were categorical: “Endorsement: Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka for Kenya’s President and Deputy President” and “Kenyans Decide 2017: Why I am Supporting NASA’s Raila/Kalonzo Ticket.” Of the more than fifty articles I wrote for one of the premier news site for progressives going back to early 2016, a majority of them were critical of the corruption and incompetence endemic during Jubilee’s first term in office. My criticism of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto was consistent and unrelenting because they sat atop the corrupt and ineffectual government. The corollary of this criticism was my support of alternative government, (b) headed by someone who had spent an appreciable portion of his adult life championing the ideals I believed in ergo my support for Raila Odinga (and Kalonzo Musyoka).

Full Disclosure: I will forever have fond memories of Kalonzo Musyoka from an encounter back to 1996.

Qualified Support

My support for the man many Kenyans describe as the “best president Kenya never had” was not without qualifiers. However, that did not stop many from branding me as a “die-hard Raila sycophant” including a former schoolmate. This former schoolmate went on to invoke (question) my Christian faith and make a veiled threat couched as a “warning” from “my friends.” Notwithstanding, I was consistent that were Raila Odinga to ascend to the presidency, I would be among his toughest critics. I wrote that I would hold him to markedly higher standards than I held Uhuru/Ruto. The high expectations I had of a Raila presidency was based on the image them man had crafted for himself – especially during the last two presidential campaigns I had paid close attention to – in 2007 vs. Mwai Kibaki and in 2013 vs. Uhuru Kenyatta.


It is against this background that I recalled Jessie’s advice; a juxtapositioning that raised several questions:

  1. In joining forces with Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, the personification of the very vices Raila Amolo Odinga has spent his life trying to root out, has he betrayed, in one fell swoop, these very ideals of unbridled avarice, ineptitude, and impunity?

2. In promulgating the “Handshake” with Uhuru, has Raila betrayed the very customers (including yours truly) who bought into his vision of a Kenya free of avarice, ineptitude, and impunity?

3. Has Raila Odinga’s participation in the demonization of William Ruto, while understandable given their history and the latter’s hubris, given lie to the stated objectives supposedly championed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI)?

4. How does one reconcile these ideals such as (a) lack of national ethos, (b) inclusivity, and (c) antagonism/divisiveness and the subsequent actions of its chief proponents Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta towards William Ruto?


When I review the preceding questions against the conduct and utterances of Raila, his supporters, and some party operatives, especially since March 2018, it becomes apparent that the narrative about the “Handshake” being a “strategic (political) retreat” by the man, presumably as he looks ahead to running in 2022, is a ruse. It is a narrative that is contradicted by his ongoing less-than-strategic personal attacks against his new nemesis and main opponent to replace Uhuru – Ruto. In short, Raila is giving credence to the widely held assertion that he will do anything to become Kenya’s president including embracing the one person (Uhuru Kenyatta) whose being remains antithetical to everything he (Raila) claimed to stand for. Along the way, Raila Odinga, a statesman of continental and global repute appears to have resorted to non-statesman-like behavior by using the same tactics the “Handshake” is supposed to ameliorate – against the new bogeyman William Ruto.

Given the preceding, the “Handshake” now appears contrived, selfish, and frankly, meaningless.

Germane to this article, the BBI reeks of betrayal – of Raila’s many supporters who took his professed words, supposed ethics, and alleged beliefs to heart – including yours truly. Worse is that the initiative’s two principals Uhuru and Raila have little qualms about using the country’s transactional legislative process to legitimize what is obviously a self-serving initiative at the expense of all Kenyans, including political rivals.

Gone in Sixty Seconds

Taken together, I cannot help but think of Jessie Garcia’s words and conclude that thanks to the “Handshake” and his conduct thereafter, Raila Amolo Odinga’s brand has lost a critical mass of sheen he spent a lifetime amassing.