Raila Odinga is without a shadow of doubt a colossus on the African continent. Any student of leadership in Africa can’t afford not to study what it is that makes him tick.
And a most useful place to begin is Odinga’s voluminous autobiography from 2013 titled The Flame of Freedom, which the former Nigerian head of state, General Olusegon Obasanjo, was so complimentary about in his foreword writing:
“Too much of what our children are taught in school about development and government is borrowed from societies that, socially and historically, have backgrounds very different from ours. There has, until now, been a shortage of accessible literature on home-grown leadership responses to uniquely African problems and challenges. That is why I would like to see many more African leaders from all sectors of national public and professional life put their career experiences on record, just as Raila has done.”
And before Odinga’s autobiography was a biography by a Nigerian Professor, Babafemi Badejo, titled Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of enigma is “a mysterious or puzzling person or thing.”
It is precisely this intriguing characterisation of Odinga that I more broadly wish to explore in a manner that may well be at odds with what the good professor had in mind.
Instructively, Odinga narrates in his autobiography how he went to extraordinary lengths to assist Nigeria get itself out of the nightmarish rule of General Sani Abacha.