A strange thing has happened in these presidential elections. Of course, we have the usual sniping, threats, promises and appeals to tribalism, but these elections feel different than anything that has come before.
One of the major reasons is the extremely erratic behavior of one of the two leading aspirants, Raila Odinga. Agwambo is not just attacking his opponents President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Jubilee Party, but he has set his sights on everyone and everything, from the judiciary, the constitution, the KDF, the IEBC and even his own ODM party and fellow Nasa principals.
Raila’s campaign is beginning to look a scorched earth campaign destroying everything in his wake in an obsessive quest to gain the prize that has eluded him in his decades of political life, the presidency.
While many commentators are scratching their heads about this self-defeating tactic, perhaps the answer lies in the field of psychopathology.
Immediately after being nominated as the Nasa flagbearer in May, Raila left the country for over a week to visit Israel ostensibly to participate in a conference. Apart from a couple of photos from the very sparsely attended conference with no more than a few dozen attendees, the only other evidence of the trip was a visit to Jerusalem, where Raila posed in front of the so-called ‘Wailing Wall’, a segment of a an ancient retaining wall to the Jewish Temple.
Then Raila’s Twitter and Facebook feed and communications team went completely and peculiarly silent for the next few days until he returned to Kenya.
Something appeared to happen to the septuagenarian on this mysterious trip because Raila suddenly began constantly referring to himself as Joshua and babbling about leading people to Canaan.
In Israel, there is a well-known occurrence called Jerusalem syndrome, which is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem.
The most prevalent symptom of Jerusalem Syndrome is when a person starts believing they are a biblical character like Jesus, King David, Mohammed, or Joshua.
It is not a focus and devotion to a biblical character, but an obsessive belief that they are that person reincarnate, leading to the hospitalization of hundreds of people in Jerusalem over the last decade.
In a 2000 article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, a group of eminent psychiatrists identified and described Jerusalem Syndrome which emerges in tourists with no seemingly previous psychiatric history.
Raila decided that it wasn’t enough that he think he is the Biblical Joshua, he wants everyone to start referring to him by that name and even changed his name to reflect his new changed personality.
As one senior media commentator succinctly put it: “Anyone who seeks to change his name to Joshua after attaining the age of 70 years, and several public baptisms later, deserves to be treated with great circumspection.”
If this were any regular individual, family members or friends might enforce psychiatric treatment on such an individual. However, with Raila, many of the sycophants he surrounds himself with are playing into this delusion and massaging this psychosis.
Perhaps this explains Raila’s irrational touting of ten million supporters. While everyone in elections likes to inflate their support, Raila believes that he already has ten million votes in his pocket and the final two months of the campaign will be about adding to this tally. This is an absurd projection for even the most die-hard ODM supporters.
The mental illnesses of megalomania and narcissism is apparent when he promises that he can cure the country of all its ills in 90 days, including lowering the price of basic food commodities to unrealistic levels.
His paranoia is demonstrated almost daily when he lashes out in all directions, believing everyone is out to get him. Only recently, Raila demanded that the number of his bodyguards be increased from 16 to 50 and that the government provide him with 11 new cars, equaling perhaps the motorcade of the American president, the most powerful person on earth.
He gets angry when he is not properly addressed or recognized at national events, even though he holds no formal title or position, and is this is the same person who refused to stand and snubbed the country’s president at a funeral.
While no one should be forcibly hospitalized unless they pose a physical danger to themselves or those around them, it is clear that Raila needs help.
Kenyans should be very wary of Raila’s increasingly erratic behavior especially as he runs for the highest office in the land, which will as Commander-in-Chief give him access to the Kenyan Defence Forces, control over our lives and the budget of the country, accrued from our taxes.
A person like this can not be given the keys to State House.