Politicians have their strengths, and weaknesses. While they try their best to hide the natural weaknesses from the public, they don’t always succeed. That is why NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga is so predictable on one thing.
Barely a single meeting or campaign rally will pass without cameras zooming in on him dozing off. Those who have attended high level closed-door meetings with him attest to the same fact; that he rarely concentrates on discussions for over 30 minutes without succumbing to sleep.
So high is the frequency with which the ODM leader goes into ‘power saving’ mode that a joke that has been doing rounds on social media says that sleeps so much in his rallies that when he wakes up, he fights it off with his popular phrase ‘Kumepambauka. Kumekucha’ (Dawn is upon us), as if he is straight from bed after a long night.
And as the presidential campaigns intensify, ahead of the August 8 general election, Raila is increasingly attracting attention and questions on his stamina and fitness to be president, an extremely demanding job.
Being president is the toughest job in Kenya. You literally carry the nation on your shoulders. As the head of state, you take responsibility for every single development affecting your country, both locally and internationally. So overwhelming is the workload that presidents rarely get sound sleep.
It is also obvious, and naturally understandable, Raila is in short supply of stamina. If anything, he is 72 years old.
During the past few weeks of countrywide campaigns, the rigorous NASA campaign schedule has badly exposed Raila as having low energy. The campaign is fixed to one main venue, with breaks after every few days of campaigning.
On the other hand, his main rival, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who intends to retire at 60, holds about 10 campaign events per day and still appears to be in possession a lot of stamina.
On Sunday, after holding an unusual high number of campaign events in Kilifi County, Raila had to be admitted in hospital in what analysts are calling fatigue. He personally dismissed it as mere dehydration. Being president requires a lot of stamina.
When you are the president, you can get a 2.a.m phone call to attend to an urgent national issue.
For instance, over the weekend, President Kenyatta had to cut short his sleep at 1 a.m., having barely rested after a long day of prayers for the country, to attend to the emergency of Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery’s death.
Old people, such as Raila, are not known to disrupt their sleep in the middle of the night and fully focus on doing anything meaningful.
On August 8, one of the reasons Kenyans may decide to permanently retire Raila, who should have called it a career after the 2013 loss, is perhaps because he lacks stamina and fitness to be president.