Is there anything the country stands to lose whether or not Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga concedes defeat in the August 8 election?
This is the question many Kenyans have been pondering since the election results were announced last week.
To Mr Odinga’s diehard supporters, he must not accept the results as this would depict him as having gone down without a fight.
Others might even accuse him of giving away a golden opportunity to gain a share in the government in whatever proportions they envisage.
For their part, Jubilee loyalists do not believe that merely conceding defeat will change anything.
After all, what can he do with all the National Assembly, gubernatorial and senatorial seats Jubilee won? they ask.
However, I hold the view that Mr Odinga’s public acceptance of the poll outcome would be a key tool for peace and stability.
It doesn’t matter the pain and anguish his supporters have undergone following the failure in his fourth attempt at the presidency.
It matters, though, that his opinion on the results has a bearing on his political future and that of the country.
I simply cannot decipher why a political figure, who has sacrificed so much for the country, would want to erase all the dignity and honour by failing to acknowledge that Kenyans have made a choice.
Mr Odinga could borrow a leaf from US Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton’s concession speech after her stunning defeat by Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election:
“Our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big hearted.”
That this year’s elections were largely incident-free and one of the most transparent ever in Africa should be enough reason for Mr Odinga to respect the verdict.
At his level of political maturity and sacrifice, his desire to see a freer country governed by progressive democratic principles, winning an election or even assuming power should not be the only thing he should be prepared to die for.
He is at a vantage position to demonstrate dignity in defeat that would leave his reputation, locally and internationally, intact.
In America, Walter Mondale’s concession to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election is just what would best capture Mr Odinga’s best words on our 2017 poll.
Mondale told Reagan: “The People’s choice was made peacefully. And although I would have rather won tonight, we rejoice in our democracy.
“We rejoice in the freedom of a wonderful people. And we accept their verdict.”
Conceding gives supporters the final word on their next course of action, which is to let election intrigues and frustrations pass and look forward to a better future.
Voting just means that we differ on the route to take to move the country forward.
Despite shortcomings in party primaries, some of us accepted the people’s will and decided to look at the broader picture of upholding democracy.
If more leaders were to follow suit, then our counties, constituencies and wards would get down to nation building very soon.
According to Lindsay Hayes, who wrote speeches for losing American presidential candidate John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin in 2008, conceding is critical in instilling a sense of nationhood.
“It creates a sense of continuity and stability. People need that in their government.”
A people’s choice ought to be respected as many equate it to the will of God.
Even despots such as Yahya Jammeh of Gambia could defy all the other forces, but not the will of the people.
When he lost the presidential election to Adama Barrow amid fears of violence, he ignited a fresh sense of patriotism by acknowledging the people’s decision.
He said: “As a true Muslim who believes in the almighty Allah, I will never question Allah’s decision. You, Gambians have decided.”
But he later changed his mind, alleging that evidence had emerged that the election had been rigged.
Conceding defeat demonstrates that the election was not just a tool for personal gain, but also a platform to change society.
We must protect the gains made in promoting peace and stability and give a new beginning a chance.
And for the peace to be sustainable, justice for those aggrieved by the poll outcomes must be dispensed through the legally recognised institutions as defined by the Constitution.
Dr Barua, a former Gichugu MP, is a governance and social entrepreneurship expert. Twitter: @DrNjoguBarua; Email: [email protected]