Early in the year, political pundits would have easily written off Raila Odinga as a political loser after spending his last bullet and his dimming chances in national politics. With the recent political razzmataz, Raila is the talk of town.
Raila Odinga: Enigmatic and colossal, the ODM leader is currently riding high and has left supporters wondering if he still has another bullet for 2022. Thursday’s two-hour meeting with retired President Daniel arap Moi at his Kabarak home and a flurry of delegations to his office has left tongues waging. While many believed Raila was “swallowed” after the March 9 handshake, the opposition leader’s political bag of tricks remains full. His recent activities have stirred Nyanza amid speculations over his 2022 plans.
A few days ago, a call for Raila’s fifth stab at the presidency came from an unlikely quarter. Former Nyeri senator Mutahi Kagwe pulled a surprise on Tuesday when he declared he wants to see the ODM leader’s name in the presidential ballot come 2022. Mr Kagwe admitted that it was highly unlikely for the former Prime Minister to drop his presidential ambition any time soon. He said the 72-year-old Raila has upheld his name as an elder statesman and commended the ODM leader for displaying presidential mannerism. Kagwe was quoted as saying he would be disappointed if Raila didn’t vie for State House in 2022.
“None in Kenya has exuded presidential qualities surpassing Raila,” Kagwe claimed. Over the past two weeks, Raila has been meeting politicians from the Mt Kenya region in what his supporters and observers say could be over President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession plans. But in Nyanza, talk is rife that he could be preparing for another stab at the presidency in 2022.
Today, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria will attend a fundraiser at a church in Homa Bay, days after he visited Raila at his office in Nairobi. Mr Kuria, who has been arrested at least twice over alleged hate speech against the Luo community at the height of political tensions between Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta will preside over a funds drive in Rangwe constituency.
His visit comes in the wake of shifting political alliances following the historic reconciliation meeting between Raila and President Kenyatta on March 9 in Nairobi. On Tuesday next week, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta will officiate a function at the Brittney Home of Grace, a charitable organisation working with people living with disabilities, in Migori County. Mrs Kenyatta will distribute carts and open a clinic, according to her hosts.
The visits by the First Lady and Kuria have set tongues wagging in Nyanza. Commenting on Kuria’s visit to Homa Bay, County Woman Representative Gladys Wanga said Kenyans should expect new political alliances. “This is just the beginning and our actions will not be limited to Central Kenya. We will reach out to the rest of Kenyans, but as things stand Central is a top priority,’’ she said. Even as he renews his relationship with Mt Kenya, his lieutenants at home have ruled out his retirement from politics.
A group of MPs from Nyanza told Saturday Standard that residents want him to make another stab at the presidency. The leaders dismissed reports that there were plans to appoint Raila a special envoy to the African Union (AU). “Anybody asking Raila to retire from active politics is an enemy of the Luo and will meet our wrath. The AU narrative is a propaganda and should be treated as such,” said Alego-Usonga MP Samwel Atandi.
Foes turned friends
“I think 2022 will be the final battle in elections when Raila will ascend to the presidency,” said Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo. Besides Kuria, Raila has also held talks in his office with former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and officials of the shadowy Nairobi Business Community.
NASA supporters in UK to now support Government A senior Jubilee insider said the Opposition chief has within the past one month won many friends in Mt Kenya. “Given his renewed relationship with President Kenyatta, Raila has earned himself friends in Central Kenya,” said the insider who attended one of the meetings at Raila’s office last week.
Political scientist Herman Manyora of the University of Nairobi, says Raila’s dalliance with Mt Kenya was not surprising as many of his adversaries turned into friends following the handshake with the President. “Even those who labeled Raila for political expediency have changed.
They are now seeing him more as a leader who deserves respect than scorn,’’ Manyora asserts. “What Raila is doing is exactly what former President Moi did in 1997 when he co-opted retired President Kibaki’s financiers before the elections”. He says Moi sought the support of the Kikuyu elites who enjoyed considerable influence among co-ethnics by jump starting reconciliation talks.