ODM leader Raila Odinga in plot to lock rivals out of strongholds
With the next General Election only a year away, ODM leader Raila Odinga is racing against time to consolidate his support base that competitors are also out to sway in their favour.
Though Raila has not officially declared his intention to run for president in next year’s election, there is little doubt that he will be running against Deputy President William Ruto in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in next year’s election.
And with a competitor who has been on a campaign trail for the last four years and other players keen to penetrate areas he has previously dominated, Raila is planning a series of activities in his strongholds of Nyanza, Western, Nairobi, Lower Eastern and Coast, to re-energise the party and boost his candidature.
The party has reportedly started looking inwards to amend mistakes it made after the 2017 election and reach out to new allies.
Pundits, for instance, believe Raila’s close relationship with the government after the 2018 Handshake, had adversely affected his popularity.
His allies say consultative meetings which were scheduled to start last Friday, but were postponed to this week due to the pandemic, are meant to reinvigorate Raila and ODM’s dwindling fortunes.
“We appeal to our people to use this period to reflect on our future as a country and think of realistic and practical interventions that we will need to get back on track,” Minority Chief Whip in the National Assembly Junet Mohamed said in a statement.
Insiders say ODM has in the recent past been working on strategies to counter Ruto’s spirited presidential campaigns based on the “Hustler Nation” slogan.
Prof Macharia Munene, a history professor at USIU, says Raila must move with speed to catch up with Ruto.
“Raila can no longer sit as Ruto makes inroads in his strongholds. He has realised that time is running out and has to undo what Ruto has built. He must work overdrive to regain the areas,” Prof Munene told People Daily.
He said the competition between Raila and Ruto will become more intense as the elections draw closer.
But ODM chairman John Mbadi said the party had embarked on preparations for elections without necessarily being prompted by anybody.
“Remember we are now left with one year before the general election and this is the right time for us to embark on tours across the country,” Mbadi said.
He said although Raila was yet to officially declare his intention to vie for the presidency again, the party had settled on him as its candidate.
“He is still our best bet,” Mbadi said.
The Minority Leader in the National Assembly said the party would kick off aggressive campaigns from August 18.
“Expect fireworks in the coming weeks,” he added.
Sources within ODM said the Orange party was negotiating with Jubilee and other parties to form a formidable coalition.
Besides the ruling party, the party is engaged in talks with One Kenya Alliance (OKA), Baringo Senator Gideon Moi’s Kanu, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu’s Narc.
The party’s secretary for political affairs, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, says ODM intends to position itself as the party of reforms that it has always been.
“We want to remain a party that is pushing for meaningful change. The benefits of BBI, which we intend to push for, are well known to all Kenyans,” Wandayi said.
He denied that the party was playing any catch-up game but only preparing for next year’s election.
“But since we know Ruto is our main threat, we must strive to destroy all the networks and inroads that he has made over the last one year,” he observed.
From regional tours, meetings with party and community leaders, outlining his policies on matters that resonate with the common man, holding brainstorming meetings with political strategists and criticising the government, Raila appears to be on a mission to redeem ODM and boost his star which appears to have faded as a result of his cohabitation with Jubilee.
For instance, Raila will on August 18 host 600 delegates, 100 each from the six counties of Nyanza, in Homa Bay County where a “major declaration” on the region would be made.
Sources say the declaration would ensure that Luo, Kisii and Kuria Nyanza would remain united behind Raila.
The Nyanza forum would be followed by a similar one in Kakamega to be attended by delegates from counties that form Western Kenya.
“We will have 100 delegates from the six counties in Nyanza which are Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Homa Bay, Siaya and Kisumu.
We will make a major declaration pertaining to the Nyanza people,” Raila said of the meetings, which he noted would also include boda boda riders representatives, religious leaders, traders, and women and youth groups.
In Western region, which was an ODM stronghold in the 2007 election before it leaned towards Musalia Mudavadi, Raila has also been facing competition from Ruto.
After the Nyanza and Western regional meetings, Raila will head to Coast where some of his allies have deserted him to join the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that is associated with Ruto, while others, notably Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, are pushing for a party that will champion the region’s interest.
On June 30, Raila met with Gusii leaders including Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri.
On July 21, he was in Mombasa where he was accompanied by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Mvita MP Abduswamad Shariff National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and nominated MP Maina Kamanda for Eid Mubarak celebrations.
Two days earlier, Raila landed in Tana River County where he held a meeting with local ODM leaders and community leaders.
Buoyed by his unity with Uhuru, Raila is also venturing in the vote-rich Mt Kenya region where Ruto has made significant gains, judging from UDA’s victories in recent by-elections.
Kamanda says every effort was being made to ensure the ODM leader wins a share of the votes in the region.
“We have a strategy that will ensure that Mt Kenya warms up to Raila. He is out best bet for 2022.
part from Rift Valley where the DP seems to have locked out all other presidential candidates, we are going on a flat out campaign for Raila,” Kamanda said.
The party has also been engaging in a recruitment process, which includes the waiver of membership fees.
According to the party secretary general Edwin Sifuna, the drive had registered more than 200,000 new members.
“We intend to embark on a programme to build new partnerships and extend the ongoing talks with potential partners to the grassroots.
To this end regional meetings and engagements have been planned with like-minded parties.
The schedule for these will be shared in due course,” Sifuna said of a resolution made by the party’s National Executive Council.
Raila has taken to social media to highlight his vision if elected, telling Kenyans how he would ensure a firm foundation for the rule of law, efficient government structures and a transparent Judiciary.