Raila’s new strategy after BBI shocker

Friday, May 21st, 2021 00:00 |
The five-judge Bench that declared the BBI bill unconstitutional. Photo/PD/File

Smarting from nullification of the constitutional reform project under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), opposition leader Raila Odinga is mulling options to push his 2022 ambitions and redeem his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, which had put all its eggs in the Handshake basket.

Besides the legal process, which entails appealing the High Court ruling against the Constitution of Kenya (2020) Amendment, Raila is pondering alternatives including pushing through BBI changes that resonate with the common man but which do not require endorsement through a referendum.

The ODM leader, who has been on a working holiday in Watamu, Kilifi County, has been holding brainstorming meetings with his legal advisers and political strategists to agree on the best way forward following the BBI debacle.

New strategy

BBI strategists, experts, coordinators and members of the defunct secretariat from his side have been burning the midnight oil “undertaking a postmortem on what happened (nullification of the law reform process) and what next”, according to sources familiar with the meetings.

A meeting involving top ODM party leaders, BBI secretariat officials and regional coordinators, legal and political experts has been slated for next week after Raila returns from the retreat.

Among those scheduled to attend the next meeting are National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi and his Senate counterpart James Orengo, Junet Mohamed (Minority Whip) and other elected leaders and party officials.

“Of course Raila was taken aback by the BBI ruling and as a way of reinventing himself, other than the appeal, which he has moved to do, he and his party are seeking political alternatives that will ensure he does not suffer should the legal process fail,” one of the people who met Raila in the Coast told People Daily

The source added: “His position is that he and his party should not peg all their hopes on the appeal case as the only solution to the BBI process.

There is a feeling that the legal process may take long and injure Raila and in particular, if the appeal is thrown out, he might lose everything.”

The ODM leader is said to have trained his eyes on using his warm relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta to push implementation of policy and administrative issues proposed by BBI that deal with ethnic profiling, bigotry, corruption, and unregulated free market especially the willing-seller-willing buyer policy in land deals, skewed infrastructure and youth unemployment.

His strategists believe they are the major causes of inequality among Kenyans. Though Mbadi downplayed claims of the party embarking on a plan ‘B’ in the event of running out of legal options, he said ODM was prepared for the 2022 polls “with or without BBI”.

“BBI was only an avenue to amend the country’s supreme law, but our plans for 2022 have always been intact.

Though we are confident the Court of Appeal will overturn the judgment, our journey towards elections remains steadfast,” Mbadi said.

But the ODM party hawk castigated the courts for “overstepping their mandate” by overruling the BBI process.

“If someone thought that he had stopped Raila’s march to State House in 2022 by putting hurdles on the BBI, they will be shocked,” Mbadi warned.

Sources within ODM intimated that Raila’s new strategy would involve like-minded people and would draw its strength from widespread political mobilisation.

Though he has not declared he will make another stab at the presidency, from his body language and statements by his allies, the ODM leader will likely face Deputy President William Ruto in 2022. His political surrogates have been demanding that he launches his bid immediately.

Raila, through his legal team that is headed by lawyer Paul Mwangi, is working on an appeal against the BBI ruling, which would see him join hands with Uhuru through the Attorney General Paul Kihara as well as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

However, legal and political pundits opine that given the uncertainty in the appeal, Raila and other politicians eyeing seats under BBI cannot sit pretty, arguing that they have to look for options should the legal process fail.

Senior Counsel Bar chairman Tom Ojienda said the only hope the BBI promoters have is that the Court of Appeal will give stay orders to allow them to proceed with the process pending the hearing and determination of the case, which may take long.

“To wait (for a ruling) knowing how our courts operate, and to peg their hopes on the ruling, in my view it is being too optimistic,” said Ojienda.

Serious implications

“The nullification of the process has serious implications and has brought out new dimensions.

Rethinking the strategy is a must for them considering alliances had been formulated based on BBI that is proposing to expand the Executive,” said  Richard Bosire, a political science lecturer at University of Nairobi.

In his next move, Raila is said to be mulling making issues that resonate directly with the people his campaign agenda going forward. as a way of ensuring he builds a bond with the electorate and reinvents his brand even as he awaits the appeal outcome.

Consequently, his strategists have advised him to use the Handshake to convince Uhuru to implement BBI recommendations that neither require Parliament nor a referendum.

In this case, Raila and ODM are expected to start pushing for policy and administrative measures vouched by BBI.

In particular, the proposal on shared prosperity will become central in their agenda.

This will include pushing for poverty alleviation among Kenyans frustrated over lack of jobs and the need to grow sectors of the economy that create employment, such as manufacturing, and to open up borders for import and export business.

Other proposals include reducing the cost of doing business and impediments to starting enterprises, awarding at least seven years’ tax holiday for youth-owned businesses, creation and promotion of business incubation and industrial parks for small-scale innovators and business owners. 

Others are ensuring that 30 per cent of opportunities in the counties and wards are reserved for youth, women, persons living with disabilities and minorities to support small and medium enterprises; affordable and reliable access to digital platforms in the wards and villages to promote ecommerce at the grassroots.

“Going forward, these are the issues that Raila will be looking upon to get hold of and run away with as his 2022 agenda.

This will not only endear him to the people as their defender, but would likely reinvigorate his political life,” another source revealed.

According to insiders, Raila strategists believe country’s biggest problem is the cut-throat competition and fight for resources and development.

“Aware that majority of Kenyans are angry over skewed job appointments, development projects distribution and cost of living, Raila will obviously reinvent himself by pushing for implementation of policies that would change the situation,” the source added.

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