The Azimio rhetoric in Raila Odinga’s presidential pursuit

ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Boniface okendo, Standard]

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by inferiors”- Plato

On December 10, 2021, the final convention of the Azimio la Umoja Jamboree was held in the Kasarani sports center where Raila Odinga officially declared his 2022 presidential bid. His declaration taps into the Platonian discourse on Governance and leadership. It is a show of nonpareil sagacity from Raila to forge the bold Azimio la Umoja initiative.

His decision to continue the journey to the dreamland of “Canaan” thus reminisces a liberation struggle that Raila hopes to achieve by winning the presidency.

As I will argue, the Azimio movement is an act of persuasion in speech rhetorics. Following the 2018 handshake with H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila’s political messaging has undergone a massive change of tone, with his activist and firebrand tactics abandoned and the “Nation comes first approach" has been adopted.

Azimio la Umoja or the quest for peace and unity is a clarion call that attempts to solidify Raila’s traditional political base with the handshake partnership while also welcoming other political outfits.

In this rebranding attempt, Raila offers to reach out to his supporters that with him as the leader of the caravan the sojourn towards the Promised Land is on track.

In his autobiography “Flames of Freedom”, Raila details how the Kenyan dream was from the very start curtailed by the emergency of egotism channeled through tribal politics. His dream is that for a prosperous Nation a moment comes for National conversation on rebuilding the foundation laid by the founding fathers of the Nation.

As Argued by Muthoka Mutie in his article, Contested Pasts and the Poetics of Recall: Politics of Conscience, Raila constructs an identity with the mystic image parallel to Joshua. His father Jaramogi Oginga fronted himself as Moses in “Not Yet Uhuru”. Raila's political journey is a continuation of his father’s march to Canaan. In a Biblical allusion, Raila spiritedly preaches through the Azimio la Umoja Sermon as his political blueprint as he attempts a fifth stab at the presidency.

Raila, therefore, uses the persuasive power of the Azimio rhetoric to galvanize his political base as an assurance that the reality of Canaan is at reach. Azimio is a charm offensive radiates hope for the betterment of the lives of all Kenyans.

Further on, the Azimio movement has adopted “Inawezekana” as a slogan that is similar to Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” used in his 2008 US Presidential elections. The Inawezekana slogan is the conduit to win over his disillusioned supporters who have for long suffered harsh torment in the opposition fold an account parallel to the desert trek that the Israelites underwent for 40 years.   

 Unlike other political formations used by Raila; CORD (Coalition of restoration of Democracy) 2013 and NASA National Super Alliance) 2017, Azimio is a more robust and reconciliatory platform that seeks to persuade all for the common good.

Having made a truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila’s Azimio seeks to deconstruct the bogeyman stature crafted by his rivals to dent him politically. It is for the first time he is going for an election as the protagonist.

The writer, Mutiso Kiio is a Masters Student at Kenyatta University, Dept of Literature.  

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