Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Former Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, former Muranga Governor Mwangi Wa Iria and former Defense CS Eugene Wamalwa. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga has played down mounting pressure in the coalition to have him name a successor to take over the Opposition mantle as his focus shifts to his bid for the African Union Commission chairmanship. 

Raila said those who thought his bid for the AUC position would cause him to quit politics had missed the point of urging his supporters not to harbor fears over his continental ambitions.

“Let me respond to some issues and fears which have arisen. I am not going anywhere. I am around,” he said.

For the first time in months, Raila and his lieutenants changed tone and did not criticise President William Ruto’s government as has been the norm. This sends signals that Raila now seeks to maintain the government’s support for his AUC bid which pundits may begin to view as clouding his renown push for reforms.

Speaking during the second day of Homa Bay County’s International Investment Conference, Raila assured supporters of his commitment to push for economic transformation and maintained he would not abandon them.

He expressed optimism that he will win the AUC chairmanship and said he has traversed various countries to seek the support of African leaders. Some of the countries he had visited include Namibia and Uganda.

“I have gone to several African countries and sought their support. They have promised to support me, and I am confident that I will win,” said Raila.

Since Odinga expressed his interest in the AUC chairmanship, political jostling has gathered momentum within the opposition, even as some leaders downplay their growing ambitions to fill Raila’s shoes.

Yesterday, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who had accompanied the ODM chief, said the opposition would remain intact, adding that their supporters should not worry about the future. “There is no vacuum in leadership when Raila leaves. I am available, and the Azimio coalition will put the government on the right track on governance,” said Kalonzo.

Of Azimio's top leadership, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua was missing at a function attended by nearly all prominent Azimio top brass

Kalonzo, however, admitted that Raila’s quest for AU job has now tied his hands, and may not put the Kenya Kwanza administration to task because he needs its support.

“My brother Raila’s candidature for AUC is bipartisan, meaning it is for both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza coalitions. I, therefore, tell him to leave us with the responsibility of telling the government where it is going wrong,” said the Wiper leader.

Raila challenged the government to consider transferring some key government entities to counties to strengthen devolution. He argued that transferring the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KRRA) and Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) is integral in spurring growth in counties.

Governors Paul Otuoma (Busia), Simba Arati (Kisii), and former Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu called on Odinga to give direction on who will succeed him.

Otuoma acknowledged that Raila had groomed many politicians now mature politically both in the ODM party and Azimio coalition.

“Baba (Raila), you have held our hands, and we acknowledge your leadership, and we support your AUC bid. I hope you are going to tell us who is going to be our next leader to secure the leadership of this country,” Otuoma said.

Arati said Odinga’s move to the AUC should not leave any political vacuum in the Azimio coalition and ODM party.

“There is a time the eagle flies away and leaves the eaglets to practice how to fly. As Baba goes to AUC, we as his eaglets, will practice how to fly and show others how to fly. There shouldn’t be any political vacuum,” Arati said.

Ngilu said it is prudent for Raila to tell them about his successor to enable them start planning for the future leadership.

She argued that the early plans would enable them organise themselves well and put strategies for forming the next government.

“My question to Baba is, what are you planning for us? Please plan for us to enable us to move forward on acquiring the leadership of this country,” Ngilu said.

But when Raila went to the podium, he said he would not quit Kenyan politics and instead rallied leaders to support devolution and initiatives to transform the economy.

He challenged the national government to allow investors to deal directly with the county governments to enhance the implementation of development projects in the devolved units.

He argued that some national government officials were dissuading investors from direct engagements with county governments.

“I urge the national government officials to portray county governments as competent entities for investment. National government officials should not create any barrier between investors and counties,” he said.

Raila challenged counties to consider laws that are friendly to investments, adding that the removal of trade barriers and excessive taxes will help counties prosper.

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga and her Siaya counterpart James Orengo said Raila will still play Kenyan politics if he becomes the next AUC chairman.

“The distance between Addis Ababa and Kenya is short. Raila will still be around, and there is nothing that can bar him from Kenyan politics as usual,” Wanga said.