By OSCAR OBONYO

?Prime Minister Raila Odinga booked a ticket to vie for president for the third time at a historic event at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, attended by a huge crowd of supporters of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).

In a colourful ceremony reminiscent of the rally by National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) leaders at the same venue on October 14, 2002, where Raila endorsed Mwai Kibaki as flag bearer through the famous ‘Kibaki Tosha!’ declaration, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka repeated the same lines in favour of Raila.

 “It is only fair that in life we reward those who do unto others good. Malipo ni hapa hapa duniani, and it is therefore appropriate for me to equally pronounce here and now, ‘Raila Tosha!’” declared Kalonzo amid thunderous applause.

SEE ALSO :Raila tells off MPs over pay hike

 “We have weighed, assessed and determined that with Raila as our captain, we shall triumph,” added Trade minister Moses Wetangula of Ford-Kenya, who is the third principal of the Cord Alliance.

In his acceptance speech, the PM thanked the VP and Wetangula for according him the opportunity to be the flag bearer: “I will, in particular, forever remember my brother Kalonzo’s gesture of declaring ‘Raila Tosha’” said an emotional Raila.

Unveiling the Cord team, Kalonzo named Wetang’ula as candidate for Senate seat in Bungoma County, and Leader of Majority in the Senate, while he will be Raila’s running mate. In what appears to be a strategy to woo a big fish from without, nobody was named candidate for the influential position of Leader of Majority in Parliament. The seat was reserved for a yet-to-be-named individual.

However, last evening, joint Cord Secretary General Simiyu Eseli clarified that the Leader of Majority for both Houses (Senate and National Assembly) has been designated for Ford-Kenya.

The notion of targeting the business community is strategic, considering increased fears over possible economic embargo by the international community in the event Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto of Jubilee Alliance win the March 4 polls.

SEE ALSO :Moi, Kalonzo alliance mooted

?The two politicians face charges at the International Criminal Court for alleged roles in the 2007 post-election violence. Last week, Uhuru publicly confessed to the embargo fears as the reason he was being pushed by some forces to give up his presidential bid in favour of fellow DPM Musalia Mudavadi.

Other members of the Cord Summit are Raila, Kalonzo, and Wetangula. The VP explained the team would be expanded. Also unveiled was the Alliance’s Executive Board. Besides steering the three initial presidential aspirants in agreement, the board shall be in charge of top management duties, including campaign strategy.

The team is co-chaired by Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno and Defence Assistant Minister David Musila. Other members include Cabinet ministers, Mutula Kilonzo, James Orengo, Musa Sirma, Anyang’ Nyong’o, Paul Otuoma and Lands Assistant Minister Bifwoli Wakoli. Kimilili MP, David Eseli, Nominated MP, Muhammed Affey, former Cabinet minister Nyiva Mwendwa, and Chris Wamalwa.

Addressing the rally, Kalonzo revealed the negotiations to identify the flag bearer were not easy. He confessed initial reluctance to drop his bid a second time, the first being in 2002 in favour of Kibaki.

But Raila, he said, had even more compelling reasons to be the candidate, having sacrificed a lot for the second liberation, including being jailed for a decade and the fact that he was making a third attempt for president.

SEE ALSO :Kalonzo: I will be president one day

“The negotiations were tough and if you think it was a child’s play, just look at what has happened elsewhere,” said Kalonzo in apparent reference to the political divorce between Mudavadi and the Uhuru-Ruto camp.

?In dropping his bid in support of Raila, the VP cited the late Prof George Saitoti’s famous lines, “there comes a time when the interests of a nation are more important than that of an individual”.

?An elated Raila, accompanied to the podium by Kalonzo, Wetangula, and his wife Ida, promised to fix the economy, create more new jobs, and take advantage of infrastructural development to take the country “to the next level”.

?“Our plane had stalled, but under the leadership of President Kibaki, it was repaired and now it has left the hanger and is on the runway with me as the pilot. We are ready for take off,” Raila declared.

Even as they spoke, the Cord leaders could not avoid taking snippets at the rival team of Jubilee Alliance. Speaker after speaker reiterated that unlike Jubilee that was operating under the spell of shetani (the devil), Cord was guided by the grace of God.

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This was in reference to Uhuru’s recent sentiments blaming the leadership friction within the alliance on “dark devils”.

Most speakers urged Mudavadi “to come back home, with the VP making a more passionate appeal: “I know my good friend Musalia cannot reunite with Raila on a matter of principle. But I want to reassure him that he will not be the first. Kalonzo Musyoka already did.”

?The events of Saturday were strikingly similar to those of 2002, when Raila endorsed Kibaki at the same venue. This time it was Kalonzo turn to endorse Raila.

?And in similar fashion, the Cord team held an early morning meeting at Serena Hotel, a few metres from Uhuru Park before proceeding to the rally. The venue was equally full and the crowd surged and charged, just as they chanted “Yote Yawezekana, Bila Moi” song, ten years ago.

The Cord team will be having special thanks giving prayers at the Nairobi Chapel Sunday.

Raila Odinga CORD kalonzo musyoka