After latest unity pact with Uhuru, will Raila pull more surprises?

NASA leader Raila Odinga. [Photo: Courtesy]
Raila Odinga has veritably joined the Jubilee Government, to the dismay of friend and foe alike.  His joint press release with Uhuru Kenyatta ends on a note that says they are now framing a position for him in government, complete with a team of advisors. It is also instructive that he is referred to throughout the release as His Excellency, an exclusive title for national sovereigns and their ambassadorial representatives.

Equally instructive is he totally left his former co-principals in NASA in the dark. NASA must now come to terms that they have lost one of their kingpins to Jubilee. Odinga’s unilateral flight into the Jubilee corner is true to his surprise and attack style of politics. He has done it before. Simeon Nyachae remembers 14 October 2002, when his party, Ford People, signed a pact with a revitalised Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Presidential polls were then two months away. The people in LDP had just decamped from Kanu, because they disagreed with President Moi’s choice of Uhuru as his preferred presidential candidate.

Corridors of service

At the behest of Odinga as their de facto leader, LDP signed a cooperation agreement with Nyachae and Ford People. They would work with the former Minister and powerful Chief Secretary to agree on who, between him and Odinga should be the joint presidential candidate. They would also agree on details of their future government. Nyachae recalls in his autobiography titled ‘Corridors of Service’: “Throughout our discussions, there were no indications whatsoever that Odinga was having other discussions with the Mwai Kibaki led Democratic Party of Kenya.”

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Nyachae remembers how after signing the MoU, they proceeded to a rally at Uhuru Park. He recalls, “At the end of the rally, Odinga announced that he thought that Kibaki ‘anatosha.’”

 When Nyachae later checked with Kisumu Town West MP, Job Omino, who had led the LDP team in dialogue with Ford People, “Omino confirmed being aware of the remarks, but he was not clear what Odinga meant.”

He also reports his surprise when he learnt that a structure of future government had already been drawn and positions allocated. He, Nyachae, “had been allocated one of the two posts of deputy Prime Minister, without consultations.” Nyachae dumped the united Opposition and moved on.

 It is in this streak and tradition that this week Odinga suddenly materialised in Harambee House to sign a joint accord with Uhuru. Basically, Odinga has now recognised Kenyatta as the legitimately elected President. Their statement says the two have agreed to work together in government. The matter of Odinga’s self-crown of “the people’s president” is accordingly now history.

 I have had the privilege of being present at a few of the NASA meetings that interrogated the wisdom of the “swearing in” and instead called for dialogue. On 30 January, Odinga again pulled a fast one on his former colleagues in NASA. He kept them waiting for a telephone call that never came. They were supposed to meet and agree on what they should tell the people assembled in Uhuru Park for his contentious “swearing in.”

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He had asked them to switch off their regular phones and wait for his message on alternative numbers. Was he setting them up for ridicule? Were they supposed to be seen as having gone into hiding? Whatever the case, Odinga veritably sneaked into Uhuru Park and swore himself in. The backlash on his colleagues has been harsh.

Something else the world needs to know is that when he pulled out of the repeat presidential poll in October last year, Odinga had not exhausted consultation with the other three leaders. The idea had just been floated. It had just been agreed that there would be further reflection on the merits of going that way. The next day, he materialised at a meeting to report that he had already written to the IEBC informing them of his withdrawal from the race.

This was despite the fact that another candidate, Dr Ekuru Aukot, had petitioned to be included. The outcome was still unknown. Regardless, having survived the initial shock, the three resigned to standing with Odinga, in the interest of collective responsibility.

Secret dialogue

 What motivates Odinga in making unilateral lone range moves of this kind? In 1997 he contested for the position of President. Having come fourth behind President Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Michael Wamalwa, he signed a deal with the other three to work together to tame Kanu. Yet a few months later, it emerged that he had entered another agreement with President Moi, “to work together.” The Opposition was shocked to discover a secret dialogue had been going on for a long time. Cooperation between Kanu and Odinga’s National Development Party (NDP) eventually flowered into a merger of the two parties, with Odinga becoming Kanu’s Secretary General with a ministerial position to boot. They fell out soon afterwards.

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The subsequent marriage with Kibaki broke down in 2005, to presage the violent 2007/08 tragedy. Ahead of this, he had contracted a new marriage with Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Najib Balala, Joe Nyagah, Omingo Magara and even Charity Ngilu at some stage. He fell out with each of them. It will be interesting to see how far the latest cohabitation with Uhuru and William Ruto in Jubilee will go this time and whether there will be more surprise moves.

-The writer is a Strategic Communications Advisor.

raila odingapresident uhuru kenyattaharambee house