Opposition Chief Raila Odinga evaded a question suggesting an agreement by the opposition coalition barred ODM from fielding a presidential candidate in the next elections.
Raila who seemed to be careful with his words, also refused to divulge information if he still harbours presidential ambitions for 2022, insisting that the issues that almost led the country into precipice in 2017 must first be addressed.
The ODM leader also neither denied nor confirmed the pact among National Super Alliance (NASA) affiliates Orange party, Wiper, Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford Kenya that states that the Orange party is not eligible to field a presidential candidate.
“I cannot talk about 2022. We must fix issues of 2017 then we can talk about 2022. The pact is in public domain go and read,” said Raila during an interview on a local TV on Tuesday night.
Raila was also cagey on the behind-the-scenes developments that led to the handshake and working relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta, only saying that they were approached by some people.
He narrated that what informed the ‘Handshake’ was the high tension among some ethnic communities, citing that it was a case of “us versus them’.
“After elections, we had three options; invoke article one of the constitution, initiate mass action that was to be indefinite, until the government surrendered and the third option was dialogue. That is why we talked,” said Raila.
Asked about the ‘Handshake’, Raila said was purely for purposes of bringing the country together by addressing pertinent issues facing Kenyans including electoral injustice, inclusivity, divisive elections, negative ethnicity, unemployment, and the governance structure.
“If you deal with the 9-point agenda we presented then you will be dealing with the issue of TJRC, I do believe that we have to deal with issues of historical injustices. These days I can make a phone call to the president and action is taken,” he said.
He said the issues were being addressed by the 14-member Building Bridges team as guided by the nine-point agenda he drafted with the president.
“I am not in government, if I was in government I would have a specific title. I’m outside government as a leader NASA of ODM,” he said.
Raila also denied claims that he demanded the exclusion of Deputy President William Ruto from their talks with President Kenyatta that led to the ‘Handshake’ in March this year.
“The talk was between people who took oath for presidency, but if President Uhuru consulted Ruto, I cannot confirm. I am not in Jubilee,” he said.
Raila also explained why his Orange party is not comfortable with Deputy President William Ruto.
While the Orange party has been warming up to President Uhuru since the March 9 handshake and unity deal, its leaders have been shunning and attacking the DP.
But Raila says only one thing has been making him and his troops not like Ruto, the self-declared 'hustler' early campaigns for 2022.
ODM says the "premature" vote chase, sometimes disguised as development tours and project launches, is a mockery of the efforts being made by Raila and Uhuru to address the 2017 election debacle.
The early vote hunt, Raila said, is contrary to the agreement he entered into with Mr Kenyatta.
“We don’t want to put the country in a campaign mood before dealing with issues that led to the crisis in 2017. That is why ODM is trying to restrain members from engaging in 2022 campaigns,” said Raila.
He went on: “I have told my people to welcome DP Ruto when he visits their constituencies for development because he is in government, but should restrain from engaging in campaigns for 2022Campaigns for 2022 is not part of what we agreed on with President Kenyatta. We agreed to fix 2017 first before talking about 2022 politics.”
Raila also denied claims by Bungoma Senator and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula that NASA is desolate.
During the interview, Raila refuted reports by Wetangula that he had engineered the ouster of Wetangula from the Senate Minority leadership position terming the allegations as insincere.
“I don’t want to discuss Wetangula except to say he’s entitled to his views. I’m not a member of the Senate and I have no vote in the Senate but I wrote a letter stating that our leader in the House was Wetangula,” said Raila.
He defended himself, saying he unsuccessfully tried to save Wetangula from removal from the House leadership after the Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka declined to admit a letter endorsing the Bungoma Senator as NASA’s leader in the Senate.
“The Senate Speaker took a completely different stand saying the letter we wrote was not accompanied by minutes from the NASA Summit. But the original letter which appointed Wetangula didn’t have any minutes,” he explained.
Wetangula fell out with Raila after the Senate Minority coalition de-whipped him of the much-converted position on March 20 over claims of highhandedness. The Minority Senators replaced him with ODM’s James Orengo (Siaya).
It is after his ouster that Wetangula pronounced NASA as moribund announcing that his political partnership with Odinga had ended.
The ODM leader dared MPs Suleiman Dori (Msambweni) and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) who have openly declared their support for Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, to quit the party that sponsored them and seek fresh mandate from the electorates.
The party has already given Jumwa and Dori seven days, an ultimatum that expired on yesterday, to show course why they should not be expelled from the party for their conduct.
“They are campaigning for another candidate. Has NASA coalition or its affiliate parties— ODM, Ford- Kenya, Wiper or ANC— said they are not going to produce a candidate in 2022?” he posed.
“When I disagreed with my former party Ford Kenya, I resigned and sought fresh mandate from the electorate and was elected on a different party.”