Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s lieutenants have insisted that he still has one spare bullet to fire in the 2022 battle for State House.
Raila’s legal adviser James Orengo and elder brother Oburu Oginga have given the clearest indication that “Agwambo”, as he is known to his admirers, could be oiling his gun and servicing his campaign machinery for the assault to realise his dreams.
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Mr Orengo and Dr Oburu say that Kenyans were yet to see the last of the man nicknamed the “Enigma” of Kenyan politics. They poured scorn on those insisting that the former prime minister should retire and retreat to his Opoda farm in Bondo.
“I want to tell those who are trying to overlook Raila that they should not write him off. Raila is politically dynamic and more re-energized and focused, more than ever before,” Oburu said last week.
Forming regional parties
Last week, Orengo reminded Kenyans that Raila, 73, who has unsuccessfully vied for the top seat four times, remains ODM's best bet in the next elections.
However, last month, the ODM leader clarified through his spokesman Dennis Onyango, that Orengo’s statements on his candidature in the 2022 polls were personal views as he was too busy ‘building bridges’ to think about succession politics.
This sparked speculation that Raila could be preparing to hang his political gloves. Soon after, ODM deputy party leaders, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya, declared their presidential ambitions. They said they were the best suited to take over from “Baba.”
During a tour of Kisumu, Joho told Kondele residents to “support me when the right time comes.”
The proclamations by Orengo and Oburu could throw ODM in a spin and dash hopes of the governors succeeding Raila. The two have hinted at forming regional parties to propel them to power.
Last week, Oparanya was quoted saying that he was ready to quit ODM if Western leaders unite and form a regional party.
The governors' agitation could be indication that uncertainty over Raila’s political stand had unsettled those who were lining up to succeed him as ODM flag bearer.
Even though he has not spoken about his plans for 2022, his opponents, especially those allied to Deputy President William Ruto, are convinced that Raila will make his fifth stab at the presidency.
Ruto’s allies have accused the Opposition leader of using the handshake with the President on March 9 to gain leverage for the 2022 polls.
Until the handshake, the DP remained the favourite in the presidential succession matrix due to his proximity to power.
Ruto’s allies now say the handshake has complicated their arithmetic as Raila is exploiting the cordial relationship with Uhuru to mend fences with leaders and voters in Jubilee strongholds.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei believes Raila will take on the DP in 2022.
“It is not a surprise. We knew he would vie for the presidency and we are prepared to face him. We also know that he is using the handshake to look for support in Jubilee strongholds,” says Mr Cherargei.
Orange house insiders told Sunday Standard that although Raila had kept off the Kenyatta succession debate, his technocrats were preparing for any eventuality.
“These people are burning midnight oil planning Raila’s next move. It is not over until it is over. The trek to Canaan is still on,” said an Opposition MP privy to the on-goings at Orange house.
A Maseno University political scientist, Dr Tom Mboya, says although Raila has been unlucky ever since he joined the presidential race in 1997, he commands the country’s political scene and cannot not be wished away just yet.
“Raila has a mastery of Kenyan politics. He knows how to gel. When to make a move and when to retreat. At one time you write him off, only for him to pull a big surprise, like he did with the handshake,” says Dr Mboya.
He adds: Raila knows what he wants in 2022 and I am sure he is planning for it. He has not been holding rallies but we have seen him meeting delegations of prominent people from Central and other regions. This can be used to buttress Orengo’s statement.”
Mboya says the 2022 elections will be won through political coalitions. “Kenyan politics remain dynamic. The 2022 dynamic may not be the same as 2017. It will be shaped by party coalitions,” he says.
If he throws his hat in the ring in 2022, this could be his last battle to achieve what his father failed to achieve after almost 40 years of politics, as age and political fatigue cannot be wished away.
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“The only difference this time around is that he would be seeking the presidency in a completely different environment because of his new-found friendship with President Kenyatta whose two terms end in the next four years,” says Prof Leonard Ojwang’, a political strategist based in Kisumu.
On Friday, Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati (ODM) told Kenyans to prepare for a Raila presidency in 2022.