Woke up in 2023 after handshake lull, Raila is man to watch in 2024

Opposition leader Raila Odinga.  [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga is expected to continue spearheading the fight for political and socio-economic reforms with the hope of emancipating millions of Kenyans from the challenges they will be facing in 2024.

The increasingly hopeless populace will look no further than again putting their hopes on the ageing politician, whose tenacity and appetite for defending their rights remains unrivalled.

“Civil society is almost functionally dead, opposition politicians are on the take, parliament is not the institution Kenyans prided themselves in and is now alarmingly poor,” Moi University lecturer Masibo Lumala told the Standard.

Lumala, who is the Director School of Information Sciences, had earlier said “without Raila, anything goes” and pointed at the turn of events when the 78-year-old returned to lead anti-government protests this year after taking a brief break.

And a pointer to things to come was yesterday, when the President, in his address to the nation, accused the opposition, led by Raila, of opposing everything without offering a solution or coming up with another view on how thing can be turned around.

On January 1, last year, when Raila was still quiet after losing the the 2022 presidential elections, The Standard correctly predicted that he would still be the most sought after politician by the media and Kenyans.

“The trajectory of his political influence towers above his peers as continues to rise more than three decades when he announced his entry into local politics,” the paper wrote.

He had taken a back seat and was under nonstop attacks from President William Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and other Kenya Kwanza leaders for allegedly having run down the economy with handshake brother Uhuru Kenyatta after their March 18, 2018 rapprochement.

As was the case last year, Kenyans ushered in the new year banking on the opposition figure to champion for justice, human and consumer rights and against bad governance.

“He will check excesses in government because he has been there and knows the road ahead,” said political analyst Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University.

The man called “Baba” (the father of politics), also has the uncanny ability of playing highly unpredictable politics, which makes it difficult to second guess his next card, perhaps why he was christened “Agwambo” by his Luo kinsmen.

The word ‘agwambo’ in Luo is translated to mean ‘Mystery’ or ‘The Unpredictable’ in English.

Even though Raila is considered one of the most unpredictable politicians in the country, those who have worked with him point at several strategies he may be scheming.

The first one is why he will be pushing hard for the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) to succeed despite the opposition coming from within Azimio la Umoja One Kenya ranks by leaders like Martha Karua and Eugene Wamalwa.

Political analyst Martin Andati says his support for Nadco is mainly because Raila knows it will lead to a national referendum and once that is done, the outcome will most likely be a vote of no confidence in President Ruto and his government.

“He has many ways of achieving his goals and so Raila wants to use that plebiscite to consolidate his block and get another platform of directing the anger of the people against Ruto’s unpopular policies,” says Andati.

Without saying they want a referendum, Raila’s political allies have also explicitly demanded for the people to be involved in deciding the fate of the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary currently held by Musalia Mudavadi and that of the Leader of Official Opposition.

There is also some belief in Raila’s circle that some politicians in the President’s camp are feeling the heat from their supporters who are getting increasingly disillusioned by governments punitive taxation measures and its appetite for money.

Sympathy from masses

And so they will probably covertly or overtly engage such disgruntled support across the country with a lot of sympathy also coming from the masses.

Andati says the ultimate aim of such deals will be to get another form of united opposition with the possibility of new coalition emerging out of the refrendum as Raila re-engineers himself.

“Sometimes Raila is very unpredictable but those of us who have been with him can easily predict his moves because you can see that he is reinventing himself most likely in readiness of getting another stab at the presidency,” says Andati.

He thinks Azimio co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka should be a worried man because he may be left stranded without the endorsement he was hoping for from Raila unless they hammer out a power sharing strategy early enough.

Another strong signal of Raila’s 2024 plan revolves around his concerted ODM party membership recruitment exercise that is going on mainly in his Nyanza and Western strongholds.

“You have seen him running all over saying that they are now strengthening the party and also giving out money to bereaved families, a million each to Lawrence Sifuna’s widows and Godliver’s next of kin,” added Andati.

So the ODM leader appears to be putting in quite a bit of effort and resources as he galvanizes his support in a relentless push to continue endearing himself as a darling of the masses.

Prof Naituli cites the economic hardships Kenyans are going through as an area that Raila will use as he engages the Kenya Kwanza government in the political space again in 2024. The rising energy cost and soaring cost of living are big issues that will impact heavily on ordinary Kenyans, which Naituli argues need urgent attention by the government to address.

 “As long as key investors look at Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda as alternatives to Kenya for doing business because of cheaper power, poverty will increase and Kenyans will continue listening to Raila more,” says Prof Naituli.

The public will also be watching how Raila will react to the government’s privatization programme where it intends to sell national assets.

He has already spoken against the President’s intention to open up the country to all and sundry from all over the globe, expressing fear like many other Kenyans that it could create room for criminals and other bad people to make Kenya their safe haven.