Why Raila must sing Ruto's tune in quest for AU job

Kenya Kwanza leaders now want Raila Odinga to dance to President William Ruto's tunes following his endorsement for the AUC chairperson job. [PCS]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga is a man who can not be confined or silenced. Detention and political repression could not silence him. However, this icon of free movement and free expression will in the next year be walking on eggshells.

Like a prisoner of his dreams, the indefatigable crusader of governance must watch and weigh every word he utters. He is trapped.

Raila's bid for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson has placed him in a very unfamiliar territory where he must change tact and start supporting President William Ruto, his government, and policies which he was fighting a few months ago, accusing it of burdening the taxpayers.

According to Kenya Kwanza leaders and political analysts, the Azimio leader must change because of the provision that a host country nominates a candidate and then mobilises support from the region and the continent.

The import of that is that Raila’s name has been fronted by President Ruto's administration with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who doubles up as and Foreign Affairs CS being sent to lobby for him in the AU member states.

A section of Kenya Kwanza leaders has already started reminding the opposition leader that for the government to lobby for his job, he must remain loyal to the President, support his agenda and rally Azimio to support government programmes.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said he wants Raila to rally the Azimio elected leaders to support government agenda in Parliament and to stop criticism of key programmes.

“Raila also needs to apologise to Kenyans who were injured while others lost their lives during protests that has now seen him seek the AU position,” he said.

In a veiled attack against Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) the senator claimed that since neither ODM nor Azimio would lobby for the opposition leader and because the government will use its resources to push for the AU bid, they needed to reciprocate and support the Kenya Kwanza administration agenda.

“I hear that ODM has called for a crisis meeting, this is because they know too well that when Raila takes up the AU job, he will retire from politics and in 2027 we will attend mass political funerals for the leaders who have been hanging on Raila’s coats for survival,” Cherargei told The Standard.

He said Raila has been caged and must now show total allegiance to the President.

Governance and Foreign Affairs Expert Prof Peter Kagwanja too felt that since the ODM leader’s name will be fronted by the Kenya Kwanza administration, he could not bite the hands that seek to feed him saying he has zero options on holding it to account.

“He (Raila) kept quiet a long time ago probably because of the deal. He can’t present himself as a defender of the voiceless and the downtrodden,” said Prof Kagwanja.

He however expressed doubt that Raila would succeed in the AUC as ‘there are other more formidable candidates compared to him.’

Kagwanja cited former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as among the ‘strong candidates’ adding that ‘Kenya is at war with neighbors’ a move that may bear negative results on Raila’s candidature.

Former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed Raila Odinga for the AU Commission Chairperson job. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

While ODM diehards have declined to discuss the matter opting to wait for the outcome of the crisis meeting, some have claimed that the opposition leader does not need the support of the Kenya Kwanza administration despite the ruling UDA’s endorsement on his AU bid.

According to ODM Treasurer Timothy Bosire, government’s intention to lobby for Raila’s bid was not enough reasons for him to forsake the plight of Kenyans, saying he would continue playing his oversight role regardless.

“Anybody who knows Raila knows his nature and modus operandi. He will always operate based on where the ordinary Kenyans are. His agenda has never been personal or individual based for good for the country,” he said.

Bosire said that the biggest worry for Kenyans over Raila’s bid was whether he could vie for presidency in 2027 and this was causing ‘mixed feelings and anxiety among Kenyans across the country.’

“Kenyans need (Baba) Raila in the ballot in 2027 and that has been the biggest concern. voters feel like they will be left defenseless and think that they will miss a big input of electing the president of their choice in 2027,” he told The Standard on phone.

Migori Senator Eddie Oketch argued that Raila, as an individual, has great networks and respect that is enough to earn him the job and claimed that compared to President Ruto, the opposition leader is ranked higher.

"Raila has massive networks and massive respect across the globe. I can argue that in the continent today, if you were to compare Raila Odinga and President Ruto in terms of continental respect both diplomatic and political, Raila scores way above Ruto. His network spans way above Ruto," the senator claimed.

Even as ODM calls for a crisis meeting to chart the way forward after Raila’s move that may see him edged out of Kenya's political landscape and the next General Election since he will be required to serve in the position until 2028, the opposition leaders believe that his party will remain robust in all matters Kenyan politics.

ODM chairperson John Mbadi refuted claims that the party leader’s political influence would dwindle, if he secures the AU job.

"Raila's stature and position in Africa is well documented. He has the capacity and competence to take up that leadership but that does not affect the position of ODM," said the Nominated MP.