Succession: How Raila is walking in the steps of his father, Jaramogi

Azimio leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and  Raila Odinga (ODM) consult at Ichuni Catholic Church in Magena, Bomachoge Borabu,  Kisii County, during a  past Service. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The future of the political empire built by opposition doyen Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and perfected by his son Raila Odinga may be fraught due to uncertainties but could also be evolving as the country’s political landscape continues to change.

With age catching up with Raila and with no apparent heir to the throne, questions abound on how Jaramogi’s fight for social and political justice will continue through the next generations.

Some believe the dominance of the Odinga family of Nyanza politics could be approaching its sunset years with no clear heirs to Raila’s political throne.

Although Raila is not striking the final note of the political symphony he has built since charting his own path after his father died in 1994, the quest to inherit his political base has begun in earnest.

It is a talk that Raila’s allies loathe and is championed by those keen to inherit the political base of the opposition leader should Raila opt to retire from politics.

In Nyanza, the talk of a Raila succession is almost an abomination even as political undercurrents whirl.

Observers say Raila is walking in similar steps as his father by failing to groom a successor. Both appear to have opted to nurture several leaders with the potential to take over the leadership mantle.

Political scene

Jaramogi groomed several leaders who took the country’s political scene by storm, and who remained prominent in the country’s politics for several years.

Although most of them scattered after the death of Jaramogi on January 20, 1994, they would later reunite behind Raila to check successive governments. Some went into oblivion but a majority built successful political careers.

Among the leaders Jaramogi groomed were the late Vice President Kijana Wamalwa, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and his Siaya counterpart James Orengo. Others were lawyer Gitobu Imanyara, former Cabinet minister Mukhisa Kituyi and his sons Oburu Oginga and Raila, among others.

Raila muscled his way to become the cream of opposition through relentless efforts and has gained support across the country.

In Nyanza, Raila’s word has been like law. Raila has built and destroyed political careers.

Just like his father, Raila has strengthened the Odinga dynasty that Jaramogi had built through the Luo Union, expanding his list of allies and discovering new support bases.

Observers believe Raila could be reading from a similar script that Jaramogi embraced by failing to embrace a single successor.

Political analyst Barack Muluka says Raila is taking a similar path as his father, choosing to groom many leaders who can take over the leadership mantle.

“These leaders are spread across the country and one of them will rise to take over the opposition cradle that the Odinga family has built,” says Muluka, adding; “He has mentored many people. The problem is that some of his age mates want him to name them as his successors. No, it is not done that way.”

Youthful politicians

The list includes youthful politicians such as Nairobi Senator Edwin Siguna, MPs Babu Owino (Embakasi East), Tim Wanyonyi (Westlands), John Mbadi (nominated MP), Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) and governors Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Simba Arati (Kisii), former governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), and the Kajwang brothers among others.

“Jaramogi’s legacy is anchored on justice and democracy as the most fundamental aspects of any peaceful and thriving society,” says Muluka.

Lawyer Bruce Odeny says he does not foresee Raila grooming a successor. “As long as he is still visible on the political scene, he will continue to remain relevant and powerful,” Odeny says.

He believes Odinga’s influence in Kenya will only come to an end when Raila exits the political stage.

“As long as he is in politics, we can not ignore him. No other Luo leader will fit his shoes, properly,” Odeny says.

In Azimio, the ODM leader is under pressure from a section of leaders to endorse Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as the presidential candidate for the coalition in 2027.

The Saturday Standard has established that Raila’s inner circle is uncomfortable with the proposal and believes it may affect his overall political influence. Instead, his allies in Azimio want him to take another shot at the presidency.

Raila’s confidant and Siaya governor James Orengo says the talk of succession is unfounded.

“Raila came out as a determined democrat, a patriot and that is why people support him,” says Orengo.

Orengo believes another leader will emerge to fight for what is right and promote progressive politics.

“I think in 20 or 30 years, people will tend to be around a versatile and principled leader, and you can already see it happening across the continent. There will always be someone who stands for what is right,” says the governor.

The whole of Nyanza region, for decades, has politically united around the Odinga family. However, opposition has started emerging even as the debate on Raila succession gets even louder.

Several leaders from Nyanza are positioning themselves as possible successors, majority of them hoping the opposition chief would endorse them.

Some analysts believe Raila is doing an injustice by failing to groom a specific successor.

Mark Bichachi argues that Raila should start considering the next face of his legacy which will include fronting a new leader who will take over after he ritires, thereby furthering the opposition leader’s legacy.

“For a fact, Raila is failing by not mentoring a successor. He must remember that the next part of his legacy will be handing over the mantle to another person,” says Bichachi.

Raila's allies

Raila’s allies believe he still has the strength to lead the region.

Luo Council of Elders chairman Odungi Randa, who was mentored by Jaramogi and regards Raila as a son, said: “We cannot talk about succession. He is the one who should be mentored by people like me because he is younger than me and still has the strength to lead the people.”

Today, the family and the political class convene in Nairobi and Kisumu to mark 30 years since Jaramogi’s death. In Nairobi, the theme of the celebration is “Not yet Uhuru, a legacy of liberation: Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s impact on Kenya’s democratic journey”, and is meant to symbolize the continued fight against injustice in the country.

In Kisumu, the event will be held at St Stephen’s Cathedral and later at Ofafa Memorial Hall with panel discussions on the life of Jaramogi and how his firebrand politics affected Kenya.

Meanwhile, an attempt by three petitioners to block the planned celebrations of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s 30th death anniversary at the contested Ofafa Hall technically flopped after a Kisumu court scheduled the hearing of the case on January 29.

Take place

The celebrations are expected to take place today in Kisumu with a host of leaders expected to attend.

Calvin Ariko, Lawi Raburu, and Jane Akinyi had moved to the court to seek contempt of court proceedings against Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, his deputy Mathews Owili, acting County Secretary Judith Oluoch, and City Manager Abala Wanga for allegedly interfering with the parcel of land.

In their suit, they had sought orders to block respondents from hosting the Jaramogi memorial at the hall.

They held that on December 14, 2023, they went to the court and filed a case seeking orders restraining the respondents from repossessing the hall.

The land is at the center of an ownership tussle after the city management announced plans to repossess it over unpaid land rates.

The trio said the court had issued orders allowing their prayers, directing the respondents be served as they await an inter-party hearing on January 29.

In his ruling on Thursday, Justice Samson Okong’o said: “It is hereby ordered that the application shall be served upon the respondents, and the persons sought to be cited for contempt for hearing on 29th January 2024.” 

[Additional reporting by Olivia Odhiambo and Anne Atieno]

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