Orange Democratic Movement Leader Raila Odinga’s foot soldiers have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to back the party's presidential flagbearer ahead of next year's polls.
Although the party is yet to settle on its candidate, insiders say Raila is the ultimate flagbearer.
The members led by Deputy Party Leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya claim that the party supported Uhuru through the handshake deal, and it is high time that he reciprocates that support.
“Raila has helped President Kenyatta to lead until the end. That is why we are asking him to also return the favour,” said Oparanya.
The leaders were speaking at St Benedict's Catholic Church in Butere where they sought to downplay the recent infighting within the Orange party, maintaining that it is intact.
Oparanya said that the party is focused on forming the next government and recounted the long journey the party has gone through since it was established in 2005.
The developments are set to open a fresh debate for two leaders who have continuously maintained that the handshake deal was not linked to the 2022 succession deal.
Both Raila and Uhuru have always downplayed the 2022 succession talk and instead claimed their deal is based on the need to unite Kenyans.
Some two months ago, Raila claimed that he will declare his political path after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process is complete.
His party is also yet to settle on its candidate even as anxiety and infighting rock ODM after his top lieutenants clashed over the BBI document.
And even with the infighting, Siaya Senator James Orengo yesterday maintained that the ODM boss is the best bet to fly the party’s flag.
He appealed to other party hopefuls, Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa) to shelve their ambitions and support Raila.
Orengo whose recent comments in regards to BBI have been a source of controversy declared that Raila has the mettle to challenge the presidency, adding that the party should back him.
“If Raila is not the candidate, there is no one who has the ability to be president. I am praying that you help Raila in all his initiatives including the BBI process,” said Orengo.
He, however, praised Oparanya for taking the initiative to throw his weight in the political ring to battle it out for the party’s ticket.
As Orengo rallied party members to back a Raila candidature, other senior ODM stalwarts including Oparanya and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo maintained that the ODM party is intact.
Party members are also hopeful that they will be able to strike alliances with politicians with similar ambitions with Orengo describing Oparanya as a key leader in engaging in talks with other politicians.
“Oparanya as our leader has the freedom to communicate with anybody. We must have a leader who can talk to other leaders but knows very well that their house is ODM,” said Orengo.
Recently, Oparanya met with Deputy President William Ruto with sources from the ODM camp alluding that he is the force behind a quest to seal a political deal between Raila and Ruto.
Raila, on the other hand, continues to keep his political cards to his chest with his confidants in the ODM party hoping that the issue of the party’s flagbearer will be resolved soon. His supporters also want him to declare his ambitions as the 2022 General Elections draw closer.
He has contested the country’s top seat four times and lost. On three occasions, he has come too close to clinch the presidency and has entered into partnerships with the winners three times.
His supporters believe he still has a “final bullet” for the country’s top seat.
More than ever before, a fifth stab is tempting but also confounding and Raila has had to downplay any interest.
But now the ODM chief is facing a daunting task to calm the storm that has hit ODM after his key lieutenants disagreed over some components of the BBI document.
Other foot soldiers
The political ambitions of his other foot soldiers, all of who are eyeing the same seats are also threatening to tear the party.
In the last few days, Raila’s men including chairman John Mbadi, ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohamed, Orengo, and Amollo have been engaged in a bitter exchange of words.
The developments are a setback to Raila who had already kicked off an exercise to strengthen his party ahead of the 2022 polls.
And yesterday, the row appears not to end soon, after Otiende maintained that they will not allow anyone to mislead Raila.
“We are in ODM and our frontman is Raila. What we will not accept is those who are misleading him,” said Amollo.