Jaramogi Oginga's 'long con' moment and missing comeback

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga fell out with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (right) in 1969. [File, Standard]

In the aftermath of the August general election, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino spoke of a "long con" meted on his mentor Raila Odinga by retired President Uhuru Kenyatta's men.

His party leader had been made to underestimate Deputy President William Ruto, to draw confidence in the "deep state" theory, and to believe he was on the right side of history.

Fast rewind to the mid-70s when Raila's father, Jaramogi, had been in the cold for several years after the 1969 fallout with Uhuru's father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

As the runner-up to the Kenyatta succession, the president's inner coterie suddenly started to warm up to him. They wanted to play him against Vice President Daniel arap Moi.

That is how he found himself being warmly received at the wedding of the daughter of Minister of State Mbiyu Koinange. Soon thereafter, Defence Minister James Gichuru and the President's own son Peter Muigai Kenyatta landed in Nyanza to see him.

In quick succession, Odinga was elected Siaya Kanu branch acting chair, and with it, the ticket to participate in a national meeting of Kanu chairs usually presided over by Mzee Kenyatta.

Everything was looking up for him, and Odinga swallowed the whole bait. He closed ranks with the group that was championing the campaign to lock out Moi from the succession. His close ally, Achieng Oneko, attended the anti-Moi rallies.

Things continued looking up until October 6, 1976, when Moi's side struck heavily against the "change-the-constitution" campaign. Attorney General Charles Njonjo issued a public warning from Nakuru where Kenyatta was working from, decreeing it a criminal offence to "compass, imagine, devise or intend the death or the deposition of the President."

Odinga's cookie began to crumble. Eight days later, his election as Siaya Kanu branch chair was invalidated by the local District Commissioner (DC) on account that the meeting where he was elected was illegally convened.

The real deep state was now deep at work. The Koinange group encouraged him to run for Kanu national vice chair but he was promptly disqualified by the Moi group.

Odinga felt betrayed by the Koinange group which promptly scattered from the scene, leaving only Kihika Kimani by his side. The best chance for his comeback had become his worst and was sealed by Moi's ascendancy to the top after Kenyatta's death.