Raila can do better at handling succession

ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

A few weeks after the 2022 elections, many Kenyans – here and abroad – were pretty much certain that a vanquished Azimio would not make a formidable opposition.  

The abysmal defeat and the rate at which legislators crossed sides even before the courts settled Raila Odinga’s petition gave a hint that William Ruto was home and dry.

After swearing-in on September 13, the ‘tyranny of numbers’ in Kenya Kwanza startlingly swept one and all by the roadside. The civil society was limping, the clergy swallowed by politics of the belly and all other watchdogs dazed.

Then, a situation ensued where every government agenda – however unpopular – would sail through in Parliament. That time, I implored Wanjiku to prepare for a new life without opposition. Anguish for any nation is when lawmakers morph into avenues by which the Executive always gets its way, sometimes ignorant of Wanjiku’s concerns.

Few would speak out when straddling the corridors of power! Apart from protests over the cost of living, nothing much can thus far be counted as a direct product of robust countering of the government by the Azimio coalition. It is what it is! 

Now, Raila’s ‘earthquake’ with Ruto is turning the tables, and his possible departure should he win the contest for Africa Union Commission seat next year, proves my earlier prophecy of life with no opposition, literally. Will the Executive keep itself in check? That’s the question.  

As the succession debate rages, Raila says he’s going nowhere. Let him admit time is up. Also, rather than push him to name a successor, he needs help with a strategy that will work. What’s clear is that his exit is game over for Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Eugene Wamalwa, Jeremiah Kioni, Wycliffe Oparanya, Peter Munya, Ndiritu Muriithi and others. Done and dusted!

Granted, the Azimio team won’t be forgiven by supporters for the shock 2022 loss. They must give way. Without Raila, they lack the oomph for 2027. In fact, the rhetorical question is – what new thing will they do? And why should anyone trust them?

In my view, National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi can take up the reigns. Should Raila exit, the Ugunja MP is the real deal. Even if Mama Ida Odinga wants John Mbadi to be the new ‘kingpin’, Mr Wandayi is the warrior Wanjiku needs.   

A sequential student of the Azimio chief, Mr Wandayi has a golden chance since the AU quest means Raila’s succession is certain even if intricate. Envisaging the former premier’s exit can’t be felony among his diehards forever. In any case, it isn’t just a Nyanza affair but a national one.  

Wandayi has fire in his belly – polite but stubborn. He has good ‘nuisance’ value. Like Barack Obama in 2008, much attests to his willpower. The man, who earned a parliamentary ban for disrupting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech in 2016, sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil.

Last year, he braved it all during Azimio demos and shared a video beseeching the State to stop extrajudicial killings. When he took on Ruto over the Finance Bill, he didn’t care if he risked too much. And recently, he opposed the deployment of Kenyan police to Haiti and the courts agreed with him. Meanwhile, he wasn’t a sellout during the Ruto-Raila bi-partisan talks.

Unlike Junnet Mohamed, Hassan Joho, Babu Owino and Mbadi, you can’t mistake Wandayi for a youth winger. There are those who sold the ODM ticket to the highest bidders. A colourless Mbadi was nominated to Parliament. The ODM ‘lapdogs’ can chant ‘tibim’ but must keep off Raila’s succession.

But the former premier should not overthink. As Niccolò Machiavelli cautioned on new benefits that make men forget old injuries, Raila must not forget his past but use it to fortify gains at home. Azimio needs someone who’ll offer alternative ideas to Kenyans. Wandayi fits the bill.

-The writer is a communications practitioner. X: @markoloo