Gusii leaders yesterday put ODM leader Raila Odinga under pressure to endorse Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i for presidency.
At the burial of former Nyaribari Masaba MP Hezron Manduku, Raila was swamped with pleas to endorse Matiang’i but he side-stepped them, fondly describing the CS as his son who deserved nothing but the best.
“Matiang’i is my son and I know he deserves the best. It is not yet time to start politicking and that is why we are against early political statements that will derail our country’s development agenda,” Raila said.
And when he rose to speak, Matiang’i, clutching on to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech at Nyaturago Secondary School playgrounds, did a poor job in restraining those pitching for him.
Urging focus on development, he said one day he would make the announcement “most of you are waiting for”.
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“It is time to work diligently for our people. One day I will make that announcement that most of you are waiting for. At the moment, we must continue to seek spiritual guidance before we think of anything else,” he said.
Last week, Raila himself protested at a newspaper article that said he said he was in the 2022 presidential race.
“The country must remain united before we get down to think of political formations. We have the handshake that is key in uniting Kenyans and fighting corruption,” Raila said yesterday.
Matiang’i spoke highly of Gusii unity talks, saying he was happy that Nyamira and Kisii governors were solidly behind the talks.
“It is through unity that our people will have the Nyangwenta Sugar Factory, a banana processing plant and key water projects at Bonyunyu and Kegati,” he said.
Before the two leaders spoke, area leaders, led by Kitutu Chache North MP Jimmy Angwenyi, said the community needed Raila’s support to have one of their own at the top.
The same sentiments were expressed by Borabu MP Ben Momanyi and Kitutu Chache’s Richard Onyonka.
“Matiang’i is our senior-most leader from Gusii and no doubt we will need support from other communities, including that of the former PM. Our unity will lead us to that path,” Momanyi said.
Raila rooted for the Building Bridges Initiative, saying it will make way for an exclusive process of fixing the constitutional ills afflicting the country.
Dagoreti North MP Simba Arati took a swipe at politicians in the Tanga Tanga team, saying the idea of picking handouts from corrupt leaders has to stop.
“We know those involved in corrupt dealings. They are using such proceeds to cause disunity among Kenyans, thinking they will ascend to power by issuing handouts to greedy politicians and poor Kenyans,” Arati said.
Kitutu Chache MP Richard Tongi warned that nobody can claim to own a community.
“Our people have matured politically and soon we will be able to have our own ascend to the highest political position in the country,” Tongi said.
However, South Mugirango MP Slyvanus Osoro, who is a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, called on other leaders to stop chest-thumping.
He said the community will never have any meaningful development projects completed if its leaders continued to engage in supremacy politics.
“Our people are in dire need of socio-economic projects that can change their lifestyles. I will continue to champion the interests of the poor because that is what I was elected to do,” Osoro said.
Other leaders present were Kisii Governor James Ongwae, his Nyamira counterpart John Nyagarama, Senators Sam Ongeri and Okong’o Omogeni and Kisii Woman Representative Janet Ongera.
They castigated the ongoing political wars and instead called on the community and its leaders to embrace peace.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in his condolence message described Manduku as a devoted and ambitious leader who served his people and the nation with outermost sincerity.
“The death is a big loss to the family and the nation. There is no doubt that Manduku will be remembered by many,” Uhuru said in a speech read by Matiang’i.
Raila remembered his days in Parliament with the deceased, saying Manduku was among the few humble parliamentarians at the time.