Orange Democratic Movement party leader Raila Odinga yesterday appeared to endorse Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o for a second term in office.
Raila’s endorsement came after a three-hour closed-door meeting with the governor, during his first visit to Nyanza region in the last six months.
Despite his continued plea to politicians to keep off 2022 elections debate, Raila praised the governor’s performance in the three years he has been in office.
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Raila addressed a crowd of youths chanting ‘Nyong’o tano tena’ (five more years for Nyong’o) outside the governor’s office.
“Hasn’t Nyong’o done a great job? Are you happy?” posed Raila before raising his right hand fist, prompting the ‘tano tena’ chants.
Raila had earlier met the County Assembly leadership, including Speaker Elisha Oraro and Majority Leader Ken Onyango, former deputy governor Ruth Odinga and a host of ward reps at the governor’s office.
Sources said the agenda of the meeting revolved around rallying the assembly to support Nyong’o’s development agenda for Kisumu.
“The former Prime Minister was happy that wrangles witnessed at the assembly in the past have died down. He urged us to give Nyong’o a conducive working environment,” said a source who attended the meeting.
Before the two meetings, Raila addressed the press at the governor’s boardroom where he praised Nyong’o’s development record.
“When I met Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, he told me how Kisumu has grown and is very clean. I am coming back here after six months and I can see the change,” said Raila.
Reacting to Raila’s apparent endorsement, a number of leaders eyeing the governor’s seat in 2022 dismissed it as a political stunt staged by Nyong’o.
Former governor Jack Ranguma, who lost to Nyong’o in 2017, accused the governor of trying to hijack the 2022 race.
Ranguma said the ‘purported endorsement’ will not scare him out of the race to recapture the governor’s seat in 2022.
“If it was a real endorsement then it stifles democracy. It is the voters who know what Nyong’o has done in the last three years and it is them who must be given a chance to make a choice in 2022,” said Ranguma.
Senator Fred Outa, who is also in the race to dethrone Nyong’o, accused the governor of planting goons to intimidate Raila into endorsing him.
“What I saw were goons planted by Nyong’o shouting ‘tano tena’, and Raila just responding so that he finds his way out of the place,” said Outa.
Just like Ranguma, Outa said he was firmly in the race to dethrone Nyong’o, and that he would not be disrupted by “side shows”.
“Currently the ODM is restructuring and the party leader has been assuring us that he wants democracy to prevail. People will face voters in nominations. Let Nyong’o not dream of a direct ticket,” he said.
After the press conference, Raila went back to another meeting with Nyong’o, in which sources said they discussed regional politics, development and the Building Bridges Initiative.
Later on, Raila briefly met senior national government officials led by County Commissioner Susan Waweru before continuing the meeting with the governor.
Sources said Nyong’o took time to brief Raila on what has been happening in the regional politics and the fight against Covid-19 in Nyanza.
The two leaders discussed reforms in the sugar industry and how the stalemate in the Senate over division of revenue was affecting counties.
After the meeting at around 7pm, Raila and Nyong’o stepped out and were met by a group of youths who demanded that they address them.
Raila assured the youth that he was back on his feet after undergoing treatment abroad.
Of the six governors in Nyanza, only Nyong’o is eligible for re-election, as the rest are serving their second and last terms.
Raila’s visit to Nyong’o’s office was the first since the governor took office, and the first since devolution began.
The opposition leader never stepped into the office during the five-year tenure of Nyong’o’s predecessor, Ranguma.