Rattled by the increased political activity by Deputy President William Ruto, Raila Odinga’s ODM party is now planning a counter-attack to tame the man they believe will pose their sternest test in 2022.
The Orange party ended a two-day retreat at Stoni Athi Resort in Machakos County yesterday with the resolution that Raila and the party should quickly move to claw back the gains Ruto has made.
Ruto is eyeing the presidency in 2022 and has put his foot on the pedal in his quest to clinch the top seat. Raila, on the other hand, has not come out to declare that he will contest but his allies, including elder brother Oburu Odinga, have indicated that he will be on the ballot.
According to a National Executive Council (NEC) member present at the retreat but who sought anonymity, the party gave Raila the go-ahead to start mobilisation across the country to popularise the party and his candidature without further delay.
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The top party organ, which meets twice a year to take stock of gains and losses, agreed to challenge every narrative by the DP that seeks to portray the party, its leader and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy agenda in negative light.
This will include meet-the-people tours across the counties where Raila and fellow party members will debunk the DP’s narratives of the hustler nation verses dynasties, and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) as an attempt by ODM to push for expanded Executive positions.
During two meetings in Kwale and Kisumu, Raila sought to debunk Ruto’s assertion that he represented the ‘hustler nation’, instead accusing him of flaunting his wealth, which he claimed was acquired in questionable circumstances.
Speaking in Kisumu a week ago, Raila said the ‘dynasty tag’ was meant to incite people against a section of the national leadership and hoodwink Kenyans to take political sides.
“This kind of talk is aimed at inciting Kenyans against one group and does not augur well in the eyes of the Building Bridges Initiative, which is seeking to reunite all Kenyans divided along ethnic and party affiliations,” he said.
In a grand scheme to neutralise the DP’s influence and agenda, the party is said to have agreed to start aggressive campaigns to recapture the Msambweni parliamentary seat following the death of MP Suleiman Dori.
Party Secretary General Edwin Sifuna yesterday welcomed Ruto’s decision to back an Independent candidate in the by-election.
“We are not scared of Ruto. He can back any candidate but I can assure you that we will crush him the same way we did in Kibra,” said Mr Sifuna, adding that they will use the mini-poll to give the DP a taste of 2022.
He was referring to last year’s by-election in Kibra occasioned by the death of MP Ken Okoth. In the poll, footballer McDonald Mariga, a Jubilee candidate largely seen to have Ruto’s backing, was up against ODM’s Imran Okoth. ODM won the election.
On Thursday, Ruto unveiled Feisal Abdallah Bader as his choice for the Msambweni seat at his Karen office. He was accompanied by Coast MPs Athman Shariff (Lamu East), Mohamed Ali (Nyali), Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga) and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi).
In the last one month, Raila has attended meetings in Taita Taveta and Kwale one week after the DP had been there in what has been viewed as an attempt to curtail his influence.
But it is now expected that with the political leeway handed to him by the party, the opposition leader will be bolder and more aggressive in the coming days.
With the BBI as a selling point, Raila is expected to move across the country to shore up support for the report from a taskforce formed by him and President Kenyatta, which he says is meant to allocate more resources to the counties.
The 39-member NEC retreat also explored ways of debunking the narrative Ruto’s brigade appears to be running away with that the BBI is about favouring certain individuals.
“The BBI is not about creating positions for anybody. In any case, the positions of prime minister and deputies will be Members of Parliament.
They will be earning salaries as MPs. We shall separate chaff from the wheat,” said the source.
Ruto has claimed the BBI report is meant to give a lifeline to some politicians, and that it will burden Kenyans.
Speaking in Gikomba after attending a service at Ziwani AIC last weekend, Ruto asked the ODM leader to drop the push for a constitutional amendment aimed at creating more positions in government, if indeed he was interested in promoting hustlers’ welfare.
“Now that they have agreed Kenya is a hustler nation, we want to tell them to give priority to job creation and business opportunities to the hustlers so that they can take their children to school and afford decent housing,” said Ruto.
During the retreat, ODM also resolved to push for 35 per cent of national revenue to go to the counties. The party also wants wards to be allocated five per cent of national revenue to accelerate development in the grassroots.
The party also resolved to put its house in order by filling vacant positions that had arisen due to natural attrition or members shifting their allegiance.
“The NEC has resolved to conduct a harmonisation exercise to fill existing gaps in the party leadership resulting from death, resignations or defections from the polling station level to the national level,” said Sifuna.
He said the exercise at the polling station and sub-branch levels shall be undertaken by members in October.
Sifuna added that a similar exercise shall be undertaken at the branch level, which comprise the 290 constituencies, and the county coordinating committees in all the 47 counties under the supervision of the National Elections Board (NEB) and the National Secretariat.
On the upcoming by-elections scheduled for December 15, the NEB reported that it had received applications from interested candidates for the party ticket in all the five regions.
“The board is scheduled to hold primaries in Msambweni and in Kisumu North where we have more than one applicant,” said Sifuna.