ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday gave the strongest indication over his plans to exploit his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta to penetrate the vote-rich Mt Kenya region.
Raila said he was ready to tour the region to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), and in preparations for the 2022 General Election.
The former PM dismissed the narratives that the region was hostile to him and the proposed constitutional changes.
Raila spoke when he met Kikuyu Council of Elders and Githurai traders in Ruaka, Kiambu, in what appears to be a change of tack in countering DP William Ruto, by endearing himself to the common mwananchi, which constitute the “hustler nation” constituency.
“I will come to Githurai. I will climb the mountain. Kenneth Matiba taught me how to climb the mountain,” Raila said of the former opposition leader and a key figure in the push for the country’s second liberation.
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He recalled how he was popular in the region after declaring ‘Kibaki tosha’ during the 2002 polls, citing a mammoth crowd that welcomed him to Nyeri after their historic win. “Those saying Kikuyus don’t like Raila, I don’t know where they get the narrative from,” he said.
The ODM leader rallied the traders to back the proposed constitutional changes, citing clauses aimed at supporting small businesses.
He said sustainable development could not be achieved through handouts and donations of wheelbarrows, in a remark targeted at Dr Ruto.
“We can create opportunities for our people for sustainable growth, which cannot be achieved by donating wheelbarrows. Upward mobility is what we want,” said Raila.
He cited a clause in the BBI, saying it would ensure business people accessed loans and only service them after five years.
Yesterday’s meeting was part of a series of political engagements Raila has had with the common mwananchi this week, as he seeks to popularise BBI.
On Monday he hosted a team of youth at his Karen home under the banner of ‘Team One Nation’. The team was led by former Mungiki sect leader Maina Njenga.
On Tuesday Raila engaged artistes from around the country in a meeting where he rallied musicians to use their talents to promote the proposed constitutional changes.
He held a similar meeting with youth drawn from around Nairobi at Ufungamano House on Wednesday before making an impromptu visit to Burma Market, where he also promoted the document.
The apparent change of tack comes against the background of claims by Senate Majority Whip Irungú Kang’áta that BBI was not enjoying support in Uhuru’s political backyard.
Ruto and his allies – mostly from Rift Valley and Mt Kenya – claim the proposed changes are targeted at benefiting the political class by creating positions but with little proposals to support the common man.
MPs Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) and Paul Koinange (Kiambaa) listed some of the benefits the region stood to gain if the document was passed.
The two lawmakers said the region would be the major beneficiary of the document, citing the additional constituencies.
“If you look at the new constituencies proposed, we are getting about six. Look at it in terms of CDF. We stand to benefit more than any other region,” said Mr Kioni.
The MP said the region risked losing at least four constituencies in the event the document was not passed for not meeting population threshold required for delamination of boundaries.
Mr Koinange told the traders the unity deal would guarantee environment for doing business without any fear of possible election related chaos.
Education CAS Zack Kinuthia also dismissed the hustler narrative, saying it was aimed at undermining certain leaders due to their family background.
“The hustler versus dynasties narrative is about nothing but to undermine our leaders. Don’t entertain this because it will be used to undermine your leaders,” said Mr Kinuthia.