After his party announced its exit from the National Super Alliance (NASA), ODM leader Raila Odinga is putting together a new team of point-men across the country.
Raila has hinted that he will be on the ballot for his fifth stab at the presidency next year and after parting ways with his former allies Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), he is keen to have fresh faces.
From Coast to Lower Eastern, Nairobi to Western and his Nyanza base, Raila has identified a team to replace the NASA principals and put him in a better position to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. Raila’s new team includes six second-term governors, influential first-term governors, MPs, members of the civil society and businessmen.
On Thursday, he met members of the civil society led by Kenya Human Rights Commission board chairman Makau Mutua, Chief Executive Officer George Kegoro, and Maina Kiai, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
In business, Raila enjoys support of wealthy businessmen from Mt Kenya led by media mogul SK Macharia.
But it is the galaxy of politicians that Raila has been courting for a serious stab at the presidency which will set tongues wagging.
Those who accompanied Raila to Murang’a included host governor Mwangi wa Iria, Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), James Ongwae (Kisii), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Ndiriitu Muriithi (Laikipia) and several MPs from Mt Kenya and Nyanza.
Yesterday, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said Raila has built politicians who have since become national figures and this election he will bring up a new and robust team that will be the envy of his competitors.
“The team around Raila will be fresh and energetic. Those who have fallen by the wayside will eventually have no choice but to join the formidable group under the enigma,” said Junet.
In his traditional support base of Kisii, the ODM leader on Friday brokered a truce between Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and Ongwae, including Senator Sam Ongeri and Woman Representative Janet Ong’era.
In the wake of the exit of his former principals, as they work on a new coalition dubbed the One Kenya Alliance that also brings on board Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Raila is not sitting pretty.
On Tuesday, he paraded part of his team in Murang’a and announced what he called “unity rallies” across the country. In Kisii region with over 800,000 votes, Raila seeks the united front of Matiang’i and Ongwae to secure support.
In 2017, Uhuru ate into 40 per cent of the votes in Kisii and Nyamira unlike in 2013 where he had bagged nearly 80 per cent. “We want to ensure the votes in the two counties are safe and secure in Raila’s basket come the 2022 General Election,” said former Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, who is also ODM National Treasurer.
In Western and the Lower Eastern where Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and Kalonzo helped Raila garner close to two million votes, the ODM supremo has placed Governor Oparanya, his Busia counterpart Sospeter Ojaamong, Mutua, and Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana and Charity Ngilu (Kitui).
In Western, Raila is said to be counting on the support of Oparanya, who is also the deputy party leader, to swing the populous Kakamega County votes in his favour.
Raila is also counting on support of former minister Paul Otuoma, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, and Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati as well as courting Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and former United Nations Conference on Trade and Development boss Mukhisa Kituyi to back him for the top seat.
Kituyi has also declared his interest in the race to the house on the hill.
Raila has met both Kituyi and Wamalwa twice separately.
Others on board include Junet, governors Nyong’o, Cornell Rasanga (Siaya), Ongwae, Bosire, party chairman John Mbadi and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga to maintain a stronghold of the region.
Reports had indicated that Oparanya was keen on forming a political party and be on equal footing with Mudavadi and Wetang’ula for them to compete for control of Western votes.
Oparanya is believed to be keen to use his intended new outfit for political bargaining nationally as he strategies to play a key role in the country’s politics and get a top post.
ODM won three of the four gubernatorial seats in Western in the last polls with the area having been one of ODM’s strongholds.
Only Bungoma, which went to Ford Kenya, escaped Raila’s ODM net but it is Wangamati who has since shifted loyalty to his side.
ODM also won all the six gubernatorial seats in Nyanza in last polls.
In the Coast region, which has predominantly supported him, Raila has put his hopes on Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Mohamed, businessman Suleiman Shabhal and Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja, who though elected on the Wiper ticket, has a working relationship with him.
Shabhal defected to ODM recently and is among those who accompanied Raila to Murang’a.
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi seems to have fallen out with Raila and is said to be working on a political party for Coast region.
The opposition leader has since identified Devolution Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Gideon Mung’aro to help him secure the county’s support.
“I am ready to work with Raila again,” Mung’aro told residents recently when Raila toured Kilifi County.
Lawyer Kerosi Ondieki argued that Raila, being a seasoned politician, would not want to have his next move interpreted. “He has to keep his cards safe.”
Sifuna said ODM was in talks and will also form a new alliance that will have younger and fresh blood with clear ideological positions on issues of the day.
“Knowing that partnerships are an essential part of our politics, ODM is also working on a broader, better and bolder alliance that will shape the politics of the land for years to come,” Sifuna said.
In the last elections, Raila won eight counties where the Luhya or Luo are the main groups.
Political commentator Dismus Mokua said Raila was an institution that cannot be wished away. “Many could be in for a political bombshell. He has an impressive grassroots network that one cannot wish away. Besides that, he has an emotional support base that has always stuck with him,” he added.
Moi University lecturer Nyaga Kindiki said Raila wants to form a new bigger outfit or alliance to vie for the presidency.
“Raila is looking forward to new partnership agreement with President Kenyatta’s allies and other leaders to form a bigger party so that he could be in next government,” Kindiki said.