Buoyed by the recent regional endorsements but concerned that the ongoing voter registration will have a bearing on his performance, ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday put the country on notice of his presidential candidacy.
Raila will on November 15 launch his presidential bid, a week after the closure of the ongoing voter registration drive, sources from his campaign team told The Saturday Standard.
Yesterday, during his tour of Nyanza and Western regions, Raila, however, sent out a fervent plea to residents to turn up to register as voters, ahead of his official announcement.
“I said I will only make my decision to vie for the presidency at the end of this month once my people have registered in large numbers in the ongoing exercise,” he said.
He was speaking in Luanda, Vihiga County, where he oversaw the registration of voters at Khwiliba Secondary School.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has embarked on a 30-day nationwide voter registration that started on October 4 and ends on November 2.
“As I had said earlier, I will first have to check if my foot soldiers (supporters) are armed with national identification cards and voter IDs before I declare my bid at the end of this month,” said Raila.
He urged IEBC to increase the number of registration kits to capture a majority of unregistered Kenyans who qualify as voters.
“IEBC should ensure that there are enough kits to register our people before the end of the 30 days,” said Raila.
The ODM leader has enjoyed immense support from the wider western Kenya in the past three general elections and targets to increase its vote basket to enable him make a successful fifth attempt for the top seat.
“When I declare my bid, you should be ready with your votes so that when I say forward march, about turn, right match, fire, fire, you do so,” Raila said.
Speaking earlier in Nyando, Kisumu County, Raila said he had held back his presidential bid declaration until the end of the voter listing to enable him evaluate his voting bloc.
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The ODM leader was hosted by Nyando MP Jared Okello to preside over the groundbreaking ceremony for construction of Raila Odinga Secondary School.
Raila expressed concern over low voter listing turnout in the Nyanza region, accusing his backyard of “being asleep” as other areas report a high turnout.
His sentiments come after IEBC voter registration clerks in the region reported low turnout, with Kisumu, which is expected to list about 200,000 new voters, having not hit 10,000 mark in the first week of the exercise.
Raila, who appeared agitated by the report, said the statistics from the voter registration will determine what he termed as a big announcement on his 2022 move.
“If you want me to be in the ballot, my condition is that my soldiers must arm themselves with shields and spears,” Raila said, symbolising voters’ cards and national identity cards.
Reggae on pause
He asked the youth to come out and register as voters within the remaining period and prepare to execute their civil rights in the August 2022 polls.
Raila was accompanied by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, ODM Party Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili, Muhoroni MP Onyango Koyoo, Kisumu County Assembly Speaker Elisha Oraro and a host of local national government administrators.
He told off those who had written him off after the halting of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum drive by the courts, adding that ‘reggae’ was on pause and will resume after the next elections.
While Magoha steered off politics, Sifuna urged Nyanza residents to massively back Raila, saying the former premier has conquered more voting blocs.
“Mount Kenya, Western, Coast and many more regions have endorsed ‘Baba’ to be the fifth president of this nation. Yours as Nyanza people is to top it up,” said Sifuna.
He asked politicians from the area to avoid personal differences and focus on delivering ‘Baba’ to State House.
Sifuna’s sentiments were echoed by Dr Owili and Okelo who pledged to crisscross the villages to mobilise people to turn up for voter registration, saying time for speaking at funerals is over. Owili said the leaders must now facilitate the less fortunate and the disabled to access the registration centres.
While on his tour of Luanda, Raila said he will not be quitting politics any time soon.
“People have been saying that it’s time for me to leave politics, but do you want me to quit?” Raila posed the question to residents, amid a cheerful ‘No’ answer.
The former premier used the opportunity to sell his Azimio la Umoja initiative that champions unity in the nation.
“We have changed our slogan to get together and unite as one people,” said Raila.
His allies who accompanied him termed the visit as historic, resulting in what they said was the “Luanda declaration”.
Vihiga is the home of ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi and Raila aims to share the votes from the county.
Raila has in the past one month toured Vihiga, Kakamega and Bungoma counties.
ODM has three governors in the region; Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia).
The party leader said should he run for the top seat and win he will concentrate on reviving the dwindling economy.
Western Kenya leaders target over one million new voters to add to the current 2.27 million.
Ottichilo said the county targets to register new voters that will enable his party leader win next year.