Raila and Ruto rebrand, adopt youthful look to attract new voters
By Josphat Thiongo and Harold Odhiambo
| October 17th 2021
From the dress, slogans and speech to company, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga is on a roll.
In the last few months, a new Raila has surged forth, confounding both friend and foe.
He has shed off the circle of old friends from his Luo Nyanza backyard, replacing them with fresh allies to project a national outlook.
His main rival, Deputy President William Ruto, began the branding journey earlier on before him; fashioning his messaging around the ‘hustler narrative’ targeting the struggling populace.
Over the last one year, Ruto built for himself an impressive circle of promising leaders, who have been helping him sell the hustler agenda across the country.
They troop to his “hustler mansion” for regular briefing before they hit the road.
Owing to high visibility of his meets, Ruto has rejigged his wardrobe to keep up.
With an eye on the impressive youth voting bloc, Raila has in recent days set out on a deliberate path of wooing them.
He has dropped combative style of politics, assuming a statesman look and promising stable politics under his watch.
On dress, he has adopted a classy casual look and slang to identify with the youth who will tilt the vote next year.
On Tuesday, he turned at the University of Nairobi dressed in baby blue and white coloured Air Jordan 1 high top retro’s, blue jeans, navy blue half jacket, white polo shirt and a fedora hat.
By his dress code alone – or drip as referred to in city streets- it was evident that the ODM leader is leaving nothing to chance.
Raila has been on the charm offensive and intent on exhibiting his ‘drip’.
In his recent forays in Coast and Mt Kenya, the ODM leader donned designer shirts including Gucci, Polo and Versace. Case in point, during his rally at Subukia on October 10.
On company, Raila has settled on a youthful team of leaders to accompany him in his tours.
Suna East MP Junet Mohamed has assumed a central role in his affairs, while Raila’s daughter, Winnie, has taken charge in the background.
At the same time, Raila’s close circle from his backyard have retreated from his national tours.
Key point men including his confidant James Orengo, ODM director of political affairs Opiyo Wandayi, chair John Mbadi and women leader Millie Odhiambo have all taken a back seat in his national tours.
In their place, new faces from across the country have emerged with Raila’s new allies from Mount Kenya taking the front seats.
Within ODM, Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya are keeping Raila company.
“Raila is a national leader. We are keen to ensure that the people leading his campaigns include all regions,” said a senior ODM official.
On slogans, Raila rolled out “Azimio la Umoja,” clarion call which was launched in Nakuru, and which is spreading to the regions through his meets.
He has also doled out related slogans, among them Inawezekana and 4 Us of Utu, Usawa, Umoja and Uzalishaji Mali to counter the hustler narrative of Deputy President William Ruto.
Still on his messaging, the ODM leader is adopting slang to keep up with the youth.
“Kicked off today’s Kanairo tour with stops in Burma and Kamkunji,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
“I had planned to show the Mt Kenya youth my Omah Lay-Understand challenge dance moves but they said we dance to Baba dance! Next time, let’s see who has the best dance moves?! Good seeing you all jana!,” reads one of his tweets.
“To the youth, I’ve heard and listened to you across the nation. Sita wa let down. I promise a better Kenya for you. Kutoka free laptops, stadiums, jobs... mlibebwa ndogo! Kuweni rada msibebwe mafala tena,” states another.
And to further prove that he understands the Mt Kenya youth, he at one point twitted in Kikuyu while in Subukia.
“N? thengio m?no ad? a Subukia. Mumenibamba sana. Safari ya Azimio La Umoja nayo nayo aluta! (Thank you people of Subukia. You have made me happy. The journey through Azimio la Umoja will continue!).”
Notably, Raila has met with youth from Murang’a, Meru, Embu, Nairobi and Tharaka/Nithi counties since January.
But why the youth?
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission started the mass voter registration on October 4 targeting six million new voters, majority of them the youth who have attained voting age in the past five years.
Of these, four million are aged between 18 and 20 while those aged between 22 and 26 are two million.?
Raila and DP William Ruto battle for Coast votePolitical analysts say that Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s decision to drop out of the presidential race turned the Coast into a swing vote bloc.
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