Why Gideon's pro-Raila stance rattles OKA

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi (left) with ODM leader Raila Odinga at Nyayo Gardens, Nakuru. December 1, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

One of the key factors in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession politics is the unity among principals of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA). 

Four political leaders who form the alliance have insisted that they will stick together to the end.

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, Kanu’s Gideon Moi and ANC's Musalia Mudavadi have all been endorsed by their respective political parties as candidates in next year’s presidential race.

They have, on many occasions, declared that the political union will provide the best bet at forming the next government.

The politicians are yet to, however, say who among them will be the flagbearer as they work out a unity pact.

Of these four, only Mudavadi and Kalonzo have previously contested for the presidency and have both served as the country’s vice presidents. 

It will be the first time Gideon is seeking the presidency since joining active politics in 2002 when he inherited the Baringo Central MP seat from his father, former President Daniel Moi.

In 2017, he rallied Kanu to support President Kenyatta for a second term, despite Gideon’s unease over Deputy President William Ruto, his political nemesis.

As the political environment evolves, OKA leaders may be banking on ODM leader Raila Odinga to join them in crafting a team that will face off with Ruto in next year’s polls.

President Uhuru, who is serving his second and last five-year term, has given all indications that he would wish them to stick together and form a winning alliance.

But recent events have made the succession debate even more intriguing.

 Premature campaigns

Last week, when presenting the Nakuru city charter to Governor Lee Kinyanjui at the Nyayo Gardens, Uhuru gave the clearest signal he is backing Raila as his preferred successor. 

“You can start early (campaigns) with speed but before long you are tired and the person you branded old will come at his slow pace and overtake you,” said the President.

Initially, President Uhuru had promised to support Ruto to succeed him but the two have since drifted apart for what some say was the DP’s decision to embark on premature campaigns.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left), Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyajui, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi at Nyayo Gardens, Nakuru, December 1, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Raila, 76, was present at the Nakuru function when the President made the remarks.

Also in attendance was Senator Gideon Moi who has a soft spot for Raila going by his hint that OKA will work with the former premier.

Gideon’s dalliance with Raila began shortly after the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and the ODM leader.

Raila’s high profile meeting with Gideon’s father the late President Moi, shortly after the handshake, was loaded with political undertones.

 Post-election agreement

It appeared to indicate that with the handshake, a convergence of the interests of the country’s three foremost political families — the Kenyattas, Odingas and Mois — in the presidential succession, was in the works.

In May last year, Gideon led Kanu in formalising a post-election agreement with Uhuru’s Jubilee Party which committed them to working together in the 2022 polls.

Based on the agreement, West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio was elevated to the position of Senate Majority Leader after the removal of his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen.

The pact and the handshake ensured that Jubilee had the numbers in both the National Assembly and Senate, as the president and his deputy differed sharply, something that was a threat to Uhuru’s government. Kanu has 10 MPs and three senators.

During Gideon’s political forays across the country, he has often hinted at an alliance with Raila. His pronouncements have not gone down well with allies in the OKA, who have publicly protested over his close association with Raila.

Mudavadi’s allies have accused the Kanu chairman of hatching a plot to take OKA to Raila’s fold. Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala described Gideon as the coalition’s “weakest link”, insisting there is no way they will return to NASA, which was disbanded following endless wrangles between partners, mostly over sharing of money from the Political Parties Fund and parliamentary leadership positions.

 Body language

“We are disappointed and this must be said, as OKA foot soldiers, when we see some of our principals having weak body language politically. Recently, Gideon insinuated that we are going to work with the ODM leader,” said Malala.

Malala said united OKA is a viable idea but the moment a section of the principals start thinking they will be a “branch” of ODM, the entire plan is weakened. He said they cannot be taken back to ODM.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

But other members of the alliance think otherwise. Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa says Gideon is committed to OKA and he has been actively participating in all activities.

“We are also free to liaise with other leaders; the OKA leaders also have some relationship with the president. The fundamental freedom of association as enshrined in the Bill of Rights takes precedence. People should not read too much into what Gideon is doing,” he told Sunday Standard in an interview.

Wamalwa does not rule out the possibility of OKA working with Raila, saying the “door is still wide open and anyone who wants to join us, is welcome.”

Pundits warn that there is more than meets the eye in the relationship between Raila and Gideon.

Herman Manyora, a political commentator, says everything from the handshake to the Building Bridges Initiative to OKA is about Gideon.

Manyora sees Gideon as one person who was instrumental in the formation of OKA, so as to bring the leaders together and protect them from Ruto.

“Gideon seems to be aware of the threat posed by Ruto and knows that if the OKA principals are scattered, Ruto may pounce on Wetang’ula, Mudavadi and Kalonzo.”

“Once you put them in an outfit and with Gideon there, they remain until the trumpet is blown. OKA is a holding ground to make sure the principals are not attacked by Ruto,” he observes.

The University of Nairobi lecturer argues that some of the OKA principals are yet to understand the game being played, but Gideon is well informed.

 High stakes game

“Some of the principals do not know the game. Raila, Uhuru and Gideon are playing a high stakes game and they are in this thing for the long haul,” he says.

He predicts that it might reach a point where Gideon might be the next president, saying that if OKA settles on the young Moi, and with the support of Wetang’ula, Kalonzo and Cyrus Jirongo, all the others, including Raila, will join in.

Manyara foresees a situation where in the fullness of time, all the principals except Mudavadi will support Raila.

However, Prof Gitile Naituli, of Multimedia University of Kenya, sees Gideon as the link between OKA and ODM.

He opines that if Uhuru backs Raila, then Gideon will definitely back the ODM leader as the preferred successor of Uhuru.

“Gideon will go where Uhuru wants him to go. His heart is where the president’s heart is and anyone who doesn’t see that is not thinking properly. In the end Gideon will be with Raila because that is where Uhuru is,” he says.