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Wycliffe Oparanya reveals missing link in Raila Odinga's last three bids for top seat

By Brian Otieno | December 9th 2021

Sabaot community elders from Mt. Elgon led by their Chairman Pius Muyei (in a red tie) addressed media at Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya's home at Emabole village in Butere on December 5, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

In his three recent attempts to win the presidency, ODM leader Raila Odinga has had all but one missing piece of the puzzle needed to secure him victory, deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya has said.

Oparanya said Raila lacked support of the “government and State machinery,” which he believes the ODM leader has achieved through the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Kakamega governor yesterday told The Standard that securing the support was a culmination of deliberations in the wake of the disputed 2017 presidential election, which ODM insisted it won.

“In 2017, the server could not be opened and we thought that there was the government’s hand in all that,” said the former chair of the Council of Governors (CoG).

“Sometimes we thought that he has won but lost under unclear circumstances. We decided to play it safe. We analysed where we had gone wrong – maybe we didn’t have government on our side. Maybe government is a major factor in winning the presidential race," he said.

“That’s why we encouraged him (Raila) to have the handshake. Some of us were opposed to the handshake having been in the opposition for so long. He convinced us and we saw the sense."

Oparanya’s remarks mirror claims by Dr Oburu Oginga last year.

He said that State machinery, which he termed the “system” was the key factor Raila needed in his quest for the presidency.

Oburu, who is the East Africa Legislative Assembly MP, noted that State machinery and support is vital in a high stakes election.

“Why haven't we gone to State House when we have actually won the elections through votes? This is because there is something which we were missing and that something is called the system,” he said.

In recent weeks, Raila has been branded State project by Deputy President William Ruto and his allies.

The perception has been growing especially after the ODM leader’s campaigns for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), were believed to have been sponsored by the State, owing to Uhuru’s involvement.

Raila’s Azimio La Umoja rallies have raised eyebrows given the heavy security detail.

His involvement in government affairs has further reinforced the perception that he is a State project.

The ODM leader also seemingly has the president’s ear.

Raila’s opponents claim that the Azimio la Umoja convention slated for tomorrow in Kasarani, Nairobi, reeks of State facilitation, given the involvement of Jubilee Party leaders in the planning.

The event – sold as the venue for Raila’s announcement of contesting the presidency for the fifth time – may itself be a platform to announce the merger between ODM and Jubilee.

Oparanya dismissed allegations that the ODM party leader was part of the Deep State.  

“The president is also a voter. He can decide who to support without using the president tag," said the Kakamega governor during interview at the Standard Group headquarters in Nairobi.

"And obviously since he is still in power, those around him may decide to support Raila and this is what we were lacking in the previous four elections.” 

The governor further argued that Raila was more dependent on a new team he was building and not some unscrupulous support.

“Raila will have different players around him… maybe with the new team he is likely to succeed,” the governor said, adding that the collapse of the National Super Alliance may have been detrimental to Raila’s candidacy.

“It is very unfortunate that NASA split. If NASA remained the way they were and we added more people, it would have been much easier to win the election. But we are reaching out to them individually.”

The said reflections after the 2017 elections, the governor said, also pushed Raila to change tack, dropping his combative style of politics to adopt a more cautious and cordial one.

“He told us that he would go out there and ask the people if he should seek to be the president… Back then he was abrasive. It was necessary because he was in the opposition.

"But after the handshake, there was no need to be confrontational. He has evolved politically,” he said.

The second-term governor who was eyeing the ODM presidential ticket has supported Raila since 2005.

“Raila has made a difference in this country. The democracy we enjoy is because of him," the governor said.

"He was detained, came out and fought for reforms. He also fought for the Constitution and devolution. He has continued to fight for Kenyans. This could be Raila's last chance, but I am still young.” 

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