Raila intensifies bid to woo Mudavadi

ODM leader Raila Odinga was welcomed by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli at his Khwisero home on Sunday. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has intensified his efforts to woo Amani National Congress Leader Musalia Mudavadi to back his fifth stab at the presidency.

The ODM chief on Sunday met a section of leaders in Mudavadi's camp at COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli's home in Khwisero where they held discussions for several hours.

The meeting comes even as Raila through his allies intensify their efforts to strengthen Raila's support in the region.

Mudavadi has been under pressure from the Jubilee government deep State to support Raila Odinga’s 2022 presidential bid. 

Although nothing concrete has been agreed upon, many meetings have been held with indications that the government has trained its guns on Mudavadi in the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) team.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the allies have planned a major rally at Bukhungu stadium where Raila will popularize his Azimo la Umoja Movement and present his presidency to the Mulembe nation.

According to the sources who attended the meeting, the move is part of a wider strategy to expand the Azimio la Umoja Movement and bring more players on board from the Western region.

Although the parties who attended the meeting dismissed reports that the meeting is about defections, Mudavadi's troops said that they will urge him to join Raila's Azimio la Umoja.

Raila is said to have taken advantage of the Sunday meeting to engage Mudavadi's foot soldiers on the likely scenarios of joining the Azimio camp.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula, a hardliner and tough talker in Mudavadi's camp is among the Western brigade that attended the said meeting.

Others are Matungu MP Peter Nabhulindo who floored ODM in a by-election, Omboko Milemba and Godfrey Osotsi.

Raila's brigade included his elder brother Oburu Oginga, Atwoli and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

The meeting lasted for more than six hours with the leaders saying that the discussions were fruitful.

Another source said the MPs who attended the meeting have not defected to ODM but are only keen to work with Raila under the Azimio la Umoja Movement.

"Our goal is to be part of Azimio la Umoja as ANC so that the Luhya community votes as a block in one direction," said the source.

Atwoli also confirmed to the Standard that the meeting was not about defections but about uniting Western block to vote in one basket.

Christopher Asega, the area MP said they will engage their party leader to support Raila as it is important that the region votes in one block.

"We will ask our party leader to be part of this drive," he said.

Raila after the meeting told journalists they had a fruitful meeting and agreed on "a number of things".

Last week, Raila who doubles up as the African Union Special Envoy for Infrastructure hinted at working with Mudavadi again.

While speaking at the burial of Mudavadi’s stepmother Mama Rosabella Jerono Mudavadi at Budira village in Vihiga,  Raila said the fact that they have taken different political paths in the past does not mean they cannot work together.

“Mudavadi and I go back a long way. We have been friends since we were in opposition,” said the former prime minister.

“In 2013 Mudavadi took a different path and you know what happened. In 2017, we went hunting together, aimed at the animal but unfortunately, it disappeared into the forest and was devoured by hyenas. I had nothing left to share,” Raila told mourners at the funeral.

He urged Mudavadi’s supporters to give him a chance to engage the former vice president. “I know our paths will cross again going forward,” he said.

After Sunday’s meeting, Raila said he will be attending the Bukhungu rally as a guest.

Western Kenya has supported Raila the four times he has contested the presidency even as his opponents work overtime to split his support base.