Inside Raila Odinga's five-day tour to ring-fence Nyanza voting bloc

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses residents of Nyamasaria in Kisumu county on May 17, 2022. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Azimio-One Kenya Alliance presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga and his campaign team are working on an elaborate five-day plan to ring-fence his Nyanza voting bloc as the August 9 polls draw closer.

The Saturday Standard has established that the plan has already been finalised and is centered on the goal to ensure the region delivers 100 per cent voter turnout on election day.

According to an itinerary shared with The Saturday Standard, the presidential hopeful will pitch tent in the region between June 13 and June 19 and will traverse all the six Nyanza counties.

His presidential team are optimistic that the rallies planned for Nyanza will tackle fears of voter apathy and also ring-fence a voting bloc that has been steadfast behind Raila for nearly three decades.

Raila’s camp believes that a massive voter turnout in his backyard will be a major boost in his quest to realise his dream for the presidency after four unsuccessful attempts.

Although he is expected to garner a majority votes in Nyanza, concerns over the numbers have been a growing pain in Raila’s political fort after the last mass voter registration was marked with voter apathy. In his visit, however, Raila is expected to rally the region to turn up and vote and will also use the opportunity to officially introduce his running mate-Martha Karua to his backyard.

Members of his presidential campaign team who are tasked with marketing his presidential bid across the region describe the planned meeting as the ultimate statement of his intent to clinch the seat.

Raila’s first stop will be in Gusii region where he will hold rallies in Kisii and Nyamira for two days as he seeks to ward off intense competition from DP William Ruto’s UDA party which is keen to eat into his support. In the region, the DP who has won a number of allies including three sitting MPs has maintained his visits with an aim of wrestling a substantial part of the Gusii vote from Raila’s grasp.

A better life

His last visit to the two counties was about three weeks ago where he rallied residents to join their Kenya Kwanza coalition, promising the agricultural region major changes in the agricultural sector that will usher in a better life for residents.

Raila’s camp, however, is not dismissing Ruto’s attempts to infiltrate the region and have mounted campaigns to ensure that the region backs Raila’s candidature overwhelmingly. Among the leaders, Raila is relying on to garner a majority of the Gusii votes include Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, among others.

Ongwae is part of the team organising the Nyanza mega-rally and has already played an instrumental role after managing to broker truce among Azimio-One Kenya Alliance parties in the region that are all battling for space. After Raila’s visit in Gusii, he will pitch tent in Homa Bay and Migori counties to drum up support for his presidential bid before shifting base to Siaya County. In the three counties, rivalries between candidates backing Raila’s presidential bid but threaten to hurt voter turnout in the August polls.

As part of the efforts to ensure that the Azimio-One Kenya-affiliated parties are on the same page, the team tasked by Raila to deliver the presidential vote has brokered a truce between all the parties. Each of the parties will have a representation in the presidential campaign team.

Yesterday, the campaign secretariat led by ODM chairman John Mbadi with his co-chairman governor Ongwae in the campaign secretariat said all the ten parties will be involved in the coordination ahead of Raila’s visit to Nyanza.

Raila is expected in Nyanza from 13 to 19 of this month. Speaking to the media after a meeting with all the coordinators from the Nyanza counties, Ongwae said they have also agreed to have one strong regional discourse from both Western and Nyanza regions. They will conduct joint campaigns.

“We must work hard to achieve a large voter turnout and persuade our people to turn out and vote despite the fact that Raila comes from here,” said Ongwae.

He added: “Initially we used to have Nyanza and Western region holding political meetings per region which shall remain so, however, we must have one discourse.”

Mbadi said that immediately after Raila leaves Nyanza, the Azimio presidential team coordinators will embark on campaigns in every county for three days per county.

“They will have rallies in various constituencies and counties and each of the regions is expected to give their programme. We will persuade voters in Nyanza to vote for Raila,” added Mbadi.