Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga was yesterday cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to contest the presidency in the August 9 General Election. Raila, clad in a crisp checked grey suit, beamed with joy as the electoral agency chairman Wafula Chebukati handed him the certificate.
On the fifth day of June, Raila, in his fifth attempt at the presidency, became the fifth presidential candidate to be cleared.
The former Prime Minister chose to start his big day with prayers, attending the morning service at the All Saints Cathedral. He and his family strolled from his Karen residence in Nairobi to church and sat about six pews back from the pulpit of Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.
Flanked by his daughter Rosemary Odinga to the left and his running mate Martha Karua to the right, Raila listened keenly as the Anglican Archbishop delivered a sermon based on Acts 2:1-21, on the need to nurture the next generation - ‘The parable of The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost.’
“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,” a lay reader read out the verse.
“Those in leadership should show direction and action that the youth can imitate. What we say and do is copied by the youth and that is where we have lost the game. Let’s invest wisely in our children by cultivating the right traits in them,” Ole Sapit’s voice echoed back from the vaults of the iconic church. He said leaders and parents should find time with those they lead in order to mentor them.
“We have handed our children to the television and the world where they are taught all manner of things as we get engaged in looking for money. Are you available for the youth to emulate you? Leaders, are you available for your electorate? Are we representing them with integrity which they can copy?” he posed. At the end of the sermon, Raila marched to the altar with Karua and other politicians for prayers and eventually to the Bomas of Kenya for their big moment.
“We want Kenyans to freely express their will on August 9, to speak clearly - that this is what Kenyans want,” he said at a packed Bomas of Kenya’s Baraza Hall, against a background of “Tawala Kenya tawala” chants from his supporters who occupied every space within the auditorium. In uttering those words, Raila must have hoped his victory on August 9 was “what Kenyans wanted”.
That was moments after he had expressed confidence that the electoral commission had the capacity to conduct a credible election, urging the IEBC against betraying the trust of Kenyans. Raila’s trust in the IEBC was not absolute and he posed questions about its preparedness.
The ODM leader would also commit to running his presidential campaign with civilly and asked his competitor, Deputy President William Ruto, to do the same as well as other Kenyans. And Raila immediately took the fight to Ruto, dismissing the DP’s criticism of the media over alleged bias. “I have been in politics for a long time. I know that the media will praise you or vilify you... but that is their freedom of expression,” Raila said. “The media can censure, the media can critique, the media can educate, the media can also oppose.”
Karua, wearing a floral dress, accompanied him as he officially embarked on the latest leg of a journey that has been a five-year routine for much of the 77-year-old’s political life. Karua’s mother, Josephine Karua, also joined in in the historic moment.
The Narc-Kenya leader would join him for a pose with the certificate that made Raila a presidential candidate - the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party presidential candidate. They also posed with the Azimio nomination certificate.
Both went through four stages of their clearance before meeting Chebukati, the presidential returning officer in the watchful company of Raila’s legal team. “Their documents are in order and I approve Raila Odinga as a presidential candidate in the election slated for August 9,” Chebukati would say of Raila and Karua at the end of the clearance process.
A day after Ruto picked Prof Kithure Kindiki as his chief agent, Raila appointed the Tharaka Nithi senator’s brother Isaiah Kindiki into part of his apex campaign team.
Saitabao ole Kanchory will be Raila’s chief agent with Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu as the deputy. Karua did not speak at Bomas, doing so in a later rally at the Undugu grounds, fringed by mud-walled structures of Lang’ata and Kibra constituencies.
The rally was not part of the initial schedule shared by Raila’s communication team on Saturday and it had caught many residents of Soweto off guard. Many got to learn of the rally when they heard a siren ring out and when they saw the Azimio convoy stream downhill into Soweto.
The surprise showed in the initial low number of attendants. But a slow trickle would see every brown patch of the pitch occupied. Raila would later say that it would have been a travesty had he not gone back to Lang’ata, “nyumbani”, where he started out as a politician in 1992, a constituency he represented for two decades.
“I am here to seek my people’s blessings,” Raila, dressed down from a suit into the rally-appropriate shirt, would tell the crowd, amid a rousing response of “Igwee”.
He promised to revive the slum-upgrading programme and create employment opportunities for the youth. Karua said: “No one has fought for Kenya like Raila. That is why we call him Baba. He has matured politically.” Meanwhile, Raila will today unveil hi manifesto at Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi.