Baba is back: Raila back with masses after 5-year dalliance with State power

For years, Raila has flourished doing politics from the trenches and in the past three days, he has gone back to the streets, and is courting the base that has provided him feverish support.

During the recent campaigns for the presidency, seemingly dazed by the allure of State that joined and campaigned for him, the ODM leader looked out of place. He had lost his mojo in the political arena.

During campaigns in the midst of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, half the Cabinet and other state officers, the opposition leader found himself in uncharted territory.

But in the past few days, Raila, 77, seems to be tracing his footsteps and realigning with his old self. For what in return, no one knows.

Political observers agree that the veteran politician seems to be out to reclaim his position as the force behind the opposition.

"What we are seeing is vintage Raila who thrives in the streets and is back in his space after a five-year absence, and it was obvious that he missed this space while he worked with Uhuru," said political analyst Barrack Muluka.

The ODM leader is riding on the discontent fuelled by the high cost of living against a promise by Ruto to address it immediately.

The situation is compounded by the ever-rising cost of fuel that will mostly be adjusted upwards today for the umpteenth time.

Raila's presence in Mathare, Nairobi, brought jubilation among many of his supporters still smarting from his loss.

On Tuesday, the Azimio leader addressed members of Bunge La Mwananchi at Jevanjee Gardens. And on Wednesday, he toured Mathare where he criticised Ruto's administration for failing to lower the high cost of living.

He tore into the Ruto administration for failing to address pressing matters afflicting Kenyans, terming it a betrayal of citizens who had high expectations. "During campaigns, William Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua told Kenyans that once they take over power they will immediately lower cost of maize flour and fuel, instead the prices are going up, why have they not lived up to their promises?" posed Raila.

He also criticised the president's decision to lift the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), terming it a bad decision aimed at benefiting some multinational companies.

The opposition leader also took issue with Gachagua's assertion that the government does not have money yet Ruto has gone on five foreign trips in one month.

"They have been telling us that they found government coffers empty yet you have seen Ruto visiting several countries in the last one month where his delegation has spent millions of shillings that could have been used to address urgent concerns," said Raila.

ODM chairman John Mbadi said the party leader is a consummate politician who is out to listen to the challenges faced by his supporters.

The Nominated MP said while Raila has troops in Parliament he is out there doing what he has always done best, which is to champion the rights of the masses.

Mbadi denied that the meetings are about the 2027 polls.

He said Raila having been an MP in Nairobi for 20 years understands the challenges the downtrodden face. He represented Kibra which has one of the largest slums in Kenya and it is his duty to restore hope to disillusioned supporters, he added.

Muluka noted that Ruto has hit the ground running and has even gone to Raila's backyard.

"Raila will not take it sitting down, he wants to set the agenda, or hijack it, and let Ruto react, he is aware that Miguna Miguna is on his way back, he is trying to have a head start on Miguna in the struggle for economic and political liberation of Luo Nyanza against Odingaism," said Muluka.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said Kenya is peculiar in that it is almost always in a campaign mode.

Mr Mokua said while the Ruto administration needs a solid and agile opposition, Azimio leaders should proactively consider churning out policy alternatives to the Kenya Kwanza manifesto instead of engaging in traditional campaigns which might not be helpful in the long run.

He warned that Raila's meet-the-people tours may make Kenya slide into a campaign mode for the next five years with a huge cost to the economy.

"However it seems the case that Raila is in his element when campaigning and should proactively consider presenting policy alternatives to Kenya Kwanza plan using the two Houses of Parliament if at all he has the best interests of Kenyans at heart," he said.

However, Mokua said Raila should give Ruto time to settle down as there is no value in attempting to judge the president's delivery in 30 days.

He said the president has not fully crafted his administration nor presented a supplementary budget yet and the Azimio leader is playing populist politics by making unreasonable demands on the new administration.