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Don't dismiss ODM leader Raila Odinga just yet, those close to him advise

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ODM leader Raila Odinga is facing the ultimate test to prove he is not a spent force when it comes to his mobilisation skills as he finalises plans for mass action to pile pressure on President William Ruto’s administration.

At 77 and facing dwindling political fortunes after he lost the August 9 General Election, critics believe the ODM leader is flogging a dead horse with his attempts to reintroduce protests.

But for a man who has built his career through a mix of political trickery, intimidation, brokerage, persuasion of the masses and bare-knuckle confrontations with the government, he is retracing his liberation roots.  

A clique of leaders opposing his reign and calling for his retirement believe the latest call for protests will be the final straw that will force him into retirement and claim he cannot sustain protests. They believe his energy has drained, his goals have changed and his support base is fatigued after several years of following the same political script.

His troops in ODM are cheering him on and believe he still has the mettle to push through reforms with the same vigour he had in 2007, 2013 and 2017. Not even the exit of some allies from Raila’s camp appears to bother them about their leader’s strength.

They believe he is like a proverbial snake shading its skin and will continue to pile pressure on the government until 2027, as long as he sees what he considers wrong and unconstitutional, taking place.

On Saturday, interviews with a number of ODM insiders, political analysts and some of his ardent supporters established that the ODM leader should not be underrated by the new administration.

They claim he is building momentum for a stronger opposition while also gauging his own political strengths as he begins rebranding himself.

Leaders close to him believe Raila is just starting the quest to ensure that the new regime does not take the country back to the dark days.

According to Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo, Raila’s revolutionary spirit and his dedication to improve the lives of Kenyans as well as constitutionalism is a force that cannot be ignored.

“Raila is our leader and we will act on his clarion call. We cannot allow the new administration to drag us back to the dark days,” said Gogo.

Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo. [James Omoro, Standard]

In his Nyanza backyard, however, a group of leaders who are keen to unsettle Raila’s political career spanning over three days believe Raila’s political strength has waned.

Yesterday, the leaders led by former Migori Governor Okoth Obado rallied residents to reject Raila’s attempts to bring back protests.

The former governor noted that people were in dire need of development hence there was no need to fight the current regime.

“Don’t go for any demonstrations. We cannot be demonstrating when we are poverty stricken,” Obado urged.

His comments were also echoed by former Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga who claimed the protests are not for the common good.

 “We are tired and don’t want anything to do with demonstrations. We are here to tell you the truth,” Mr. Anyanga said.

And while some analysts believe the ODM leader should abandon his plans for protests and consider retirement, others claim he should not be written off.

According to political pundit Barrack Muluka, Raila is using the same tactics that he has always used over the years to shape his political career.

“You cannot blame him. It is the only formula he is used to,” says Muluka.

Muluka, however, paints a gloomy picture on Raila’s efforts to remain strong in the political arena and believes it is time he considers retirement. He believes Raila’s allies are not telling him the truth because they are clutching on his coats for their own political survival.

“Even a star player knows when to quit. It is really a sad state of affairs,” he says.

Political pundit Barrack Muluka.  [Chrispen Sechere, Standard]

According to Prof Macharia Munene, Raila could be rebranding himself with his latest moves.

“He did not believe he was going to lose the election and is rebranding himself,” said the former USIU don.

Constitutional lawyer Joshua Nyamori, however, argues that Raila should not be underrated. 

“Raila has a strong following. He will also be helped by the high level of unemployment. The unemployment means that people will still attend his rally and could start the momentum to pile pressure on Ruto’s administration,” says Nyamori.

According to Nyamori, Raila has intense mobilisation skills.

“He has a strong network with his ODM party and can get a critical mass if his troops mobilize well. There are people who strongly believe in him,” says Nyamori.