Could Raila Odinga be weaving his way into the heart of President William Ruto's administration?
That is the question on the lips of many who think he is not keen on antagonising Ruto, going by his recent moves.
And unlike in the past when he forced his way through aggressive political strategies against ruling parties, the tactics have changed and he has adopted a statesmanly approach.
Although some of his allies are still adamant that Raila’s ultimate goal is to form a formidable opposition that will give the current regime sleepless nights, there is a belief that there is more than meets the eye in the Azimio One Kenya Coalition.
For a man who built his political profile fighting injustices and going bare-knuckle with past governments, Raila’s recent moves have left even his own staunch supporters puzzled over his ultimate goal.
And leaders within his own camp have openly embraced the new administration and have been working with Ruto’s foot soldiers.
Yesterday, his troops - Uriri MP Mark Nyamita and his Suba South counterpart Caroli Omondi - spent the day with ICT Cabinet Secretary and Ruto's ally Eliud Owalo distributing food to vulnerable families.
In the past, the opposition treated government officials with contempt and avoided their meetings.
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Although the ODM leader has maintained that his support base is also entitled to government services, the new relationship between the Opposition and the government is seen as a change of heart on Raila's part.
The development is a sharp contrast to how the ODM leader piled pressure on former presidents Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta.
The constant feature, however, is the call for mass protests. Analysts believe the ODM leader is using the threats of mass action as a weapon to push the government to the negotiation table. On two occasions since Ruto was sworn in, Raila has called off his protest rallies.
And as he prepares to recharge his political batteries for the New Year, sources within the ODM camp, political analysts, and observers believe the ODM chief is setting the ground for a soft handshake with the new regime.
According to them, the ODM leader has already passed the litmus test when he rallied his supporters to a rally about two weeks ago in Kamukunji to send a message to the government.
This could explain the reluctance of his own foot soldiers in the ODM camp to aggressively check Ruto’s administration like it had been the norm each time Raila has been in the Opposition.
An ODM insider said that the coalition’s leaders negotiated with Kenya Kwanza legislators to ensure that the list of nominees they had presented for the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) sails through. “Handshake is always there because of the many interests that are there in government. Our leader, however, is not keen on any favors and wants to ensure that the rights of Kenyans are respected,” said an ODM MP.
Another female MP who asked not to be named said that they are keen on their work as the Opposition but she believes there is no harm if their activities result in a soft handshake with the government. “The goal is to serve Kenyans and ensure that the government of the day does not burden Kenyans. It is not about Raila. Even a handshake is not about Raila but for the people,” said the MP.
According to the MP Raila has the power of the masses who are firmly behind him and a decision by the new regime to overlook him will be political suicide for Ruto's government.
Political pundit and constitutional lawyer Joshua Nyamori said Raila is using the methods he adopted in the past to push the government to a negotiating table.
He argued that Raila’s recent political moves are just his style of doing politics and that his recent call for mass action against president Ruto's regime was his way of pushing the government to negotiate.
An approach he said has worked during his political career. "Raila uses the threats of mass action to negotiate and immediately after the negotiations go through, then the mass action is called off,” said Nyamori.
The move he said is part of the strategies the ODM leader has mastered to force through a handshake.
"You can follow his life even in the post-Kibaki era, that every time a new government comes in and doesn't work the way he wants, he threatens the government with mass action but after what appears to be a negotiated settlement, he calls them off,” said Nyamori.