Will Mudavadi's charm offensive survive Raila onslaught?

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga addresses supporters in Mlolongo Machakos County in February 2023. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga is expected in Busia on Sunday a few weeks after Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi spent time in the region wooing his allies to President William Ruto's side.

The ODM leader who enjoys massive support in the border county will have a rally in Busia town and surrounding areas, to preach to the masses on among other things, the rising cost of living and "illegitimacy" of Ruto's government.

Mudavadi who was hosted by Luhya council of elders chair Phillip Masinde and received by among others Busia governor Paul Otuoma (ODM), Geoffrey Mulanya (Nambale, Independent) and Geoffrey Odanga Matayos (Matayos, ODM) asked the region to move on and forget about backing Raila as his odds of becoming president were overwhelming diminished.

He went ahead to tell the three leaders and Luhya elders who promised to work with the national government to be wary of the opposition leader's insistence on denouncing Ruto as he had a penchant of denouncing every duly elected president since the days of President Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and lately Uhuru Kenyatta.

"The Azimio rallies are gaining some traction and I think he will get more support when he sticks to the issue of the rising cost of living as it resonates well with the masses who are feeling the pinch in the rise of basic commodities but not on that of denouncing Ruto's election," said political analyst Martin Andati. 

"Busia has been his strong turf in western Kenya but the political fatigue some few months after the campaigns leading to last year's elections may as well cost him the crowds."

Raila is expected to be accompanied by among others Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Narck Kenya's Martha Karua, and former defense minister Eugene Wamalwa among other Azimio-leaning leaders.

Andati observes that the Busia rally could turn out to be like that of Machakos where the area's Azimio governor Wavinya Ndeti skipped.

He said that most Azimio governors were wary of the "retaliatory potential" of the national government and don't want to dare it by appearing to side with the opposition rallies initiated by Raila to denounce Ruto.

"Ms Ndeti and I think Busia governor Otuoma knows it too well that the national government can pull strings against them and make their execution of duties difficult. So I won't be surprised if Otuoma will skip the Busia rally, especially since he will still be fresh from a two-day meeting he had with Ruto alongside the other governors," he said. 

"Who knows, he may even stay back in Nakuru for the Sunday prayer rally Ruto and governors will have just to keep off trouble. The political times we are living in have put Azimio governors in a tricky situation."

Otuoma's opponent in the Busia governorship race John Sakwa Bunyasi of ANC said the Raila tour would be "of little consequence" because Ruto had eaten into his political turf and that there was little if any, the county had gained under the leadership of ODM governors.

"There are hard questions pertaining to development that the masses yearn to see addressed from graft to slow take-off of devolution," said Bunyasi also the chairman of the Vision 2030 delivery board.

He added that Busia was in safe hands under the Ruto administration as it was focused on lifting the livelihoods of the lowly in society's "hustlers".