Raila's fresh political dilemma as allies front pushback against Ruto

Azimio Leader Raila Odinga at a Public Rally in Mfangano Island Homa Bay County on November 12, 2023. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga is staring at a defining moment of his political career even as he faces a plethora of political dilemmas with implications on his political future.

And as the ODM chief retreats to rejuvenate support in his strongholds, questions remain whether his latest initiative is part of the preparations for another shot at the presidency.

Should he ride on the falling approval ratings of his political nemesis, President William Ruto, to kickstart steam for a last shot at State House? Should he build the profile of one of his allies to rise to the occasion? Should he backtrack on the bipartisan talks deal?

These are some of the questions analysts and Raila’s closest allies are asking as the ODM leader retreats to craft his next line of charge against Kenya Kwanza as the bipartisan talks conclude.

Saturday, the ODM leader renewed his criticism of the Kenya Kwanza administration as he pitched the tent in Migori to rally his support base to remain steadfast behind his political ideals.

The Standard has established that members of Raila’s think tanks are exploring ways to rejuvenate the opposition’s strong politics, with a focus on grassroots mobilisation to counter Ruto’s UDA party.

The plan, according to insiders, is also pegged on the possible outcomes of the bipartisan talks that they believe may collapse in the final lap should Azimio fail to reach a consensus with Kenya Kwanza on how to address the high cost of living.

Sources in Raila’s camp told The Sunday Standard in confidence that there are concerns in Azimio over their failure to weaponise the high cost of living and taxation against Kenya Kwanza.

Some of Raila’s troops believe this is the right time for the opposition to mount a fresh pushback against President Ruto’s regime because of some of the taxes and policy changes that have attracted criticisms from sections of Kenyans.

While some of his allies in Azimio believe he should use the current economic situation in the country to prop up a political successor, his allies in ODM believe he is the proverbial cat with nine lives capable of recharging his political batteries for another pushback against Ruto.

The Standard has, however, established that some members want the Azimio leadership to start preparing for the 2027 General Election with a focus on Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as a potential heir apparent to Raila.

Interviews with several ODM allies, however, established that all options are still on the table for the ODM chief. They claim he still holds the power to rally supporters against Ruto.

They are also hoping the leadership of the opposition is going to take advantage of the economic situation to strengthen Raila’s credentials.

“The talks muted us because we did not want to jeopardise anything but we cannot stay silent in the wake of the sufferings Kenyans are going through,” said a close Raila ally.

His comments and actions in the last few weeks signal that the ODM leader is not ready to step down just yet. He is readying himself for another charge against Ruto.

Analysts believe the ball is in Raila’s court regarding his political future and he could be exploring the options on the table.

“Right now, the whole country is on his palm waiting for his direction. All he has to do is to ride the wave of current low approval ratings for the State House. But and this is a big but, will this country give him another stab at the presidency? is he too old?,” posed Mark Bichachi, a political analyst.

The analyst believes the current economic environment is ideal for the opposition to entrench their nationwide support as Kenya Kwanza continues to front unpopular policies.

His ODM party, however, is taking it one step at a time and is not committing to anything even as they await the outcome of the bipartisan talks. They claim their main focus is to strengthen the party.

According to ODM chairman John Mbadi, the party has retreated to strengthen itself at the grassroots before making any other political decisions. He argues that the first step is to put their house in order.

“For you even to run for president or to support someone, your political vehicle must be strong enough,” Mbadi said.

“We are currently engaged on a mission to revamp ODM as a political party and make it ready for the 2027 General Election,” he added.

He points out that other political players will do the same with their political vehicles, including Kalonzo.

Awendo MP Walter Owino thinks that when the right time comes, Raila will give directions.

“Right now, all the political parties falling under Azimio will be revamped so that they are made stronger. Even UDA is doing recruitments,” the legislator says.

Owino thinks it is not the right time to talk of Raila grooming anyone.

“Let everyone fight for the space and when the right time comes I believe they will have some good machineries of identifying who is the most popular candidate. Right now they should go ahead and popularize their political parties,” the legislator explains.

Migori Senator Eddy Oketch says Azimio is not interested in the 2027 conversation, at a time when Kenyans are broken by Kenya Kwanza’s taxes.

However, he says Kalonzo has been a very loyal principal to their cause as a people and to Raila.

“Supporting him at any opportune time won’t be cumbersome for Raila and his troops,” Oketch explains.

Dr Barrack Muluka, who is a strategic communications advisor, thinks that it is too early to say anything about Raila grooming Kalonzo or an alternative candidate to face Ruto in 2027 because the dynamics of 2027 are four years away.

“We don’t know what the realities on the ground will be, what mistakes people will have made, what correct moves other people would have made. We don’t even know about the government, whether it would have corrected perceived mistakes now,” Dr Muluka says.

Constitutional lawyer Bruce Odeny also thinks that it is still too early to postulate how the 2027 contest will play out.

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