Raila the powerful man with no Government title but can’t be ignored in 2022 election
THE STANDARD INSIDER
By Rawlings Otieno and Jacob Ng’etich | June 7th 2020
Once written off as a spent force and who had utilised his last bullet, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has not only confounded his supporters and naysayers but is now a formidable element in the 2022 political matrix.
While the other political parties are in a shambles and more still disintegrating, his ODM is pulling together. Events of the last few weeks in Jubilee and Ford Kenya parties have left him stronger.
From the “perpetual election loser” tag of yesteryear, the Raila of today, just like Deng Xiaoping of the Chinese Communist party who did not have any government position, is now the most powerful man outside the official government.
Cabinet Secretaries who had zero ties to him are now toppling over themselves trying to secure appointments with him at his Capitol Hill office.
The merger of his personal clout and government power has sent chills among his former allies, with Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and his Amani National Congress (ANC) counterpart Musalia Mudavadi the latest to feel the heat.
“He is now the Deng Xiaoping in Kenya. He (Deng) didn’t have any major formal position, but he made major decisions. His (Raila) decision to support Uhuru is a masterstroke. Uhuru is now able to implement his agenda peacefully and coherently,” Muranga Senator and President Kenyatta’s blue-eyed boy in Senate, Irungu Kang'ata says.
According to Kang'ata, the alliance between the two and their communities have traditionally provided the ‘grand norm’ constitutional moment that redefined Kenya. In the end, he says, it is the people of Kenya who benefit whenever the two sides come together.
“The association of the two ushered independence, multi-party democracy in 1991 and a new Constitution in 2010. If the two leaders cement their relationship, the country will develop further. That is how I would like to look at it,” he adds.
In the last one week, three unrelated events aptly demonstrate the power Raila is currently wielding. The first is an incident when a Cabinet Secretary checked into his office, ostensibly to bargain for government appointments from his home area.
The second is a video that went viral four days ago that showed him riding in the same car with President Kenyatta inspecting renovations of Nairobi’s city’s main street at night. This happened while Deputy President William Ruto had been boxed politically the whole week.
The third is the political wailing in Ford Kenya, ANC and generally the Tower of Babel that became of Western region in the last few days. All fingers pointed at Raila.
“Raila easily exploits the inherent limitations of other politicians as he displays the mysterious traits that incessantly keep him surviving Kenya’s political jungle. Him working with Uhuru Kenyatta has elevated him beyond his NASA compatriots,” says political analyst Javas Bigambo.
He says this is almost natural given that he is the oldest and senior-most active politician and would, therefore, hold a cynical view of his competitors. With the benefit of the squabbles flowing his side, Bigambo says Raila will comfortably manage the outcome of the 2022 General Election.
Raila and Uhuru have secured a vantage position from where they will run the succession politics.
“The two can sustain the heat as long as they engage in it with tactics and calculated caution. They must keep their challengers guessing and be ahead of them by sabotaging chances of unity,” said Bigambo.
ODM chairman John Mbadi (Suba South) charged that Raila has always been the man to beat from the 2007 elections.
“So long as he chooses to run, he will always remain the man to beat. I don’t believe any other presidential candidate today can wish and write him off. You can only ignore him at your own peril,” said Mbadi.
The MP, who is also the National Assembly minority leader, said the political stature of Raila has never diminished since 1996 and that the new-found love between him (Raila) and President Kenyatta has emboldened the ties.
ODM’s Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said Raila’s track record of fighting for the good of the country has not only propelled him to national limelight but also internationally.
“Raila was elevated to the level of international statesman long ago by his track record of fighting for the good of the country. He will remain so, notwithstanding any changes in the political landscape,” said Mr Sifuna.
University of Eldoret (UoE) Don Philip Chebunet, a political analyst, however, contends that Raila is hell-bent on installing his Kieleweke lieutenants in key positions so as to bring the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) project to fruition.
“Those removed were not aligned to Raila politically so the hidden hand behind the purge is Raila. Raila is using his surrogates to interfere with Parliament, Jubilee and other parties to give him a through pass. Ultimately, Raila will be on the ballot,” said Chebunet.
Chebunet argues that President Kenyatta, who is leaving office in 2022, may not be keen to fight for Raila to succeed him and at the same time fight to have a legacy.
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said that Raila’s reduced political activity is strategic and not cowardice.
“Both Uhuru and Raila agreed to unite the country via the ‘Handshake’ and BBI and to temporarily put on hold the premature 2022 political talk. But selfish individuals in the other camp want us to stop everything and allow them to campaign for 2022. Raila reduced political activity is strategic,” said Mr Osotsi.
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