Acquiring choppers: What’s Raila up to?

Raila Odinga (second left) with Prof Kivitha Kibwana (left), Dr Mukhisa Kituyi (second right), and Siaya Senator James Orengo after a lunch meeting at Raila’s Capitol Hill office yesterday. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Details of plans to procure four helicopters and a meeting with two presidential hopefuls yesterday gave the strongest indication that ODM leader Raila Odinga could be cobbling together his campaign machinery.

Raila met presidential aspirants Mukhisa Kituyi and Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana at his Capitol Hill office, in Nairobi, triggering speculations over what they were discussing as political realignments begin ahead of 2022 General Election.

It has also emerged that the former prime minister is already in the process of procuring four helicopters from France in what sources said is part of preparations for his possible fifth stab at the presidency.

The Standard has learnt that payment schedule for the choppers was completed last week pending delivery, with assembling set to be done in Nairobi.

Yesterday, Raila also received a public address system procured from the United States for his public rallies.

Raila had reportedly sent an ODM to the US in January to procure the sound system.

But the said MP yesterday downplayed the purchases, describing them as normal preparations by any party keen on capturing power.

“The party has in the past pronounced itself on its plans for 2022. These are normal preparations.

“We expect the choppers to be shipped soon before they can be assembled locally,” the MP said.

ODM chair John Mbadi confirmed that preparations for the 2022 contest were in top gear.

He, however, declined to give details “as it could expose their plans to their opponents”.

“The point is that ODM is preparing for 2022. As to the level of preparations or whether we are procuring choppers, we cannot reveal for now,” Mbadi said.

“It is true that we are putting the campaign plans in place and everything that we need for the campaigns but we cannot reveal what our weapons.”

Sustained push

Raila’s meeting with the two presidential hopefuls yesterday was a surprise to many since Prof Kibwana has been perceived to be an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, who remains the main opponent of the ODM leader in the race.

Dr Kituyi, who unveiled his presidential bid last Sunday, has said he does not belong to any of the two main formations of Kieleweke that lean towards President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila, and Tangatanga which is perceived to be allied to Dr Ruto.

Raila tweeted about the meeting yesterday, saying it was good seeing his longtime allies.

“Brunch with my longtime allies Governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana and Daktari Mukhisa Kituyi. Senator James Orengo also showed up. Good seeing Daktari Kituyi after such a long time away from home,” tweeted Raila.

His meeting with the two comes against the backdrop of a sustained push by three of his National Super Alliance (Nasa) allies that the former premier  backs one of them.

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangúla have demanded that Raila backs one of them since they backed him in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.

The three have teamed up with Kanu party leader and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi for a possible alliance in the race to succeed Uhuru.

The four leaders wrapped up their tour of Western Kenya on Wednesday, after traversing Bungoma and Kakamega counties where they campaigned for Ford Kenya and ANC candidates in Kabuchai and Matungu parliamentary by-elections slated for March 4.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna dismissed speculations that the party could be out to front Mukhisa Kituyi as its presidential candidate in 2022.

He said the party has structured ways of identifying its flag bearer.

But Sifuna welcomed the former Unctad boss to ODM where he could have a chance to battle it out with others eyeing the party ticket.

“We are not interested in propaganda since Dr Kituyi has not joined ODM nor are we endorsing him to scuttle the Luhya votes,” Sifuna said.

“I know some people in Western are uncomfortable because they have been telling people that they are the ones who can revive the economy, but with the entry of Kituyi, they know a real economist has emerged.”

According to Sifuna, there would be nothing wrong for joining ODM to fight for the party ticket with other potential candidates.

More support

“I have made it clear that in the unlikely event Raila wants to endorse anyone, it has to be an ODM member and if Dr Kituyi wants to be that person, he should join us,” he said.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala (ANC) said that Kituyi’s presidential bid was a political miscalculation that will backfire.

According to Malala, external forces are hell-bent on dividing the Luhya community and by extension Western region as has been witnessed every electioneering period.

“Those wishing that we stay divided should know that we are in the process of getting more support from other communities and the elusive unity had been achieved at last,” said Malala.

ODM has since launched an aggressive membership drive ahead of planned grassroots elections. The party seeks to fill all vacant party positions before convening national delegates conference in Nairobi.

In a previous interview, the party’s National Elections Board (NEB) chair Catherine Muma said they plan to vet applicants before convening a national delegates conference by April to pick a candidate for the contest.

Late last month, the party placed an advertisement in the local dailies inviting party members interested in flying the party’s flag to apply.

The deadline for application is Friday next week.

Already, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya have declared interest in flying the party’s ticket.