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It’s official, Raila eyeing ODM ticket for presidency in 2022

POLITICS
By Brian Otieno | April 1st 2021

Raila Odinga yesterday met with the ODM leadership from left Senate Minority Whip Hon James Orengo,Secretary general Edwin Sifuna, Treasurer Hon Timothy Bosire, Gladys Wanga, ODM chairman John Mbadi and, National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed. [Courtesy]

ODM leader Raila Odinga is poised to make his fifth stab at the presidency come the 2022 General Election. 

The Standard has reliably learnt that Raila handed in his application for the ODM presidential ticket to the National Election Board (NEB).

Sources said the ODM leader will battle it out for the party ticket with his two deputies, governors Wycliffe Oparanya and Hassan Joho.

This ends speculation over Raila’s plan for 2022 elections. He was on the ballot in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.

This could be Raila’s final bullet in the race to the “House on the Hill’ if the National Executive Council (NEC) and the National Delegates Conference (NDC) endorse his candidature.

“Raila has submitted his papers. He is among the three applicants that the NEB has received their applications. Others are governors Joho and Oparanya. This falls in the mandate of the NEB and therefore they will make it public,” said a senior party official who declined to be named.

Another leader stated: “The NEB will deliberate on the applicants, vet and come up with a report to be tabled before NEC. The board can decided to submit one name or the three. The board will then set a date for the NDC where members will endorse the candidate.”

Yesterday was the deadline for submission of applications by aspirants eyeing the position after it was postponed last month.

Raila chaired the Central Management Committee meeting at his Karen residence yesterday, being the first public engagement since he tested positive for Covid-19.

He reportedly used the meeting to announce his Covid-19 negative status and resolved to keep a low profile and observe health protocols.

Joho was the first to submit his application to NEB on February 26.

Spearheaded campaigns

In the application whose copy The Standard has seen, the deputy ODM party leader argued that he is best suited to fly the party’s flag in the next polls having grown from a young Turk in the party.

In his nine-paged submission, Joho argued that: “Even in 2017, I spearheaded the Mombasa County ODM presidential campaigns. The overwhelming number of votes garnered by the party leader from our county evince my efforts.”

He added, “I was also instrumental in our party leaders ’22-stop Pwani tour’, which culminated in the mega rally at the Tononoka grounds where Raila was endorsed by the coastal region as its presidential candidate.”

Joho while pitching his candidature for the presidency said that he has stood with Raila even during the mock swearing-in ceremony at Uhuru Park on January 30, 2018.

The Mombasa governor’s application comes amidst the push to form a Coast party.

Oparanya said he was planning to submit his papers.

In an interview with The Standard NEB chairperson Catherine Mumma said that her office was yet to receive the names of those who had expressed interest in flying the party’s flag in next year’s poll.

“It is the secretariat to inform me of all the applications. I have not received a report from them but I am waiting for one before the end of the day,” Prof Mumma said yesterday.

Those interested in being ODM’s presidential candidates are required to submit Sh1 million as a registration fee and must be life members of the party. They must also have been ODM members for one year and be degree holders.

There were reports that some party members were not enthusiastic about trying their luck for the ODM ticket given that Raila was largely perceived as the predetermined candidate.

Political observers agree that the ODM leader’s candidature had been a long time coming. Prof Amukoa Anangwe, a former lecturer of political science at the University of Dodoma said he was not surprised by the move.

“That was anticipated, notwithstanding that the party’s elections board had left it open and he might eventually end up becoming their candidate,” said Anangwe.

Prof Karuti Kanyinga and Prof Philip Nying’uro also shared the sentiments.

The ODM leader had, in the recent past, committed to putting off his presidential ambitions until the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process was done and dusted.

This, he had said, was part of his agreement with President Uhuru Kenyatta that they would keep 2022 politics out of their engagements within their Handshake partnership.

Raila’s declaration of interest to succeed President Kenyatta contravenes that stand.

The 2022 race is now shaping up after Deputy President William Ruto declared that his quest for the presidency is unstoppable.

On the other, the entry of the One Kenya Alliance – comprising Raila’s former allies in the NASA coalition Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, and Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi – raised the stakes for next year’s race.

Raila, all the while, had been campaigning for constitutional amendments through the BBI. He had increasingly faced more pressure from his inner circle to vie for the presidency.

Recent political activity, however, shows that the president may be backing the One Kenya Alliance. The involvement of the One Kenya Alliance leaders in the BBI has made ODM jittery.

The new alliance has seemingly boxed Raila and Ruto in one corner, with observers hinting at the two forging an alliance. The DP recently said that he was ready to work with the ODM leader.

If he secures the ODM ticket, Raila may be faced with the dilemma of having to choose his political friends as he has declared that he would not endorse any of the NASA principals citing their decision to snub his mock swearing-in in 2018.

The ODM leader’s plan to vie for the presidency also comes amidst a growing push from his inner circle to have the BBI process set aside.

On Tuesday, Oparanya and ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna separately suggested that the cash meant for the BBI drive be channeled to procuring Covid-19 vaccines.

This comes after Raila allies accused top government officials of scheming to undermine the BBI process. 

In a statement yesterday, the ODM leader said that he was still committed to seeing the BBI report passed.

“The meeting reaffirmed ODM’s commitment to the spirit of the Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta that has created an environment of peace and stability required to address the pressing issues facing the country. We tasked the party and our supporters to continue showing this commitment…” the statement read in part.

In an interview on Citizen TV, Wiper leader Kalonzo said that Raila was welcome to the One Kenya Alliance and rejected claims that they were out to hijack the BBI.

Raila’s intention to run for the presidency, experts contend, may have implications in the political space.

Prof Kanyinga said Raila’s relationship with the president may not change in light of his ambitions, despite making an assurance to shelve his 2022 dreams.

“It does not affect his relationship with the President. With nearly 15 months to the elections, it must have dawned on him that the elections are close. It may, however, change a lot of how they proceed with the BBI going forward,” he said

In as far as his relationship with his NASA allies goes, Kanyinga said that interests change and that his change of heart regarding his promise to pave the way for one of the principals was typical of the political class.

“His declaration makes no difference in his relationship with NASA since it has been dead and all the principals have said as much. It, however, makes a difference in the implementation of the BBI since ODM has been making mixed signals,” said Anangwe.

Strained relationship

He, however, believes that Raila’s promise to tone down on 2022 politics was meant to calm the nerves of those who thought he would use it to fuel his presidential bid. Anangwe said the ODM leader’s candidature, could create a three-horse race scenario in next year’s race.

Nying’uro, on his part, opined that Raila’s relationship with the president is already strained and his entry in the presidential race was aimed at thwarting the chances of the One Kenya Alliance.

“One Kenya can only survive with the additional posts proposed by the BBI. ODM is retreating from the BBI as a way of scuttling One Kenya. The party is now working towards 2022 with the understanding that Uhuru left them,” said Prof Nying’uro.

He further suggests that ODM’s decision to keep the nomination of its presidential candidate open may have been a plan to identify moles within the party and Raila’s formal interest may have been as a result of looming danger.

“We must tie this to the ‘men in black’ incident of 2014 when several moles were identified… The extension of the deadline may have exposed some of them,” he added.

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