Why Raila won’t quit the game-Waiting for an opportunity
KENYA: ODM leader Raila Odinga is counting on disillusionment with the Jubilee Alliance Government to change his political fortunes.
The former Prime Minister has shrugged off pressure from various quarters to retire from politics believing the tide is set to turn back in his favour.
This is the basis for a major effort to push through internal reforms in the Orange Democratic Movement (see related story). The move, coming nearly six months after ODM’s fractious nominations, also staves off a push within sections of the party for new leaders to take over from Raila.
An Ipsos Synovate poll whose results were released earlier this week found less than half of respondents in ODM’s strongholds like Nyanza, Coast and Western want Raila in the presidential race in 2017.
Raila should not run
Across the nation, 64 per cent of those who were interviewed said he should not run a fourth time, whether he remains in politics or not. His allies see this dip in public sentiment as something that will pass with time.
A key ally this week predicted President Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto would only be inpower for “40 months”. The estimate by Deputy Minority leader Jakoyo Midiwo, which he pegged on “growing corruption”, is a pointed reference to the proverbial 40 days in which things done in darkness eventually come to light.
Another ally who supports reform within ODM said he should remain in the party and bide his time until the public mood changes. Raila himself appears to have taken this view, telling journalists recently he was not retiring but would not discuss 2017 to avoid putting Kenya back to an election mood.
The elbowing from people floating the names of potential rivals like Dalmas Otieno and Kenneth Marende, however, prompted him to be more explicit, saying he intended to run for president a fourth time in 2017.
These tensions are believed to be behind the decision to move a National Governing Council meeting set for last weekend to later this month. Attempts to convene the NGC ahead of the March 4 poll failed amid fears ODM would split.
Now, it is feared regional chauvinism and a push in ODM’s ranks for generational change would widen the fissures that led to the parting of ways with former party honchos Musalia Mudavadi and William Ruto.
“There is obviously a weakness in Government,” says the Budalang’i MP. “We want to restructure our party to be in position to keep it in check. Add on the gradual isolation of Kenya internationally, we owe the country a duty to retain it as a worthy player in geopolitics. To do this, we need to put our house (party) in order, develop a clear policy direction and offerleadership.” There have been suggestions the legislator should replace Prof Anyang Nyong’o as Secretary-General. During the primaries Raila, Prof Nyong’o former expectative director Janet Ong’era and coordinator of ODM campaign Franklin Bett came under fire for allegedly dishing out nomination certificates irregularly.
The allegations, especially in Raila’s support base in Nyanza, unleashed a rebellion and defiance, which contributed significantly to ODM rivals making some meaningful inroads into a region that had certified by political analysts as the Orange party’s safe bet or hostile to its rivals.
Against this backdrop, newly appointed ODM executive director Joseph Magerer Lang’at, who will head a reconstituted party Secretariat, told The Standard on Saturday that top on the agenda is restoration of trust that was subverted party primaries that were riddled with allegations of malpractices.
Lang’at, who lost the Kipkelion parliamentary seat in the March 4 elections concedes rigging primaries precipitated voter haemorrhage, which cost the party clear majority in Parliament.
More crucially, he says, ODM lost favour with supporters in Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley and Coast regions. He admits that the hegemonic politics that rocked the party must be addressed through giving the party a national outlook that transcends generations, gender, religion, region, ethnicity and race.
“We want to Kenyanise the party so that is owned by the people,” he says. Postponement of ODM’s first major meeting since last elections has triggered fresh fears factional fighting that rocked the party in the countdown the elections is still at play and holding such a meeting would further open fissures in the country’s arguably largest political organization. The party’s communications officer, Philip Etale said the meeting was called off after MPs said it would clash with key items on their diaries.
However, MPs and senators constitute a small number of the members of ODM governing council. The bulk of officials — governors, county chairmen and members of the national executive council — can still make a quorum.
It is understood that the tussle over positions of the party has inflamed suppressed hostility and old passions as the party stares fresh divisions.
Etale would not state what duties ODM MPs would be attending. He, however, explained the postponement was necessary due to the deep interest MPs have in being part of the party’s rejuvenation.