I’m ready to step down, says Raila


RAILA-5114-MAINCORD leader Raila Odinga declared that he was ready to hand over the Orange Democratic Movement ( ODM) party leadership to a younger leader if the membership allowed him.

But Raila, who has been under pressure to give the younger generation a bigger role in the party, said he would continue mentoring them until that time comes. “I am always ready to hand over to the youth when the time comes but we must work as a team,” he said ahead of the party elections scheduled for February.

The statement comes barely three months after Raila described the “Young Turks” scrambling for positions in the upcoming party elections as “lizards climbing trees, hoping that people will see them”. It is also at a time when Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero is perceived by a section of politicians as undermining Raila’s leadership under the guise of fundraising activities in Nyanza.

Speaking in Siaya County at the funeral of a popular artist Roy Ogolla, who was killed in a road accident, Raila said he could not hang on to party leadership if his community felt his time was up. “The party recognises the value of the youth since there is no movement that can succeed without their sacrifice and this has been revealed through history,” he said. He said history had shown that the youth in South Africa were the ones who helped the ruling party Africa National Congress (ANC) to power.

Amid cheering from the mourners, Raila said he would work with the youth as he continued to mentor them while is still in the leadership. Raila’s hint that he was ready to hand over the mantle any time soon will likely spur many politicians who had hitherto shied off for fear of being seen to be challenging the undisputed king of Luo Nyanza politics.

Many established politicians, young and budding pretenders could take the chance and among the old guards to watch include the likes of Prof Anyang Nyong’o, James Orengo, Otieno Kajwang and Dalmas Otieno.

Led by Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura, the younger generation in what was termed as “Sega Declaration” made their intentions clear, claiming that Raila had lost his presidential bid thrice as a result of the older generation “sleeping on the job”.

Their quest for party leadership has also seen a group of MPs mainly from South Nyanza support Obura for the Secretary General, a move that may create another fissure following Suba MP John Mbadi’s interest in the same seat. The position currently held by Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong’o is also being eyed by his Siaya counterpart James Orengo.

In October, Nyong’o said he was yet to decide whether to defend his seat, adding that the National Delegates Council and party constitution was clear on those willing to vie for posts in the party. “It does not divide members on age, sex or religion,” he added. Yesterday, the former PM said he cherished peace more than anything to prevail in ODM.

“We shall be rebranding the party this year and so we shall involve the youth and involve them in the party activities,” the CORD leader added. The premier promised to fight for the artists who had come in droves to mourn Roy who had been part and parcel of the group. “I will seek audience with media owners to urge them to help the artists do their work to the best of their ability and also make money for their living,” he added.  He continued to say, “As a country we need to help our artists do their work to the best of their ability and also make money.”

Suna East MP Mohammed Junet ( ODM) recently hinted that Raila would run for the Presidency come 2017. A shrewd strategist and an enigmatic personality, Raila has come a long way in his political career, with three stabs at the Presidency in 1997, 2007 and 2013, the last two of which he believes were “stolen victories”.

Throughout his political life, Raila never hesitates to make hard decisions, even if it means breaking friendships, alliances and even reconciling with opponents, like retired Presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, with whom he forged an alliance in the 2013 presidential race.

Since his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s death in 1994, Raila has remained the kingpin of Luo politics, having been jailed over links to the 1982 abortive coup, and upon his release playing a key role in the second liberation and re-introduction of multi-partyism. Those who have tried to go against Raila in Nyanza in the past, had to make peace with him for political survival. They include current senators Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Orengo (Siaya). Lately, there have been reports of Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero trying to undermine him, claims Kidero has vehemently denied.  Additional reporting by Stephen Makabila

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