FORMER Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said he does not have to be Kenya’s President. In an extensive interview with Citizen TV on Tuesday night, Raila said he can not impose himself on Kenyans. He said he joined politics in the late 70s to change the country but not necessarily through the presidency.
“I have never been in politics to be a president but to serve the people. I can do so in whatever capacity that they will accord me,” said Raila.
Now 69, Raila has contested and lost three presidential elections, two of them controversially. He first ran in 1997 and lost to President Daniel arap Moi. He ran again in 2007 when Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in a disputed result that led to post-election violence. In March 2013 he lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In the Citizen interview, Raila denied that age would disqualify him in 2017 when he will be 72 years. “I will still be younger than President Kibaki when he contested and won the presidency in 2002 and went on to serve for two terms. I will still be younger than the late Jomo Kenyatta and Nelson Mandela when they took power,” responded Raila.
He said age is just a number and if Kenyans endorse him, he would consider it. “I have severally put the question in rallies and other gatherings and people have always given me the answer. I will consult and weigh the options. I am also not a fool. I know when to quit,” he told presenter Hussein Mohamed.
He said the Cord coalition with the Wiper party of Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya of Moses Wetangula remains in place.
He said he could support either of the two as the Cord presidential candidate in 2017 if they are selected. “I am not selfish. All I want to see is change. I have demonstrated this before. In 2002 I backed Kibaki to realize change,” he said. He denied that he is grooming his eldest son Fidel Odinga to take over from him.
Raila said he cannot groom anyone because “politics is a calling.” He said his late father Jaramogi Odinga did not groom him and he made a personal decision to quit engineering for politics.
“Fidel is a businessman for now. He is well over 30 and he can make a decision of his own. I do not have to do so for him,” he said. He said the struggles in ODM ahead of tomorrow’s polls testifies to the party’s internal democracy.
Two factions have emerged seeking the party’s top leadership positions. One comprises Senator Agnes Zani, Senator Otieno Kajwang and MP Paul Otuoma while the other consists of MP Ababu Namwamba and Governor Josephat Nanok and Governor Hassan Joho.
Raila denied forcing Luo-Nyanza candidates out of the race in favour of some candidates. “What I clearly stated to them, and I am ready to reiterate, is that ODM is a national party which must have the face of the whole nation in its executive and so they should stop seeing some positions as preserve of Luo-Nyanza,” he said. He has been criticised by regional leaders led by Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura and Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno.
Raila confessed that his party had faced “challenges” providing effective opposition to the Jubilee government since the election “We have ironed out the issues,” he said and promised that Cord would now become an effective opposition. Raila denied practicing double standards by advising Jubilee to respect the judiciary when he himself had criticised it. “I obeyed the decisions even though I did not agree with them. And I said as much,” he said.
Raila also said he disagreed with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over anti-gay legislation which he said is not a priority for Kenyans.