Raila ‘engineering calls for him to run in Homa Bay’
CORD leader Raila Odinga is silently behind calls by MPs in his ODM party who want him to contest the Homa Bay Senate seat.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Senator Otieno Kajwang’, one of Raila’s most trusted political lieutenants.
The Star has independently established that the ODM leader personally asked the MPs, amongst them his closest allies, to float and publicise the idea. The by-election has been set for February 2, and the IEBC has given all parties until December 19 to nominate their flag-bearers.
Yesterday at his Bondo rural home, Raila met the Luo Council of Elders to discuss the idea of his gunning for a Senate seat. He is said to have given them three days to come back to him with their decision.
Fifteen ODM lawmakers last Wednesday held two separate press conferences at which they pushed for Raila’s candidature to succeed Kajwang’.
Omondi Anyanga (Nyakach), Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), James Rege (Rachuonyo), Johnson Naicca (Mumias West), Shakir Shabeer (Kisumu Town East), and Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda) were among the MPs who urged Raila to consider standing for the senatorial seat.
Raila on Tuesday night last week met some of the MPs at a Nairobi hotel before they made the pronouncement a day later.
Those floating the idea argue that Raila’s comeback to Parliament would be crucial in giving guidance and leadership to ODM and Cord.
Sources aware of the plan told the Star on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the issue, that Raila had sanctioned the briefings to monitor public reactions before making a decision.
“There is nothing to hide. Raila is the force behind the MPs’ push that he runs for the vacant Homa Bay Senate seat on February 2,” said one of our sources, an MP and Raila ally.
“To confirm that Raila is aware of the calls, he attended a public ceremony at Kakamega’s Bukhungu Stadium on Thursday last week but steered clear of the debate. He could have used the forum to deny he is interested in the Homa Bay seat – which he did not.”
Another MP who was among the 15 who addressed the press last week, but who also sought not to be named because he is not authorised to speak on the Cord leader’s affairs, confirmed they had briefed Raila.
“Raila simply wants to test the waters and if the calls meet resistance, as is already the case, he will come out and deny any plans to contest the seat. If he sees it is safe, he will automatically go for the position.”
Yesterday, Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka remarked, “the information that has come out is that he is aware of the calls”.
He was however quick to note that it is Raila’s democratic right to stand for any elective seat.
But he pointed out that the move may make the people of Homa Bay view Raila as an outsider.
“It will raise tensions that Raila is coming for a seat that should be held by one of the sons of Homa Bay,” Onyonka told the Star on the phone.
Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo exonerated Raila from any foreknowledge of the statement they made, saying they had “only made a request to the ODM leader to vie”.
“I see nothing wrong with it if he accepts, so we get much-needed leadership in Parliament,” he said in an SMS to the Star.
But KItutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, the ODM treasurer, dismissed the plan, arguing that Raila has assumed a reputable national stature and does not need to join the Senate to be relevant.
“Going to vie in Homa Bay will only depict him as desperate, hence reduce his national stature,” said Bosire.
A political analyst, Prof Edward Kasiang’ani, however opines that should Raila decide to run, then the move will put his Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula, Leader of the Minority in the Senate, in a precarious position.
“Raila’s move will undermine Wetang’ula in the Senate.There is a power play being planned by ODM within the coalition without the knowledge of other sister parties – and that is dangerous,” he concluded.
Wetang’ula might face pressure to cede the minority leader’s position since Raila is viewed as the first among equals in Cord, even outside the opposition.
Already,17 ODM officials from eight constituencies in Homa Bay county have criticised the push to have Raila “dragged into the race”.
They said in a statement: “We, the chairmen and secretaries of all eight ODM branches that make up the county branch, hereby reject the unfortunate proposal by a section of ODM MPs, principally from outside Homa Bay, that the party leader contests the Homa Bay senatorial seat”.