Don’t panic, Raila Odinga tells Kenyans on CORD presidential candidate

NAIROBI: Opposition chief Raila Odinga has cautioned against panic in CORD, insisting that the coalition still has time to select a presidential candidate to beat President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Although CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka has warned that the coalition risked acrimony if it chooses a contested presidential nominee arguing that time has run out, Raila said there was no reason to panic.

The ODM leader, who is battling for the coalition’s ticket with Kalonzo and Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula, said he would respect the decision by a team working to decide CORD’s flagbearer.

“The idea that there will be irreconcilable differences in Opposition and each party will eventually field a candidate is a dream of Jubilee. It will not happen,” Raila said on the back of persistent demands by Kalonzo and Mr Wetang’ula that he should drop out and back either of them on the premise that they stand a better chance to dislodge Jubilee from power.

“When the time comes for us to name the candidate, we will not disappoint,” he said even as Kalonzo’s Wiper Party allies push for the joint opposition candidate to be named before the end of this year.

Raila added: “We will present Kenyans with a candidate that is equal to the task of rebuilding Kenya. There is no reason for panic at this hour.”

Here is the full interview:

Question: What is your response to suggestions that CORD is divided and affiliate parties may eventually field separate presidential candidates?

The Opposition is expanding and CORD will be part of the expanded Opposition. Those focusing on CORD alone are therefore missing the point. The ultimate goal is to present a single candidate against Jubilee. The idea that there will be irreconcilable differences in the Opposition and each party will eventually field a candidate is a dream of Jubilee. It will not happen. The Opposition will present a single candidate and CORD will be part of that arrangement.

Q: How do you prefer the coalition to pick its candidate – through a contested nomination or boardroom deal?

There is a team working on the logistics and various ways of picking the flag bearer. I do not want to impose my views or my preferences on that team. I also don’t want to put undue pressure on the team. I am convinced that time is still on our side. When the time comes for us to name the candidate, we will not disappoint. We will present Kenyans with a candidate that is equal to the task of rebuilding Kenya. There is no reason for panic at this hour.

Q: In the case of negotiations, what factors do you suppose should guide the decision to pick the presidential flagbearer?

The team I have talked about is equal to the task. They know what the coalition is looking for and they will pick the flagbearer without my guidance.

Q: If you are not CORD’s presidential candidate, would you be comfortable being the running mate?

The team working on CORD’s flagbearer is working on a ticket which, by our constitution, involves picking a candidate and running mate. It is also looking to fill other key positions. I will respect the decision of the team because as the leader of the coalition, I was party to setting up this search team.

Q: If you are not picked as the coalition’s presidential candidate, will you stick to CORD?

I will remain in CORD.

Q: On other elective seats, would you prefer negotiated democracy where the coalition has a sole candidate or for the affiliate parties to field their own candidates?

This, too, is being worked on. The mode of picking candidates for various positions will depend on realities on the ground. There are places we will likely pursue joint nominations and places where we will give leeway to parties.

Q: Would you support a change of the election date?

The election date was set for August after very detailed discussions during the constitutional review process. I have seen no compelling reason for changing that date. Elections must be held in August as required by the Constitution.

Q: What do you have to say about the perception that Jubilee is almost assured of victory in next year’s elections?

I am not aware of that perception. The perception, if it exists, cannot be stronger than the reality that Jubilee has lost virtually every by-election since 2013, including recent MCA seats in Kisii, Kajiado and Turkana. That is the reality we are moving with into 2017. It paints a very clear picture of a party set to lose elections. Those saying Jubilee is poised to win should tell us what they base their conclusion on.

Q: What specific measures would you take to fight corruption if elected to high office?

Wait for our election manifesto for this. But we will soon start putting out pointers as to what we intend to do.

Q: There have been complaints that CORD applies double standards in that the leadership does not demand action on those within their ranks, like governors, accused of corruption?

CORD invited EACC to investigate Kisumu County when we suspected corruption. We have said time and again at all sessions we have had with our governors that no one should expect protection from us. We expect the Government to do its work. We have no capacity to investigate and arrest. We have never stopped the Government from investigating any governor. Jubilee is looking for excuses so as to avoid fighting corruption by using us as excuse.

Q: What is the wisdom of disciplining party rebels and what is your response to critics who argue it is a demonstration of intolerance?

Lack of party discipline can only lead to chaos. It also undermines democracy. It is fraud for one to be elected on the ticket of one party only to champion the ideals of the other party. Our position is that if you feel you can no longer subscribe to the ideals of the party on whose ticket you were elected, then the legal and democratic thing to do is resign, join the other party and seek re-election. That way, we preserve democracy and we give dignity to electoral politics.

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