Raila’s big headache on making comeback
NASA leader Raila Odinga is walking on egg shells as Kenya crosses into the New Year, with his political ambitions coming to a head with those of his key lieutenants.
Despite his “swearing in as the people’s president” still hanging in the balance, the drum beats of 2022 have already started within the National Super Alliance (NASA).
The drums are expected to get louder in the coming weeks as governors serving their second and last terms start positioning themselves for a better bargaining power in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Those within Raila’s inner camp however fear this may threaten his quest for mounting a successful political comeback in 2018.
Considered a politician with nine lives, Raila is arguably the greatest ‘comeback’ king in Kenya’s politics. He has remained politically relevant for four decades. He has always had a game up his sleeves even when everyone thought he had been finished for good. The only other politician who has ever held such qualities in post-independence Kenyan politics is retired President Daniel Moi.
But with his key lieutenants appearing to position themselves to inherit his political fortunes, Raila finds himself in another complicated situation.
The talk of 2022 was ignited by Lugari MP Ayub Savula, an ally of NASA co-principal Musalia Mudavadi, who asked Raila to “forget about his swearing in” and instead focus on grooming the ANC leader for the next presidential election.
However, nominated MP Geoffrey Osotsi, also an ally of Mudavadi, has rubbished Savula’s claims, saying his position is not that of the party.
“Savula is on his own mission to wreck the opposition from within for the sake of his masters. We know his paymasters, his price and their agenda,” Osotsi said.
“It is premature to start talking about 2022 when we are still talking about the swearing in of Raila and Kalonzo. This is what we should be concentrating on then everything will take its own course.”
But had it been only Savula talking about inheriting Raila’s constituency then no eyebrows would have been raised.
Raila’s party ODM is biggest in NASA and has been using its muscle as the engine of the Opposition. With Raila having not shown an interest in grooming a heir to his throne, alarm bells have started ringing that he is not willing to hang his boots yet.
Frustration with ODM
During a rally in Kitui on Thursday, led by NASA co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, Wiper leaders could not hide their frustration with ODM. Despite Kalonzo saying he is prepared to be sworn in with Raila if President Kenyatta does not institute talks on electoral injustices, speaker after speaker said Wiper will not shy away from charting its own political course.
“The time has come. As Wiper we will not allow our elected leaders to be taken for granted. We are a major party in this country,” said Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who was holding brief for Kalonzo in NASA while he was away, said, “The MOU says in 2022 Raila will not vie. Whatever we are talking about is something that has been planned.”
Also jittery of Raila’s intentions, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi have not hidden their intentions to inherit ODM from Raila, including his Luo Nyanza support base.
Mudavadi, on the other hand, has reignited the squabble on who is the Luhya political kingpin. Meanwhile, they are hoping that Luo Nyanza will start looking up to Western Kenya for political leadership after playing second fiddle for years.
Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo told the Saturday Standard, “It is the democratic right of any politician to have ambitions. All of them have ambitions to be president.”
“There can never be the correct or wrong time to declare interest in the presidency or start working towards it.”
President Kenyatta has not been seen in public since December 24, having taken a break from politics like he usually does in the spirit of Christmas. On the side, however, he has been rallying the international community to support his legitimacy and ignore the political noise being made by the Opposition.
“Instead of focusing on bread-and-butter issues they have sought a new referendum on Kenya’s constitution. They have proposed changes to electoral law, then opposed those very changes and, after demanding the annulment of the August election, boycotted the fresh ballot called,” he wrote last week about the Opposition in an opinion poll published by US newspaper, Washington Times.
Despite all the tough talk from the Jubilee camp, Saturday Standard understands the State has sent emissaries behind the curtains to try and cut deals with all NASA principals in isolation. This has however fallen flat on its face as Mudavadi and Kalonzo’s camps insist Raila must be sworn in, despite opposition from Ida Odinga.
Uhuru is also yet to announce his Cabinet more than a month after he was sworn in for a second term. Retired President Mwai Kibaki used the same tactic after the disputed 2007 elections by only naming half of his Cabinet, hoping the opposition would come to the negotiating table.
But with the opposition ruling out talks about forming an inclusive government, political pundits argue the only way Raila can remain relevant till 2022 is if he is sworn in as the president of the people’s assemblies.
Some 14 counties have already passed a motion for the formation of the assemblies. However, gluing the opposition together for another five years without holding any constitutional political office may prove a difficult hurdle.
Raila and Kalonzo managed to hold the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) as principals from outside political office since 2013 but at a great expense.
Jubilee, which had more financial muscle and hands-on leaders, raided their regions in a big way.
There are already talks to convince Kalonzo to vie for the Kitui West parliamentary seat, which was left vacant after the death of MP Francis Nyenze.