Hard part begins for Raila after tomorrow’s big day

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ODM leader Raila Odinga at his Karen residence, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga convenes the Azimio la Umoja meeting in Nairobi tomorrow, and hopes to carry the whole country along towards the 2022 polls.

The party leadership has made it clear the meeting will not be an ODM affair as had been widely expected.

MPs led by John Mbadi, Maina Kamanda and Richard Onyonka met at Orange House, Nairobi, on Tuesday before touring Kasarani stadium, the venue of the conference expected to host more than 60,000 people.

“We have invited One Kenya Alliance principals and delegations from their parties among other key leaders,” said chief event organiser, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

Kisumu East MP Shabir Shakeel, elected as an independent candidate in 2017, said Raila had portrayed himself as a leader of all Kenyans.

“That is why the ODM logo has not be seen anywhere. The meeting will be an open forum for all Kenyans,” he said.

It is also envisaged by the planners that Raila will launch his 2022 presidential bid.

Kenyans will also be keen to hear his political vehicle or coalition for next year’s General Election.

But it is not clear when Jubilee Party will hold its National Delegates Conference (NDC) to formalise the alliance with ODM.

That, coupled with the fact that the Mt Kenya Unity Forum (MKUF) that brings together MPs from the region is still holding talks to structure its leadership, leaves Raila with unfinished business after the launch.

The choice of picking a running mate is complicated and will determine the obstacles Raila has to surmount.

The MKUF caucus recently picked Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as the interim leader.

The former Gichugu MP has already declared she will be vying for Kirinyaga governor although she is still being touted as a possible running mate.

In his media briefing, Oparanya, who is also ODM deputy party leader, announced that among those invited were Narc party leader and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya at Endanda, Kisii County. November 2021. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

That was telling because Raila was also among founder members of Narc, which was President Kibaki’s vehicle in 2002.

During his campaign tours in Mt Kenya region and meeting with Mount Kenya Foundation leaders, Raila has reminded them how his pronouncement of “Kibaki Tosha” helped the former president win.

It is certain that Raila will join an alliance or coalition with other parties that are already coalescing with his Azimio la Umoja push.

He has Ngilu’s Narc, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi’s Alliance Party of Kenya aka Mbus, Party of National Unity (PNU) and other parties from Mt Kenya region to work with.

His former Chief of Protocol in the Grand Coalition Tony Gachoka has proposed that Raila uses Narc party because it is already registered as a coalition.

“Everyone is saying Jubilee is dead because Ruto has literally rebranded it into UDA and the problem now is that over six million voters in Mt Kenya and Kikuyu Rift Valley are all over without proper leadership,” says Gachoka.

He argues that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s exit means for the first time, the region will not only lack a united party but they it also have no visible leader.

The situation has become messy because many MPs and governors in the region have registered individually owned political parties and insisted they will field candidates for elective posts.

Gachoka’s worry is that Raila is faced with a presidential bid with a potential ally of a Mt Kenya and Kikuyu Rift Valley stake that has no steady vehicle.

He says having voted for Narc party in 2002, Mt Kenya people will easily associate with it. So Raila’s constituency today is the same as the one Kibaki had in 2002, with a party that was a marriage of Raila’s base, Mt Kenya and other parts of the country.

Gachoka acknowledges efforts are being made by MPs and elders but argues that at the moment, there is no party in the region that can team up with ODM and win seats for Azimio in the region.

But speaking on KTN News breakfast show on Tuesday, MKUF member and Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege argued that the political scenario in the region will only be clear after the Jubilee NDC.

Muranga Women Rep Sabina Chege. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

She insists that majority of leaders from the region will unite and produce their own leader, who will also tentatively be their presidential candidate mandated to negotiate on their behalf.

“There have been deliberate efforts in the last four years to divide the mountain region and that is some leaders use bad language against others,” she says.

Ms Chege says it is unfortunate that leaders have turned against each and are engaging in siblings’ rivalry.

But without a presidential candidate from the region, she argues that it won’t be easy to put all votes in one basket.

The Woman Rep also says any serious presidential candidate must make an effort of uniting the region.

“They will take into account the numbers Mt Kenya has, but we are also a divided lot and so it depends with the tricks whoever candidate is going to use to unite the mountain,” she says.

There is also the danger of a fallout emerging “because there are people hanging around specific presidential candidates” hoping to picked as running mates.

Chege, therefore, thinks the biggest challenge for the presidential aspirants will be putting Mt Kenya people together. Raila will therefore have enough on his slate after the grand endorsement tomorrow.

Also expected at the Azimio event are Governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Kiraitu and Martin Wambora of Embu.

Governors from Nyanza, Western, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi and North Eastern and some Cabinet Secretaries are also expected to attend the event.

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