Raila enigma in the run-up to the 2022 presidential race
- He now receives regular briefings from Cabinet secretaries, makes policy pronouncements and is accorded VVIP treatment by State agencies.
- However, Dr Ruto at the weekend laughed off reports that Mr Odinga had hinted at running against him. He dismissed the former Prime Minister as a non-starter.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga remains the man to watch ahead of the 2022 elections, with opinion divided on whether or not he should contest the presidency.
While the former Prime Minister has said it is too early to discuss the 2022 race, politicians and pundits say he would be the right candidate to face off with Deputy President William Ruto, the likely candidate of the ruling Jubilee Party.
Maseno University lecturer Tom Mboya opines that “there is no politics without the name of Raila Odinga, and that is why his name keeps on cropping up in discussions on the 2022 race, even though he has not declared any interest.
“Whatever other politicians say can only sell if they invoke Raila’s name. He is an enigma, that is why his name must always crop up — to allow these guys to sell their agenda.
"In the political landscape now he is the one formidable to challenge the already declared candidate William Ruto,” Mr Mboya says.
He adds that: “The rest of the candidates are non-starters. Raila is the formidable challenger of Ruto.”
Political analysts say Dr Ruto sees Mr Odinga as his only threat. However, Dr Ruto at the weekend laughed off reports that Mr Odinga had hinted at running against him. He dismissed the former Prime Minister as a non-starter.
Mr Odinga entered into a pact with President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9, 2018 and has since enjoyed a cordial relationship with his former political foe and his supporters.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru recently argued that Mr Odinga could not be ignored in the political arena owing to the fact that he controls roughly half of the country.
“Anyone who imagines that you can lead this country without his input or his supporters' input, I think, would be denying a fact. We need to be realistic because Kenyans have said they would like to see other tribes also involved in terms of the leadership of this country,” she said.
She went on: “As a Mt Kenya leader, I know that we have many votes and we would also want to be participating in this leadership. The most sensible thing to do is to ensure there is national cohesion and representation of different regions at the helm where they hold each other accountable.”
Her opinion split leaders in the central region with Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang’ata saying she did not speak for the region and advised her to keep her sentiments personal.
“The views expressed by the governor of Kirinyaga are personal, those of us who come from the region are waiting to hear what President Kenyatta will tell us, he is the kingpin of this region.
He has not told us to support anyone and, therefore, the views are personal and do not represent the views of the President,’” Mr Kangata said.
Nandi senator Samson Cherargei, a Ruto ally, argues that his camp is ready to work with all Kenyans to move the country to prosperity, but adds that unfortunately, Mr Odinga “does not meet these standards. “ … apparently courtesy of the handshake, he has become a divisive figure and altar of hate politics within and without government,” says Mr Cherargei.
The former Prime Minister has been in the political limelight for close to three decades.
An attack on Mr Odinga always attracts a barrage of rebuttal from his lieutenants and supporters.
At one time, Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary-general Francis Atwoli described Mr Odinga as a man with “suicidal” supporters who cannot be ignored in the country’s political arena.
So complicated is Mr Odinga’s political life that most politicians, including his close associates, seldom understand him.
Former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa once said that if you talk to Raila, you may not know what Amollo is thinking and what Odinga is planning.
Probably, it is due to this complex life of Mr Odinga that earned him the name Agwambo, meaning mysterious.
In excerpts from his autography — Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics, former Gem MP Joe Donde describes him as a double-faced politician, difficult to understand.
He is a master of political sarcasm whose stage craft has continued to endear him to his supporters.
His use of proverbs has put him above the rest and those who have tried to oppose him have failed flat.
Most of them have returned to his fold and won seats in his Nyanza backyard courtesy of his influence.
But despite opposition by the DP’s allies, Mr Odinga’s influence in government circles has grown immensely since the March 2018 peace pact with his former nemesis President Kenyatta.
TOW THE LINE
He now receives regular briefings from Cabinet secretaries, makes policy pronouncements and is accorded VVIP treatment by State agencies.
The former Prime Minister, arguably the man of the moment, has also reined in his troops in political circles and instructed them to stop attacking the President in particular and the ruling Jubilee Party in general.
His spokesman Dennis Onyango recently told the Nation that Mr Odinga’s political associates have been asked to “consult first before reacting” should they see or hear something they do not understand.
Mr Odinga has also cut off a number of his advisers, added Mr Onyango.
In exchange, State House has opened the door and laid a red carpet for him, egging Cabinet secretaries to accord him support and consult him on various issues.
Mr Odinga has also been hosting various local and foreign delegations at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.