Irony of Willliam Ruto requiring Raila Odinga to win presidency
Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga may be political opponents, but the DP needs the latter to run a successful campaign next year.
Dr Ruto is crafting his campaigns based on a contest with Mr Odinga. If the ODM leader does not run, it would throw the DP’s campaign into a spin.
However, ODM chairman John Mbadi on Thursday said Mr Odinga would be in the race.
Though Mr Odinga has not made such an announcement, he is under pressure from his supporters to do so.
The DP’s loyalists have their fingers crossed for his main opponent to be Mr Odinga.
To get the support of Mt Kenya, Dr Ruto is relying on the fear of an Odinga ticket.
Before the 2013 and 2017 General Election, Mr Odinga was vilified as the enemy of Mt Kenya.
Then came the handshake between the ODM leader and the President in 2018 that led to the falling out between Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto.
Mt Kenya votes
Prof Ngugi Njoroge, an analyst, says a Ruto victory would rely on his ability to take more than 80 per cent of the Mt Kenya votes.
Mr Odinga continues to serve as a political punching bag of leaders critical of the handshake.
“Mt Kenya has never shown compassion for Mr Odinga. There is a notion that a majority of Mt Kenya residents wake up on polling day not to vote for their candidate, but to block Mr Odinga from assuming the presidency,” he said.
Prof Njoroge added that the only time the region rallied behind Mr Odinga was in 2002 “only for the selfish reason that he had endorsed one of their own – Mwai Kibaki – at Uhuru Park”.
The don said if Mr Odinga were to contest with the support of President Kenyatta, it would be an interesting duel as it would show if the President is still popular in his backyard.
Outside Mt Kenya, Dr Ruto is aiming to project Mr Odinga as a dynasty and project himself as a candidate for the downtrodden.
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua told the Saturday Nation that the Ruto team would paint Mr Odinga as part of dynastic leaders to block the DP’s march to State House.
He said they are treating Mr Odinga as their main competitor in 2022.
Mr Odinga is the son of Oginga Odinga, who served as President Jomo Kenyatta’s deputy for three years before breaking away to become an opposition leader in 1966.
“He is in this contest as a former Prime Minister and son of a former vice-president who is supported by the incumbent. He is the right person to meet in the ballot to make the campaigns national and interesting,” Mr Gachagua said.
But ODM Elections Director Junet Mohamed said Dr Ruto is no match for Mr Odinga.
“These two are in different political leagues. You cannot compare a veteran to a novice. No presidential contender has won in his first attempt. Ruto thought he could ride on State machinery,” Mr Mohammed said.
Dr Ruto is also expected to use age as a campaign tool. He is 54 while Mr Odinga is 76.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said the ODM leader is the “old and tired face of our politics the country is trying to avoid”.
“Voters do not like lazy politicians. They like energy and self-drive. Raila appears content to be built and packaged in some political box as a gift to be unveiled in State House by his dynastic allies,” Mr Nyoro said.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri said facing Mr Odinga at the ballot would be ideal for Dr Ruto.
“We will be facing a man who will be pressed to explain to his followers how daring he was to abandon them at River Jordan on their way to Canaan, tricking them to remain behind as he entered the promised land alone,” Mr Ngunjiri said.
Dr Ruto will tell Western Kenya that Mr Odinga has done nothing for the region.
Among his pointmen is former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.
“People want to hear a different message after decades of ‘Baba’. This message is the hustler narrative,” Dr Khalwale said.
The region has supported Mr Odinga for years.
Dr Ruto has also been campaigning to project himself as an alternative to Mr Odinga in the Coast.
His sponsorship of Feisal Bader as an independent candidate in the Msambweni by-election, was supposed to test the waters. Mr Bader won the seat.
“We wanted to prove that it can be done without Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Raila. ODM needs radical surgery,” Nyali MP Mohammed Ali said early this week.
However, Nominated MP Maina Kamanda says Mt Kenya should reject talk of Mr Odinga being a product of dynasties.
“It is time to make Raila the Mandela of Kenya because of the sacrifices he has made. Raila only needs a fraction of Mt Kenya votes, unlike Ruto, who requires more than 98 per cent,” Mr Kamanda said.
Mr Mweha Kamau, a key figure in Mr Odinga’s grassroots meetings in Mt Kenya, called the dynasty talk political nonsense.
He said Mr Odinga has always felt at home in the region.