What are Raila’s options in face of make or break Supreme Court verdict?

Saturday November 18 2017

Nasa leader Raila Odinga with other Nasa

Nasa leader Raila Odinga with other Nasa leaders and supporters on Mombasa Road on November 17, 2017 after he returned from the US. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By OSCAR OBONYO
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Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on the validity of Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election as President presents – yet again – another dicey situation for Opposition chief Raila Amolo Odinga.

Will it signal the end of the 72- year-old politician’s career or will he manoeuvre around it to re-invent himself politically as he has done over the last three decades?

Ideally, the ruling of the Chief Justice David Maraga-led team could break or rejuvenate the political career of the Nasa leader by giving him a second chance at the ballot.

SCHEMES

However, all indications are that Mr Odinga’s focus is elsewhere. Having skipped the repeat poll and not challenged the legitimacy of the exercise, clearly Mr Odinga has other schemes at work.    

The million-dollar-question then is: What does the Opposition chief have up his sleeves that accords him and his backers the confidence that he will ascend to the presidency through avenues other than the ballot? Is he really capable of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or is he a General who is truly cornered but cannot admit it to his lieutenants and admirers?

Deputy President William Ruto claims that Mr Odinga has come to the end of the road and his current manoeuvres are merely the product of guess work with the hope of fishing for some solution.

In a leaked video footage doing rounds on social media platforms, and whose content Mr Ruto has emphasised in public rallies, the DP opines that the Nasa leader has lost the magical touch “only that he is embarrassed to admit the same to his supporters”.

PROFESSOR

Mr Ruto draws a parallel between Mr Odinga and retired President Daniel arap Moi, the self-proclaimed “professor of politics.”

The former Eldoret North MP recalls that upon his exit from elective politics in 2002 Moi, who had ruled the country for a quarter century amid strong resistance from the opposition, was still confident about installing a leader of his choice on Kenyans.

That preferred candidate was Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Ruto recounts that even after the poll results clearly indicated that Narc’s Mwai Kibaki was headed for victory, the Kanu party chiefs still held on with optimism “knowing that Mzee Moi will pull an eleventh hour surprise.”

Moi threw in the towel and asked his bewildered blue-eyed boy to concede defeat. Now the DP wants the Nasa leader to equally appreciate that his political influence has waned and do a Moi act. Moi exited the scene at 78.

The DP’s stand is understandable considering that if the court confirms his joint win with Mr Kenyatta, the one solid challenge that lies ahead of his presidential ambition in 2022 is Mr Odinga.

OPPOSITION

This impediment is not necessarily a direct challenge at the ballot by the Nasa leader, but the fear that Mr Odinga could change the campaign narrative and mobilise opposition forces to disrupt Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions.

According to political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi, Mr Ruto has nothing to worry about Mr Odinga. Same as Mr Ruto, the commentator on political affairs insists Mr Odinga’s high-voltage politics is now behind him.

Mr Ngunyi attributes the opposition leader’s push for the People’s Assembly and secession talk to moves by a leader desperately searching for tangible answers to a situation that is already out of control.     

But addressing his supporters on Friday upon his arrival from a 10-day overseas trip to the US and Europe, Mr Odinga did not sound like the situation at hand was out of control.

He had a firm and clear message to Kenyans – that his arrival marked the start of a third Republic of Kenya. He did not, however, give a hint on those weighty lines.
PRESIDENT

But Siaya Senator James Orengo gives some clue: “Hii kitu tumeichora sawa sawa (We have perfectly plotted for this ‘thing’). Without fear of contradiction, I want to assure you that Raila Amolo Odinga will be President of the Republic of Kenya,” said Orengo on Friday.

Former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama reiterated this line of thought maintaining that if President Kenyatta is sworn in, Nasa will similarly make arrangements for Mr Odinga and his running mate in the August polls, Kalonzo Musyoka, to be sworn in.

Article 141 of the Constitution on assumption of office of the President is however clear that only a presidential candidate declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as validly elected can take oath of office administered in public by the Chief Justice or Deputy Chief Justice.

Which begs the questions – how practically will Nasa swear in Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka when they did not partake in an election, or is this mere political rhetoric geared at whipping up emotions of supporters? 

Commentator on political affairs Herman Manyora sees a long protracted political battle where only Mr Odinga can emerge victorious, “unless, of course, Mr Kenyatta agrees to enter into dialogue with the opposition leader.”

IMPASSE

Otherwise as the situation stands, Mr Manyora opines that Mr Kenyatta is only playing into Mr Odinga’s net.

Describing the Nasa leader as “the General of the trenches” and an indefatigable crusader of civil and human rights, the University of Nairobi lecturer proposes a boardroom solution as the only way out of the impasse. 

In the meantime, the Nasa leadership has lined up a host of activities geared at “winning back the presidency.” The Nasa allied politicians will, however, not open up on the nitty-gritty of this scheme.

On the surface though, they have rolled out an economic boycott of certain products and services through the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and are currently using county assemblies, where they enjoy massive support, to set up the People’s Assemblies.

The use of county assemblies to engineer Nasa’s political agenda has indeed rattled Jubilee rivals with Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale writing to the Controller of Budget, Mrs Agnes Odhiambo, to keenly watch against financing of such political projects.

RESIST

While he does not mind the People’s Assemblies being used as avenues “for ventilating issues and even public anger,” Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata warns that any attempt to install Mr Odinga as President will be strongly resisted.

Indeed, there is no denying that the political future for Mr Odinga looks very slippery – particularly if the Supreme Court rules in favour of Mr Kenyatta.

And opinion is divided whether he will manage to stay politically relevant or sustain the tempo against the government for the next five years if Mr Kenyatta is confirmed validly elected.

But like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Mr Odinga has, over the years, demonstrated political resilience and bounced back even in situations where many had written his political obituary.        

MAJOR RISK

In 1994, when his father, Kenya’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, passed on, he vied for the chairmanship of the Ford Kenya party against the late Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa in a botched poll and as a result made history by resigning from Parliament to contest in a by-election on his new party, National Development Party.

It was a major risk because he was a marked politician and serious rivals, including President Moi, campaigned hard against him. But he recaptured the seat.

In the run-up to the 2002 polls, Mr Odinga again dumbfounded friend and foe when he joined the ruling party, Kanu, which he had all along fought so hard.

Many including Mr Kibaki, then Leader of Opposition, wrote him off as a “misguided politician.”

In the merger pact with Kanu, Mr Odinga was elected Secretary-General and stage-managed an implosion leading a massive walkout from the ruling party, a factor that led to its defeat in the 2002 polls. But just how will be his fortunes after tomorrow?