Deputy President William Ruto’s allies in Jubilee have accused ODM leader Raila Odinga of trying to use his peace deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta as a launching pad for his 2022 presidential ambitions.
The leaders accused Mr Odinga of hiding behind the March 9 handshake to lay ground for his fifth stab at the Presidency in the next General Election.
Speaking separately on the telephone, a day after Mr Odinga said he will not be a candidate in the coming polls, the leaders accused him of attempting to stop debate on Uhuru's succession claiming it is diverting Kenyans from more urgent development matters, while he was busy preparing for a run behind the scenes.
While attending a Church service at St Peter's Nyamira ACK with his family on Christmas day, Mr Odinga said he would not be a candidate for the presidency and called for an end to the 2022 debate.
"I have never said I will run for presidency in 2022, I will not say it and I am not a candidate in 2022 so give me a break," Mr Odinga told the congregation. But in the same breath, he seemed to suggest his statement was not definitive, saying: "We will deal with the matter when the right time comes. Allow me and President Uhuru to unite the country."
Accompanied by his elder brother and East Africa Assembly legislator Dr Oburu Oginga, sister Ruth and wife Ida, Siaya senator James Orengo and family members, Mr Odinga said his statement should now put to rest the 2022 debate, adding that it was irresponsible for some politicians to put the country in a permanent campaign mood.
The statement appeared to be directed at Mr Ruto, whose countrywide tours have been interpreted as early campaign tactics, though he has been categorical that he is only after supervising and launching Jubilee's development projects.
On Wednesday, the DP's allies led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen responded furiously to Mr Odinga’s remarks and accused him of trying to play with the minds of Kenyans while he has set his eyes on the 2022 Presidential race.
“The old saying goes that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. So for Raila Odinga, his words are meant to hoodwink political novices,” Mr Murkomen said. He added: “For those who are in the know, he (Raila) is acting, walking and behaving like a candidate albeit with a cunning tag called handshake.”
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei and MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) and Caleb Kositany (Soy) said Mr Odinga was only trying to fire up his “sinking” political career through the handshake.
“The jury is out. The Nasa leader is using the handshake to resurrect his weakening political career by creating a moribund and ineffective agenda such as the Building Bridges Initiatives and an unnecessary referendum aimed at making him stay afloat politically and relevant to his supporters that's why he can't hold on to a specific position,” Mr Cherargei said.
He pointed out that Mr Odinga was simply preparing himself to run for Presidency again in 2022 “that's why his foot soldiers are sending the same signals. He is not genuine about the handshake,” he added.
Mr Sudi accused Mr Odinga of trying to stop politicians allied to the Deputy President from speaking their minds yet ODM leaders were busy discussing 2022 elections.
“If Orengo speaks about 2022 and says Raila will be on the ballot, he is treated as an angel but when we go around the country with the DP to launch projects, we are demonised over claims we are campaigning for 2022 elections. This is dishonesty of the highest order,” he said, adding that it is an open secret that Mr Odinga will be on the ballot.
Mr Kositany told Mr Odinga to declare categorically to his supporters that he would be on the ballot.
“His (Raila’s) lieutenants have been busy trying to cajole the President to support him in 2022 yet he keeps on asking Kenyans to stop such a debate. For us with the DP, we are overseeing development projects. We know he cannot separate development and politics that is why he keeps on criticising us,” Mr Kositany said.
He went on: “It is however, Raila’s democratic right to vie and we want to tell him; we are ready for him. We will neutralise him politically in 2022 if he attempts to contest.”
Mr Odinga has been rallying Kenyans behind his deal with President Kenyatta, saying it is only, meant to unite the country and has nothing to do with elections.
But on December 13 when President Kenyatta hosted Luo Nyanza leaders at the Kisumu State Lodge, Mr Orengo and Suba South MP John Mbadi reportedly urged the Head of State to support Mr Odinga in 2022.
The Daily Nation established that Mr Orengo directly told the President to back Mr Odinga in 2022 in "the spirit of the March 9 handshake."
"We would be happy if your excellency considers offering your support to Mr Odinga to continue with your March 9 peace deal of uniting the country and enhancing good governance," Mr Orengo reportedly told the President. Mr John Mbadi, the National Assembly Leader of Minority, is also said to have told the President that it is only Mr Odinga who could continue with the purge against corrupt leaders.
In the meeting attended by local governors, deputies, senators and MPs, the President and Mr Odinga however, did not directly respond to the leaders.
But the President, who is reported to have been smiling as Mr Orengo extolled Mr Odinga's leadership credentials, said he did not have any problem with any suggestion but added that "only God knows who will take the mantle."
In Bondo, Mr Odinga revisited the intrigues that led to his reconciliation with President Kenyatta, saying the two agreed to get rid of tribalism, inequality and corruption and instead create jobs for the youth.
"I know we are not yet there but at least we ensured there is peace and understanding among Kenyans and we have started the process of uniting Kenyans. Unity in diversity will help us fight enemies such as poverty, divisive elections and help us strengthen devolution" he said.
Mr Odinga also pointed out that there were many things which were going to happen in 2019, describing it as a year of hope.
Mr William Ojonyo, the chairman of Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, gave the former premier a plaque of a white dove, a symbol of peace.
He said that it will be a permanent memory of peace achieved after the handshake that opened up businesses for many people from the region.
Dr Oginga and Mr Orengo said 2019 will be the year when the country will achieve major political milestone which will surprise many.
In a thinly veiled attack on DP Ruto, Dr Oginga warned politicians against spreading propaganda about the motive of the handshake and push for constitutional change.
He maintained that the proposed changes and push for a referendum by opposition leaders were not meant to benefit a few people or create new positions for specific people, but for the benefit of all Kenyans.