When former Attorney-General Charles Mugane Njonjo warned that it was a treasonable offence for one to imagine the death of a sitting president at the height of the Kenyatta succession in the late seventies, he might have foreseen the simmering but subdued debate in Nyanza over opposition leader Raila Odinga’s political future.
The Odinga succession debate has assumed new relevance following the March 9 handshake between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta at Harambee House and the subsequent deportation of opposition activist Miguna Miguna to Canada.
Dr Miguna’s deportation cast the spotlight on Mr Odinga who had told a rally at Kondele, Kisumu, that part of his deal with President Kenyatta was to ensure that the outspoken lawyer returned to the country unconditionally.
It is at this point that diehard supporters of Mr Odinga started questioning the deal and warning that the opposition chief risked losing his hard-earned stature as an agitator for justice and the rule of law.
“The handshake rises or falls on the pedestal of the rule of law and, if the State is out to undermine the rule of law, then the deal has no basis,” Siaya Senator James Orengo said.
The concerns have since paved way for the debate on Mr Odinga’s succession, though spoken in muted tones in his Nyanza stronghold.
The debate has also been fuelled by pressure from Nasa co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula that Mr Odinga exits the scene and backs one of them come 2022.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has also joined the fray, asking Mr Odinga to back him for the presidency in 2022.
According to the chairman of the Kenya Diaspora Alliance and former Rangwe MP Shem Ochuodho, the Odinga succession debate is rife.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Dr Ochuodho listed Mr Orengo, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, former Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno and himself as possible successors.
“The position needs fresh blood who can propel the community to the next level, and I believe the community will identify such a leader,” Dr Ochuodho said.
But National Assembly Minority Leader and Orange Democratic Movement chairman John Mbadi would rather not entertain the subject.
“Mr Odinga is busy fighting electoral injustice and other evils bedevilling the country and some people are busy discussing his succession,” Mr Mbadi said.
On Saturday, an MP from Siaya County who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject in the region accused Mr Orengo of scheming to succeed Mr Odinga.
The MP cited Mr Orengo’s alleged defiance of Mr Odinga’s advice not to topple Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula from the position of senate minority leader, a move which has split Nasa.
“Jakom (Mr Odinga) was totally against Wetang’ula’s ouster but Mr Orengo defied him, and went ahead to whip his fellow opposition senators and dethroned the Bungoma senator,” the MP said.
Like Mr Mbadi, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and his Alego Usonga counterpart Samuel Atandi separately trashed the Odinga succession debate.
“Our focus should be taking the country forward in the spirit of the agreement between the country’s top leadership and not engage in such debates,” Mr Wandayi said.
Mr Atandi warned any leader talking about Mr Odinga’s succession to stop.
Mr Atandi lashed at Dr Miguna saying his tribulations are of his own making describing Dr Miguna as a ‘Johnnie come lately’ in the reform struggle and therefore cannot be compared to Mr Odinga.
“Luo martyrs are well-known; Dr Miguna is not one of them. We do not have a crisis in leadership in Nyanza or the opposition and anyone talking about the Odinga succession should be stoned,” Mr Atandi warned.
Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga during a recent function at Kojwach Ward in Homa Bay said Mr Odinga can run for presidency come 2022.
“Agwambo is still young and can vie in the next election, he is still our leader,” said Ms Wanga.