While the immediate goal of scouting for new allies appears to be securing the Kibra parliamentary seat next week, ODM leader Raila Odinga appears to be assembling a new team that promises to redraw the country’s political landscape ahead of the next General Election.
He has lately been shopping for new allies and, when he hosted governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) on Saturday, the former prime minister seemed to confirm the crumbling of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), the vehicle through which he unsuccessfully sought the presidency in the 2017 polls.
After a private meeting at Mr Odinga’s offices in Upper Hill, Nairobi, with Mrs Ngilu of Narc and Dr Mutua of Maendeleo Chap Chap, the trio addressed leaders from Ukambani residing in Kibra constituency at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation.
They urged the leaders to support the ODM candidate, Bernard “Imran” Okoth in the November 7 by-election.
The meeting provided a clear political message to the region’s perceived kingpin Kalonzo Musyoka, who was Mr Odinga’s running mate in the last election.
“We are here because we want Uhuru and Raila to show us the way in 2022 and nobody will come between them,” Mrs Ngilu said.
“Raila has done a lot for this country and he is the only person who will fight for the people of Kenya.”
This afternoon, the three are expected to address a joint campaign rally for the ODM candidate at Olympic grounds.
The other Nasa principals, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-Kenya), have further widened the rift that grew after the March 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga by fielding candidates in the Thursday mini election.
The constituency is perceived to be an ODM stronghold and the party hopes for a united front against Jubilee’s McDonald Mariga, who enjoys the support of Deputy President William Ruto.
In June, alive to the reality that Nasa was crumbling, ODM’s National Executive Council gave Mr Odinga the green light to scout for new allies.
On Saturday, ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna repeated his earlier assertion that Nasa may be buried after the Kibra by-election.
“We have said this before, we are counting our friends in Kibra. New alliances will be forged from this by-election,” Mr Sifuna told the Sunday Nation.
Though Mr Odinga has said that he will not contest the presidency in 2022, his actions suggest otherwise.
There is also the anticipated Building Bridges Initiative report, a result of the handshake, which will signal the direction the country’s politics will take, with Mr Odinga seen as a key player, maybe as a candidate or kingmaker.
By embracing the two Ukambani county chiefs, he looks keen to send a message that he can replace Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula.
Mr Musyoka, who does not see eye to eye with Dr Mutua, is supporting Khamisi Butichi, the Ford-Kenya candidate in the by-election.
According to Dr Mutua, the future of Kenya lies with committed leaders “like Raila Odinga, who will show Kenyans the way”.
“My party will consult with ODM on how we will field candidates in the 2022 General Election so that we get the numbers to change this country,” he said.
He added that Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana was scheduled to attend the meeting but cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.
Mr Odinga steered clear of the 2022 debate and instead urged the Kamba community to support the ODM candidate.
He warned Kibra residents to be wary of the promises the Deputy President has made, saying that development in the area should not wait until the Jubilee candidate is elected.
“Ruto should not fool you. He is the DP and should do what he is promising. There is no other time he can do what he is promising than now,” Mr Odinga said.
He acknowledged the support he got from the Kamba community when he served as Lang’ata MP from 1992 to 2013.
MT KENYA VOTES
Some of the politicians who have lately warmed up to Mr Odinga are Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, nominated MP Maina Kamanda, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju.
Ms Waiguru, Mr Moi and Mr Kamanda have openly said that they will campaign for the ODM candidate.
Others like Cheranganyi MP Joshua Kutuny, from Mr Ruto’s perceived Rift Valley stronghold, have stuck their necks out for Mr Odinga.
Mr Odinga, through the handshake with President Kenyatta, is betting big on the Mount Kenya region’s support if he were to run for President in 2022.
Many in his camp believe he is readying his house for the big race. Tellingly, Ms Waiguru recently declared that the region was ready to work with the former prime minister.
Mr Odinga’s move to appear with the Ukambani governors could help in the ethnic arithmetic should the contest be tight.
Dr Mutua confirmed to the Sunday Nation that they have been discussing ways of collaborating with Mr Odinga, not just in Kibra but in the broader BBI.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
ODM’s deputy party leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya told the Sunday Nation that effectively, the party will begin reaching out to possible allies.
He said this is important in the event of a referendum to change the Constitution and later at the ballot.
“The choice of partners has been our undoing in the last two presidential elections. We are keen to do it differently this time. I can assure you it will be the winning team; we will form the next government,” the governor said.
But even as Mr Odinga reaches out to new allies, it is in the hope that it will stem the dwindling fortunes of a party that once had the majority of elected representatives in the country.
The Kamba leaders’ support could not only tilt the Kibra election in favour of ODM but also shape the politics of Ukambani.