Inside Politics

Sky Team that shapes Raila bid towards election

Monday, March 7th, 2022 01:42 | By
ky Team members Kanini Kega (Kieni MP), Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa Governor and Junet Mohammed (Suna East MP) atop a car in Machakos on Saturday. PD/FILE

An emerging clique of eight politicians dubbed “the Sky Team” is causing ripples within Raila Odinga’s campaign circle as it traverses the country routing for his presidential bid.

Comprising youthful and energetic politicians with the fondness for hopping from one rally to another using helicopters, the team has emerged as the focal point in Raila’s campaigns, earning both the envy and wrath of senior politicians who feel side-lined.

Though the leadership of several parties coalescing around Azimio la Umoja, which has the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta, has declared itself as Raila’s army and has been gracing many rallies in their respective constituencies, the nine politicians is apparently said to be stealing the show. 

The Sky Team, which comprises a few governors and MPs, appears to be on a special assignment, such that they have both choppers and low fixed-wing aircrafts at their disposal to facilitate crisscrossing the country to attend campaign rallies. Those in the know say the group can attend up to four events taking part in different corners of the country in a day. 

Members of the team, who are also turning out to be Deputy President William Ruto’s vociferous critics due to their sharp tongues comprise Mombasa Governors Hassan Joho and Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina, Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege and Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Junet Mohammed (Suna East) and Babu Owino (Embakasi East).

And although Raila‘s presidential campaign secretariat, through its spokesperson Prof Makau Mutua, has announced that “we are still reconstituting our campaign structures”, activities of the team and its apparent special treatment has left little doubt that they have key assignment that has also boosted their profile.

Sources within the Azimio camp revealed that there are deliberate efforts to assemble a cabal of politicians who will match the aggressiveness of the Tanga Tanga brigade comprising Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) and Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) who shoot from the hip in favour of DP. 

The source intimated to the People Daily that designers of the Azimio la Umoja and some state operatives who are part of the team working on Uhuru’s succession in favour of Raila, had a hand in assembling the team to take on the Tanga Tanga brigade as they market the former premier.

“Those people are not there by mistake and neither are they getting the special treatment for the sake of it. The faces have been deliberately assembled from different regions, and entrusted with an assignment which is to deconstruct Ruto and build a better image for Raila in the eyes of the public through the rallies they attend,” the source said.

The operations of the team are akin to that of members of the DP’s defunct United Republican Party (URP) that comprised former Majority leaders Aden Duale (parliament) and Kindiki Kithure (senate); then Kericho senator Charles Keter and Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Meru Senator Mithika Linturi who in 2014, crisscrossed the country in choppers to campaign for Jubilee and market Ruto as Uhuru’s successor.

Attack on DP

One minute in the morning hours, Kanini and Sabina are attending an event in their respective constituencies or in Nairobi, next, they are with Joho, Junet, Ledama and Babu in a photo moment standing next to an aircraft before boarding and the other, they are sharing a podium in Western, Nyanza or Coast where they viciously attack DP.

Since Azimio la Umoja team kicked off their official campaign on January 15 at Thika Stadium in Kiambu, the eight, save for Sabina who has been unwell since February 15, before she irked elections officials with claims of rigging, have been to 20 counties and attended more than 30 stopover rallies by yesterday.

Political analyst Peter Ng’ethe says the formation of the team and treatment it is getting “is not an act of coincidence” but a well calculated move by Azimio la Umoja team to infuse into Raila campaign a new and more energetic team.

“These are seemingly young and eloquent campaigners who have the charisma and charm. Raila Odinga has entrusted them and has elevated them in the Azimio hierarchy. They are able to resonate with the aspirations of the younger voters hence a very important team for the campaigns,” Ng’ethe told People Daily.

Others, who occasionally feature in the rallies, are Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi who also chairs Raila’s campaign board, newly appointed Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni who is also the Ndaragwa MP, Mishi Mboko (Likoni) and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

The activities of the Sky Team have reportedly caused discomfort within some quarters, with Suba South MP John Mbadi, who is eying the Homa Bay governor seat, and his Suba North counterpart Millie Odhiambo said to have expressed their reservations. This was after Wanga got the support from some of the Azimio brigade led by Ngilu, Ledama, Sabina, and Babu who graced her gubernatorial launch in Homa Bay before flying to Nyahururu for an Azimio la Umoja campaign rally on the someday.

On February 22, Babu, who has so far attended all rallies in and outside Nairobi which is his political base, was together with Joho, Ledama and Junet photographed next to a red helicopter before boarding for Taita Taveta where Raila had a rally. The following day at 9pm, he released a video of him navigating a low fixed wing aircraft  back to Nairobi, captioned: “Flying back to Embakasi East Republic with my Passengers after a series of successful Rallies with Baba at the coast.”

Airborne

He, Joho, Ledama , Kanini, Junet, Wanga and Mboko later on  February 22 had appeared at Nairobi hospital accompanied by Raila to visit Sabina, a suggestion that some of them travelled back on the same plane Babu was flying. Kanini who was a week ago elevated to the position of the director of the Jubilee elections board has declared himself one of Raila’s “Number One”  general to ensure the former premier wins on August 9. “Since I started participating in the election, many Kikuyus, including myself have never voted for Baba, but come August 9, we will queue in the polling station to vote for him so that he can be the president of the republic of Kenya, and that is why I am aggressively campaign for him across the country and I can assure you that the responsive is very positive,” Kanini said.

The Kieni MP, who is also among the key leaders leading the campaign to rejuvenate Jubilee Party, has been posting photos, which mostly feature him, Joho, , Sabina, Babu, Wanga, Junet, Ledama and lately comedian Felix Odiwour alias Jalango boarding aircrafts.

“Their (Kanini, Sabina and Kioni) efforts in mobilising for Raila, particularly in central Kenya and revival of our Jubilee Party can be seen and felt more than before. They have been brave and constant in their activities which definitely makes them an asset both to the party and the campaign team,” the Jubilee Party deputy secretary general Joshua Kutuny says.

Governor Joho, who is also the ODM deputy party leader, has been flying to all Azimio rallies and has declared that he would stop at nothing to ensure Raila wins.

“For us, we are here to (politically) squeeze Ruto. Our little efforts so far have forced him to fly to the US and UK to cry foul.  His friends should tell him that more is yet to come,” he said during the Ukambani rally on Saturday.

The county chief who has been Raila’s point man at  the Coast after successfully elbowing out  Tourism minister Najib Balala, has increased his visibility nationally, including sustaining Raila’s campaign when his party leader had travelled to India and Dubai last month.

For Governor Ngilu, she has not been missing any political rally or event organised in favour of Raila, and has been receiving special treatment. Together with her Machakos counterpart Alfred Mutua and Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Ngilu has become Raila’s pillar in Ukambani. During the Jubilee and ODM separate National Delegates Convention a week ago, Ngilu who is a leader of women league fighting for Raila  who adorn  blue berets dubbed “Jeshi la Baba ‘’, spoke on behalf of women and has featured in all rallies.

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