Inside Politics

Tough decisions Raila must make before elections

Monday, March 28th, 2022 04:00 | By
Raila concludes Kakamega campaign
Azimio presidential aspirant Raila Odinga addresses a rally at Shinyalu in Kakamega county, yesterday. PHOTO/Courtesy

You don’t want to be Raila Odinga. With barely four months to the August elections, the Azimio presidential candidate is confronted with a series of tough decisions that will either make or break his State House ambitions.

The veteran opposition leader, who will be making his fifth stab at the presidency, bears the enviable burden of high expectations and hopes of tenacious supporters who have stood with him every step of the way and the interests of new allies who have joined his train.

Caught between the hammer of his age-old supporters and the anvil of his newfound friends, Raila is walking a tight rope.

Even after winning the unlikely support of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila is caught up in a titanic battle against Deputy President (DP)William Ruto who has been waging a rigorous campaign across the country in which he has painted the Azimio leader as untrustworthy, too old to lead and a government project.

Balancing act

Besides the onslaught from the DP, Raila has the delicate balancing act of cobbling together a coalition that will provide a path to the presidency while accommodating the various competing individual, family and regional interests as he reinforces his self-proclaimed credentials as an outsider and reformer.

As the clock ticks to the polls, eyes will be on Raila as he picks the crucial candidate for running mate, manages the usually controversial party primaries to prevent a possible fallout and keep his troops intact.

According to former United Democratic Alliance (UDA) treasurer Omingo Magara, Raila has the heavy task of tempering his campaign promises amidst the effects of a battered economy, tame loyalties as well as run and protect his Orange Democratic Party interests under the Azimio coalition.

Moreover, Raila having secured the support of Uhuru has the uphill task of criticising the performance of the Jubilee government at the same time disentangling himself from the ills associated with it.

“Raila has the difficult task of rewarding and pacifying politicians and families that have stood with him in his political journey

There are also overwhelming expectations around his promises when the economy is battered,” said Magara, a former Raila ally who last week joined the Azimio coalition.

The events in Kakamega County in which Raila was forced to issue nomination certificates to candidates favoured by ODM to the chagrin of other Azimio affiliates such as Democratic Action Party of Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa perhaps helped illustrate his dilemma.

But speaking to People Daily, top honchos of his presidential campaign appeared to bank on Raila’s vast experience, temperament and acumen to wriggle himself out of the impending storm.

They also painted the picture of a man who was not acting on his own and instead reinforced by a well-organised system.

According to Prof Makau Mutua, the chairperson and spokesperson of the Raila campaign and Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o; a top-ranking member of the Raila think tank, the Azimio presidential candidate has not only ran for elections before, but is also an ardent coalition builder.

“Raila is not in election politics for the first time. He has been a veteran of opposition and government politics for decades. He is a strategic thinker, who understands the political pulse of the country and he knows how to strike a balance between the interests of his allies and those of the country,” Makau stated.

Makau says the Azimio juggernaut is built by forces who are clear that individual interests will not be allowed to overshadow those of the movement.  The law professor acknowledges the challenges that have dogged party primaries but maintained that Raila will be guided by the principles of “de-conflicting and harmonisation” in the management of the nominations exercise.

“Raila will be driven by the desire to get the best candidates to get elected to Parliament to enable him carry out his transformational work,” he said.

Makau also gave a preview on some of the considerations for the post of running mate saying the Azimio leader will be seeking a leader with integrity, experience, represents diversity “and brings votes to the ticket”.

“The crucible on the running mate will be pegged on a moral, ethical, principled and experienced person who can help Raila to run the government,” he said.

“The candidate will have to be presidential, share the Azimio vision and enjoy a smooth working relationship to avoid a repeat of the current situation where the President and his deputy are in conflict,” he added.

Makau said the Raila presidential ticket will have to project the face of Kenya and accommodate other variables such as gender.

He said: “But the most important is that the running mate must bring votes into Azimio, so that the candidate can win with a good margin.”

Political talent

And Makau has no doubt about Raila’s political talent as he walks on what has been billed as his most decisive journey to the presidency: “Nobody in the current political chessboard can match his experience, political acumen and strategic mind.”

Nyong’o, thinks that Raila has no burden of criticising the Uhuru administration, arguing that the issues the Azimio presidential candidate has been raising were identified under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The Kisumu governor said the idea of Raila not criticising the President was informed by the fact that his running for office is founded on the BBI in which the two identified the issues ailing Kenya such as corruption and divisive elections.

“We have been holding elections that lack legitimacy, which negates the principle of democracy. While the winner celebrates, the loser questions the legitimacy of the results. Uhuru agreed that though he was a beneficiary of the electoral system you cannot guarantee the stability of the country and democracy after the elections,” he said.

Nyongo is confident Raila will wriggle himself out of the tightrope.

He said: “It is not Raila. The party and allies have the stamina to confront and withstand whatever challenges. He is not acting alone. He is leading a team and working alongside allies,” said Nyong’o, an Azimio political strategist.

“He has the ability to lead the coalition and overcome the challenges. Raila is a coalition builder. He spearheaded the Kanu-NDP merger and brought the Liberal Democratic Party to form the Rainbow Coalition for the 2002 elections,” he added.

According Makau, the guiding principle will be the interest of the country, not of Raila’s partners in the Azimio coalition.

Makau predicted that Raila will have to confront key challenges including an economy reeling from the effects of Covid-19 and what he described as a largely dysfunctional government due to the split between the President and his deputy.

ODM National Treasurer Timothy Bosire; a strong Raila ally, says the Azimio candidate will benefit from his long experience in politics, vast national and international networks in the battles ahead.

Other than the serious stumbling blocks on his, the man given his experience he became president a long time ago. He has grown into a system and a network that works. He works under a system. He doesn’t work alone,” said Bosire.

“Raila is not going to the elections for the first time. His experience is monumental. He has been an MP, a minister and prime minister and has never gone on holiday on matters politics,” said Bosire.

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