Raila returns home to packed campaign diary

Monday, February 14th, 2022 02:00 | By
ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) with Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi at the 35th Ordinary Session of the Africa Union Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo/File

by Jeremiah Kiplang’at

ODM leader Raila Odinga returns home this morning from a 10-day trip overseas to take charge of the Azimio La Umoja campaigns against a re-energized Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Raila, in his tour, participated in high-profile meetings, including talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides attending to other private engagements.

His team yesterday confirmed that the veteran opposition leader would jet into the country this morning. “He was initially expected back this Wednesday but it appears he has changed plans. We will meet on Friday to draw up a detailed campaign programme,” Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also Raila’s deputy in the orange party and a member of his campaign team, told People Daily.

Despite the temporary hiatus, however, Raila arrives back to a politically charged environment that demands his presence although he will likely appreciate his deputy, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, who took over the driving seat to ensure Azimio campaigns remained active in his absence.

Upon his arrival, Raila is expected to grace the launch of a song in which he features prominently. The song is aimed at promoting his candidature among the youth.

Raila left the country on February 4 for Ethiopia to attend the opening ceremony of the 35th Ordinary Session of the Africa Union (AU) Assembly.

He was invited to the event at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa as African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development, a post he has occupied since October 2018.

From Addis, he went to India, accompanied by his daughter Rosemary to Sreethareeyam Ayurvedic Eye Hospital and Centre in Kerala for follow-up treatment before attending to other assignments.

In 2017, the hospital helped Rosemary regain her eyesight after losing it following a mild stroke.

Raila also visited Ayuverdic Pharmaceutical Laboratory where he said he learnt about local production of medicine. He also held discussions with PM Modi before returning home. “Our nations share a fond bond as many Kenyans have for decades attended universities here. My hope is that we shall strengthen ties and learn more from each other in the years ahead,” Raila said after the meeting.

While away, however, he is said to have kept abreast of the local politics and had been closely tracking what his juniors led by Joho have been doing.

Age factor

The team has campaigned in Siaya, Vihiga, Busia and Homa Bay counties, which are traditionally his bases. Joho’s team performance in the regions attracted Raila’s thumbs up on social media pages.

However, Raila will have to address any damage that might have been caused by Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, which took advantage of his trip to storm his strongholds in Kisii, Nyamira, Busia, Vihiga and Kakamega.

During these visits Ruto said Raila, 77, was too old to lead the country branding him a proxy of a cabal out to control power in the country.

“Is he able to lead this country? Is he still able to lead this country with loads of challenges like youth unemployment. We know those who are supporting his candidature are not doing so because they believe in his leadership. They think he is too old to lead and will be easier to manipulate him but we will not allow that,” said Ruto in Tongaren, Bungoma county in the company of ANC and Ford-Kenya leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula respectively.

Despite this, Raila returns to a major boost after President Uhuru Kenyatta finally declared he was backing Azimio La Umoja and will support his presidential candidate. He also promised to join his campaign trail.

“We want this Azimio to bring us together…the time for politics is now. As Jubilee we are now leaving our offices and into the political field,” said the President.

He spoke after hosting thousands of youths at State House, Nairobi last Friday, where he beseeched them to support Raila’s Azimio movement.

While in India, Raila also promised to create a Ministry to be solely in charge of youth affairs if elected president.

“At independence, young leaders did a spectacular job of preparing Kenya for the future. The foundation these young leaders laid has brought Kenya this far. My government will create a stand-alone Ministry for Youth affairs and mainstream their appointments,” he wrote on Twitter.

OKA talks

He also promised football lovers that he would ensure Kenya is represented in next year’s African Cup of Nations to be held in Ivory Coast.

Raila left the country when hopes were high that Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his One Kenya Alliance counterparts Gideon Moi (Kanu), Martha Karua (Narc-Kenya) and Cyrus Jirongo (UDP) were about to strike a deal with Azimio but that has since cooled down amid intensifying hardline positions within the camp.

Wiper held a National Executive Convention meeting last week and resolved to strengthen OKA but left the options open on joining Azimio.

Kanu also held a similar event where it only resolved to look for like-minded partners, failing to commit to any agreement with anyone outside OKA.

Nairobi battle

Makueni MP Dan Maanzo, a close ally of Kalonzo, yesterday said there was nothing between Wiper and Raila’s movement insisting their leader was serious about his bid for President.

“It is not easy as some are saying that he will join Azimio. For now, he will go all the way to the ballot whether he wins or loses,” Maanzo told People Daily.

Within Azimio, Raila is also facing a fresh challenge as the jostling for supremacy has intensified in Nairobi, with the governor’s seat being the main bone of contention.

He will have to rein in his troops who have been going after each other after grouping themselves in competing line-ups. One group is led by businessman Richard Ngatia who wants to be governor. He has nominated MP Maina Kamanda (senator) and Beatrice Kwamboka (Woman Rep) in his line-up.

Their competitors are Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi (governor), Edwin Sifuna (senator) and Esther Passaris (Woman Rep).

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