Raila’s 2022 plan divides his key ODM lieutenants

By Rawlings Otieno
Wednesday, April 7th, 2021
Opposition leader Raila Odinga campaigns for BBI in Kilifi county last year. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary
    • Wycliffe Oparanya: The year 2022 is not far as some of the youthful leaders in our party would like to imagine.
    • John Mbadi: Our position is that we complete the BBI process first then talk about 2022.

ODM leader Raila Odinga is walking a tightrope in his quest to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 with some party officials and supporters expressing reservations about his strategy.

Though Raila has expressed confidence in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and the Handshake deal with the President, a section of party leaders have developed cold feet over recent political developments and are piling pressure on him to start “charting a new path”.

The leaders, particularly the old guard, want the party boss to abandon the Constitution change initiative and launch his own campaign for the 2022 elections “without being bogged down by the BBI process”.

Their concern is that while his opponents, mainly Deputy President William Ruto, have been crisscrossing the country campaigning, Raila has been preoccupied with pushing for amendments to the Constitution through BBI, whose future remains uncertain.

They say that given the pace at which the BBI process is moving, coupled with the legal and political bottlenecks placed on its path, the initiative may not mature in good time for the ODM leader to use in the 2022 elections arithmetic.

“Even if we have a referendum by the end of this year, we may not have time to implement some of the proposals.

Of what relevance would it be to Baba if the proposals are implemented after the 2022 election?” one senior ODM legislator posed.

In addition, Uhuru’s decision to bring on board party leaders Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-K) as partners in the BBI process has not gone down well with some ODM leaders.

ODM had quietly dissented to the move to bring the quartet on board as equal partners, arguing that they can only support the process as “friends”.

Lagging behind

Raila himself appears to have heightened the anxiety among his lieutenants by keeping his cards close to his chest, leaving them guessing his next move.

“Nobody knows what he is thinking or what his next move might be. All he tells us is that all his calculations are moving according to plan,” another party zealot said.

Yesterday, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is one of the ODM  politicians pushing Raila to rethink the 2022 strategy, insisted the party was “lagging behind in the presidential race”.

“The year 2022 is not far as some of the youthful leaders in our party would like to imagine. This is the time for us to embark on strengthening the party structures and identifying our flag-bearer,” Oparanya told People Daily by phone.

Oparanya reiterated his statement last week that the party should direct focus and resources to fighting  Covid-19.

“As things stand now, BBI is irrelevant to anybody eyeing any position in 2022. BBI is no longer a priority,” Oparanya said.

According to the governor, who is one of the two ODM deputy party leaders, once the President eases the Covid-19 containment measures, the party should convene its National Delegates Conference to decide on its 2022 presidential candidate.

Oparanya is one of the party leaders who have reportedly put Raila under pressure to abandon the BBI project and launch his fifth stab at the presidency.

“This BBI process is taking longer than we anticipated and we are nearing elections.

President Kenyatta will have nothing to lose since he is serving his last term,” said a prominent government official who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.

Others said to be reading from the same script as Oparanya are ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, his Busia and Siaya counterparts Sospeter Ojaamong and Cornel Rasanga and several MPs and senators.

Kisumu governor Anyang’ Nyong’o is also said to belong to this group, though he reportedly prefers that Raila sticks with the Handshake even as he charts his own political path.

Joho, who is the other deputy party leader, said that though he is an ardent supporter of BBI and the Handshake, the two should not be used to dent the party’s chances of winning the top seat in 2022.

“ODM must put its house in order now because time is running out,” Joho, who has declared his interest to vie for the presidency on the party ticket alongside Oparanya, told People Daily.

However, ODM chairman John Mbadi, who is said to be among those who want Raila to stick with the Handshake and the push to amend the Constitution, has said the party will only talk about 2022 once the BBI process has been concluded.

“Our position is that we complete the BBI process first then talk about 2022. That is even the more reason why Raila did not submit his nomination papers for consideration,” said Mbadi.

“Kenyans know who the champion of BBI is. Raila will make his own decision on whether to run in 2022 or not although we  as a party would want him to run.”

Sources say Mbadi and like-minded leaders believe Raila’s relationship with Uhuru would give him an edge in 2022.

Others in this camp are the party’s chief whip Junet Mohamed, Siaya Senator and Senate Minority leader James Orengo, EALA MP Oburu Oginga, MP Gladys Wanga, party treasurer Timothy Bosire and almost all MPs from Raila’s Nyanza backyard.

But the Oparanya group is arguing that recent political developments that have seen the President open doors to the One Kenya Alliance, and claims of some top civil servants crafting a parallel succession plan, do not augur well for their leader.

However, Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo charged that “the gods are still talking to Raila on his next moves”.

“Agwambo doesn’t act in vain,” she said.

Last week, Raila led a section of the party leadership to reaffirm that they are behind  BBI. This was after Oparanya said the referendum should be pushed to next year.

Yesterday, Oburu said the party was assured of victory in the next election with the assistance of the Handshake.

“With the State machinery on our side, we are assured of performing better than we did in the previous elections,” Oburu told People Daily.

Political analyst Prof Amukowa Anangwe argues that walking a tight-rope has characterised Raila’s political career and it has helped him in the past to define his character as resilient and a man of all seasons.

“The possibility of Raila abandoning the Handshake and BBI is real if President Kenyatta does not show serious commitment to it by word and deed,” he said.

According to him, until Uhuru’s recent intervention to calm nerves in ODM, Raila’s allies were already loud about quitting the Handshake and BBI.

Another analyst, Javas Bigambo, argued that Raila cannot turn his back on BBI, given that it has his political DNA, adding that it will be akin to abandoning his own child because it is crippled.

“Raila is no longer passionately vocal about BBI. Unfortunately for him, he cannot arm-twist President Kenyatta.

He can only threaten to abandon BBI, but he will be at pains to explain to Kenyans at what point the water started getting into the Titanic,” said Bigambo.

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