Raila’s pledge to 30 governors at Naivasha retreat

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022 00:00 | By
Ruto Azimio
ODM leader Raila Odinga poses (centre) for a group photo with governors after chairing an Azimio La Umoja’s consultative forum in Naivasha, Nakuru County yesterday. PHOTO/Kirera Mwiti

A promise of plum jobs in his government and additional funding to counties are among the reasons more than 30 governors threw their weight behind Raila Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja presidential campaign.

Of the 22 second-term governors set to retire at the and of the year, 18 support Raila’s initiative that is driving his August 9 State House contest.

A high-profile source who attended Sunday’s Naivasha meeting during which the decision to support Raila was reached said the first-term governors backing Azimio also hope to benefit from the its  campaign machinery.

The source said there is “strong optimism” in the Handshake team that brings together President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister’s camp that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which was declared unconstitutional by the courts would be implemented under a Raila presidency.

BBI had proposed constitutional amendments to allow for expansion of the Executive, additional funds to counties and appointment of Cabinet ministers from inside and outside Parliament.

Devolution champion

“The general impression we have and our past dealings with Deputy President William Ruto who is going to be Baba’s main opponent is that he is anti-devolution.

Of course, some of the outgoing governors are eminently qualified for positions having run governments but none of my colleagues has made any conditions for supporting Raila,” said a governor who requested anonymity in order to speak freely on the matter.

Led by Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, who was recently appointed to chair Raila’s Presidential Campaign Board, the governors said the former premier is best placed to lead the country, describing the ODM leader as a champion of devolution.

Reading a statement on behalf of his colleagues, Muriithi highlighted four key points that, he said, made them — the governors’ caucus — to support Raila’s fifth presidential race attempt.

The four points are: Support for devolution, establishing a people-focused campaign through his Azimio La Umoja campaign platform, peaceful elections and the future of the nation.

“This is a consultative forum with Raila Odinga and we assure him of our support and also discuss the way forward with regard to the August elections,” Muriithi said. 

He added: “Since the advent of devolution, he has been consistent that devolution must succeed.” 

County allocations

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said Raila had invited the Azimio governors to brief them on the status of his campaign as well as discuss matters around devolution.

“All the governors present committed themselves to supporting his campaign and to deploying their energies and resources towards ensuring that he clinches the seat,” said Oparanya who is the ODM deputy leader.

“Raila committed himself towards ensuring that he delivers on the promises contained in the BBI report especially the increment of the Treasury allocation to county governments to 35 per cent. He also committed to ensuring that 11 functions belonging to the county governments are transferred to the counties,” he said.

Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia said Raila promised that his administration would ensure devolved units get more than 35 per cent of the resources to spur development across the country.

“He told us that his administration will increase the county allocation even to more than 35 per cent. He asked us to help eligible Kenyans to register as voters and to rally the people to support Azimio La Umoja,” said Kimemia.

Asked if there was any form of promises to the outgoing governors, Kimemia denied it, saying that none of the county bosses asked for anything nor were they promised anything.

“The issue is about forming the government. Of course, some will be appointed Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries or even ambassadors. Some only want to support without asking for anything,” said Kimemia.

His Elgeyo-Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos, who is Raila’s chief campaigner in the North Rift, said: “We have not been promised anything. We have just agreed that we will work hard to campaign for Baba. Once he wins, we can now sit and ask what should be given to the region, not to me. As a politician, however, I am sure if Baba wins, he will reward his foot soldiers.” 

Nigerian example

Speaking at the event, Raila promised to revive the BBI if elected president.

“We brought BBI to improve our governance structure. They say that a good idea can always yield to a better idea and better yields to the best idea. We are on course and we know that it will be back again,” he said.

“All over the world it has been proved that devolution of resources is a good idea but if you do not put it in writing and just leave it to discretion most people will be reluctant to implement it.

“That’s why they have done it in other jurisdictions like in Nigeria. It clearly states that 20 per cent of resources will go to the local government.

Thirty five per cent goes to the state government and 45 per cent goes to the federal government. It means that 55 per cent of resources in Nigeria are devolved,” he said.

The ODM leader lashed out at Ruto for his Hustler nation narrative, saying it was creating a class-war.

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, who has in the past given Raila’s events in the Coast a wide berth, made a surprise appearance in Naivasha where he declared support for the opposition chief in his quest for the presidency.

Last August, Raila removed Kingi as ODM Kilifi county chairman and replaced him with Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire.

At the time, Kingi had been pushing – together with others – for the formation of a political party for Coast people. 

Apart from Kingi, others who addressed the media yesterday included governors Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Ali Korane (Garissa), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Tolgos, Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Charity Ngilu of Kitui.

Governor Kibwana announced that he had dropped his presidential ambitions to support Raila. 

“I consulted my people in Makueni and they gave me the go-ahead to support Azimio La Umoja.

They told me that I have age on my side and will resume my presidential ambitions in future,” said Kibwana.

Ngilu said that Ruto had since 2010 opposed constitutional amendments that proposed to increase funding to counties.

“History has clearly identified Ruto as one man who is opposed to devolution and Kenyans should not make a mistake of voting for him in the elections,” she said.

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