ODM leader Raila Odinga is making the first bold step to go it alone politically with a series of planned town-hall meetings and rallies countrywide as the falling-out with his National Super Alliance (Nasa) partners intensifies and President Uhuru Kenyatta grapples with keeping up the façade of unity.
On Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted party leaders Mr Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Charity Ngilu(Narc) at State House Nairobi, where they agreed on a plan to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in readiness for a referendum.
Further, the leaders agreed to hold a consultative meeting with legislators and counties leadership on March 9 so as to come with a workable strategy.
But Mr Odinga is said to be charting his own political path at a time when his former Nasa colleagues have called on him to remove himself from the 2022 power matrix and give one of them a chance to take a stab at the presidency.
One of his confidants told the Saturday Nation that the ODM supremo is no longer interested with working with leaders with whom he is no longer reading from the same script.
“He doesn’t want to be used as a rubber stamp,” said the close ally of the ODM leader.
Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, an Odinga confidant, says that some selfish leaders are plotting to have the ODM leader not seek the presidency in 2022 yet he has not announced whether he will be vying.
“The leaders who want to block Raila from the presidency in 2022 are putting the cart before the horse. They are busy scheming to stop someone who has not revealed his political intentions,” Mr Mohamed said.
The Saturday Nation has learnt that Mr Odinga was not keen to attend the Thursday State House meeting informing his close allies that he “didn’t want to be paraded alongside politicians who were not aggressive in campaigning for the BBI Bill but now want to jump at the slightest opportunity to reap its benefits after it received overwhelming support in county assemblies.”
Notably, the press statement issued at State House was read by Mr Moi. After finishing reading the statement, the Kanu leader was chummy Mr Mudavadi and Mr Musyoka as a rather forlorn Mr Odinga looked on.
In recent weeks, Mr Odinga’s Nasa partners and Mr Moi have attended a number of functions together with increasing talk that they are building a political coalition to take on the ODM leader and Deputy President William Ruto in the 2022 presidential race.
Mr Mudavadi , speaking yesterday morning on Luhya vernacular stations Mulembe, Vuuka and Sulwe, said he will not be going for anything short of the presidency come 2022, adding that the BBI process will not in any way bar his journey even if new formations emerge.
“I am going for the presidency,” the ANC leader said.
Members of Mr Odinga’s inner circle say that the ODM leader is not taking anything to chance in the face of talks of a possible coalition against him.
“Their intention is to make Raila not vie in 2022. Some of them are relying on the Nasa coalition agreement which cannot hold because he (Mr Odinga) never became president,” Mr Mohammed said.
In efforts to consolidate his political base across the country and publicise the BBI Bill, the ODM leader has planned a series of activities in the next one month in which he intends visit his traditional support bases. His itinerary shows that Mr Odinga will be in the Coast region next week accompanied by at least 10 legislators from Nairobi and other Coast political leaders.
The ODM leader will start his Coast tour in Taita Taveta County on Monday where he is scheduled to hold a public rally in Mwatate constituency, then move to Mbololo in Voi constituency and finalise his day’s activities in Voi town where he will hold meetings with local leaders.
On Tuesday, Mr Odinga is scheduled to tour Kilifi County holding rallies and meetings in Malindi, Watamu and Kilifi towns then on Wednesday he will be in Mombasa County at Changamwe and Likoni. At the end of the tour on Thursday he is expected to hold a rally in Kinango, Kwale County.
This will be the first time this year that Mr Odinga will be a having a meet-the-people tour and the political rallies and town hall meetings will be coming amid a push for the ODM man to shun the presidential race next year.
There have been claims some functionaries in Harambee House and even State House are not settled on the role that Mr Odinga should play in the 2022 politics.
One side is said to be crafting “experimental coalitions,” to test the popularity of the leaders who are readying to stand against Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.
The meetings also come a few months before Kenyans go to the polls to either vote or reject the BBI Bill in a referendum.
In past interviews, Mr Odinga has said that he will make his political move once the law changes pass.
ODM chairman John Mbadi has hinted that Mr Odinga’s party is positioning itself for political coalitions. But Mr Odinga is not sitting on his laurels. He seems to be going ahead to prepare the ground for the 2022 battle.
Yesterday, the ODM leader has said the BBI is not a ticket to State House. He said he will use the support of voters if he wants to be President. Speaking at the funeral service of Bonchari MP Oroo Oyioka at Iterio Boys High school grounds in Kisii County, Mr Odinga thanked county assemblies for overwhelmingly passing the BBI Bill.
"Those who were opposing BBI know nothing about it and opposed it even before the document was out," said Mr Odinga, adding that Gusii will benefit immensely from the changes.
He dismissed the Hustler narrative saying its propagators have nothing important to tell Kenyans.
Senators Prof Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Okong'o Omogeni (Nyamira), Woman Reps Janet Ongera (Kisii), Jerusha Momanyi (Nyamira) and MPs Simba Arati (Dagoreti North), Ben Momanyi (Borabu), Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South) and Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango) said Gusii supports BBI because it has a lot of goodies.
Mr Arati who reconciled with South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro told off the Tangatanga lawmakers for opposing BBI just because Kisii had not been awarded with a constituency.
The two lawmakers recently fought during a funeral service attended by Mr Odinga and DP William Ruto in Kisii.