The growing call for opposition leader Raila Odinga to run for the presidency for the sixth time in 2027, coupled with his heightened political activities, are threatening to strain the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition principals relationship.
Some of the Azimio affiliate parties are said to be uncomfortable with Mr Odinga’s ongoing political engagements, which analysts believe could be part of the former Prime Minister’s efforts to lay ground for another stab at the top seat in 2027.
Mr Odinga has in the last nine days held back-to-back political rallies in Western and Coast— with more planned activities in the coming days—in an effort to shore up his ODM party’s membership numbers.
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His allies have openly asked him to give the presidency another shot, a development that has the potential of rattling Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who is banking on Mr Odinga’s endorsement, having sacrificed his candidacy three time—2013, 2017 and 2022—to back the ODM leader.
Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) leader Eugene Wamalwa, who is also an Azimio principal, has also declared his presidential ambitions.
Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu, a close ally of Mr Musyoka, yesterday said should Mr Odinga decide to run, he would face off with the former vice-president at the ballot.
“We have said that it is not a matter of getting endorsement from anybody but going out to the people. This time Kalonzo must be on the ballot. Let the people decide at the ballot,” said Mr Mulu.
The MP said Wiper has no problem with ODM’s heightened activities, stating that each party will separately be strengthening its structures and shoring up its numbers as a way of building a stronger Azimio.
But some of Mr Odinga’s allies say that he is the only one who has a better chance of denying President William Ruto a second term, and declared plans to start popularising Mr Odinga’s candidature.
“We are not asking, we are not requesting or pleading. We the people of Kenya are commanding you to vie for the presidency in 2027. You must be on the ballot in 2027,” said Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir.
Mr Nassir, who spoke in the presence of Mr Odinga at a rally in Ukunda on Thursday added: “We have not seen anyone who has been able to put aside his own ambitions and put forward the needs of Kenyans. If there is someone who should be prayed for, it is Odinga.”
Jubilee Party Vice-chairman David Murathe had also said that Mr Odinga remains the coalition’s pick in 2027. He said the coalition would only consider Mr Musyoka and other coalition luminaries in the event that Mr Odinga declines to run.
The party’s secretary-general, Jeremiah Kioni, yesterday also appeared to endorse Mr Odinga. He said that the ODM leader remains the glue that holds the opposition coalition together and that he will continue taking directions from him as an elder.
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“We need Raila because I can tell you he is the glue in Azimio. We are going to approach this matter as a team going forward and anyone we will settle on will act in the interest of the team,” said Mr Kioni.
Political analyst and university lecturer Macharia Munene said it is clear that Mr Odinga is preparing to run again. He added that the age narrative being used by those opposed to his candidature may not work since there are examples of politicians who have won elections despite their advanced age.
Prof Macharia cited the United States of America where President Joe Biden (81) and Donald Trump (76) are frontrunners in the country’s forthcoming election. Mr Odinga turned 79 this month and will be 82 in 2027.
“For him to run again, he has to be relevant, and that is what he is doing by going round the country. Raila will always run so long as he still feels energetic and enjoys support in various parts of the country,” said Prof Macharia.
Prof David Monda, a political scientist at the City University of New York, said the pronouncements by Mr Odinga’s allies that he should run are designed to test waters.
“I think Raila will continue to run for the presidency until it is physically or medically impossible for him to do so. Politicians are rational egoists. Their main aim is access to power for self-aggrandisement and in the process advance the public good. That is to say, enlightened self-interest,” said Prof Monda.
“I cannot see him giving up an opportunity to become president, a position that he has been seeking for close to half a century. His coalition partners are frankly flower girls. Outside his endorsement, they have little chance of winning the presidency,” he added.
In a recent interview, Mr Musyoka—who turned 70 years on December 24—said giving up his presidential ambition again in favour of Mr Odinga would mean he retires from active politics because of age.
“Giving up my presidential ambition would actually mean I go home. It is as simple as that. Think about that. That means that is not an option. What it means is that giving up my presidential ambition is not an option. That is basically what I am telling you,” said Mr Musyoka.
The Wiper leader has made similar declarations in the past, only to turn around and back Mr Odinga.
Mr Odinga’s close ally and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi recently disclosed that the Azimio is set for major political realignments that could lead to its renaming before the next General Election He said no one can stop Mr Odinga from running on the basis of age, adding that he can run as many times as he wants.
“There is no limit in terms of how many times one can contest. You can contest even a hundred times. If he chooses to contest you know evidently as one of his ardent supporters, one of his footsoldiers, one of his political students, I will support him,” said Mr Wandayi in an earlier interview with the Nation.
He added: “The political landscape is going to change and alignments are going to change. There will be alignments and realignments between now and the next election. Azimio might evolve to be a much bigger movement that could even be renamed something else.”