A divided Azimio against a shrewd President Ruto: Will Raila Odinga hack it this time?

Azimio leader Raila Odinga in a phone call during Azimio Parliamentary Group Presser at Kalonzo Command Centre

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. Pundits say the former Premier is facing some of the toughest moments in his political life.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The National Dialogue Committee report, the 2027 Kalonzo Musyoka candidature factor, and a weak and uncoordinated leadership in the National Assembly that has given President William Ruto easy ride in Parliament are all at Mr Odinga’s desk to handle.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga is confronted with a myriad of political challenges within Azimio la Umoja Coalition that he has to tactfully handle this year as he continues with his onslaught against the government.

The simmering division emerging within the coalition over the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report, the 2027 Kalonzo Musyoka candidature factor, a weak and uncoordinated leadership in the National Assembly that has given President William Ruto easy ride in Parliament are all at Mr Odinga’s desk to handle.

A cautious approach on how to work with President Ruto in the implementation of the Nadco report while at the same time distancing itself from the failures of the same administration also presents the Opposition leader with another careful balance that he has to handle this year.

Well-known over years for thriving in political controversies, the former Prime Minister knows very well that any division within the Azimio coalition will give President Ruto an easy time to govern in 2024, so the opposition is keen to seize the opportunity and heighten its onslaught against the State, which is currently facing major resistance from the populace due to many political and economic goofs.

 Raila Odinga

Opposition leader Raila Odinga. 

Photo credit: Pool

Due to this, Mr Odinga will be cautious on any dealings, well aware that going for any political cooperation with the Kenya Kwanza adminstration at this time is suicidal for Azimio.

Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua has already urged Kenyans to reject the Nadco report on grounds that it failed to address the most pressing issue of cost of living.

“The Nadco report has done nothing to alleviate the suffering of citizens, but offers goodies to the leaders. It is a fraud, which Kenyans should frown upon and reject. It is a distracting national smokescreen. The findings of the report confirm that the committee was formed by the unwilling, composed of the incompetent to do the unnecessary,” she said upon release of the report.

Another key coalition Democratic Action Party (DAP) leader Eugene Wamalwa has also opposed the report on the same grounds of failing to address the high cost of living. He snubbed the unveiling of the report and did not append his signature.

Although he has not come out publicly to voice his dissatisfaction, former President Uhuru Kenyatta is also reported to be against the report, which presents the former Premier with a headache on how to keep his political buddy close by convincing him on the good proposals contained in the document.

Although Mr Odinga agrees that the report failed to address the cost of living, he termed it unfinished and work in progress.

“We made what we believed were reasonable proposals on how to address the rising cost of living. But the government side flatly refused terming it their exclusive business and that they got the mandate of Kenyans to execute their Kenya Kwanza economic agenda,” Mr Odinga said.

Electoral reforms

However, he commended the Nadco recommendations on electoral justice, which entails audit of the 2022 election process, restructuring and reconstitution of the IEBC and an increase of the timelines for the Supreme Court to hear and determine a presidential election petition from 14 to 21 days.

Political analyst, Dr Samuel Mbutu, told the Sunday Nation that these are some of the toughest political moments for Odinga.

“On one hand, he wants to work with President Ruto and implement the Nadco report in a holistic manner, while on the other, he has his die-hard Azimio supporters led by Uhuru Kenyatta, Martha Karua, Eugene Wamalwa, who are not ready for any form of political engagement with President Ruto and the KK government,” Dr Mbutu said.

“His support base is totally opposed to any form of cooperation with the KK government. To date, the Azimio leader knows too well that a good number of his supporters have never accepted the fact that he lost in 2022 and ,therefore, Raila working with Ruto is the last thing they would wish to hear,” said the analyst.

Dr Mbutu pointed out that from the handshake experience, Mr Odinga Knows that in the last general elections, Kenya Kwanza brigade used his cooperation with Uhuru’s government to campaign against him and paid the ultimate price.

“He paid dearly for the sins of Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime. Should he agree to work with President Ruto, history is likely to repeat itself. His conscience will and cannot allow him to go that route once again,” Dr Mbutu said.

Odinga is also confronted with the 2027 Kalonzo Musyoka candidature factor, which, if not well handled, risks causing a rift within the coalition, and handing victory to President Ruto who will be defending his seat.

Kalonzo Musyoka: I would be stupid to support Raila again

During a recent interview with Nation, Mr Musyoka made it clear that he will not support Mr Odinga in 2027 polls “Giving up my presidential ambition would actually mean I go home. It is as simple as that. Think about that. What it means is that giving up my presidential ambition is not an option,” said the Wiper leader.

Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said there is no trouble in Azimio as they have a secret winning card to be unleashed ahead of the 2027 polls. “Those gentlemen (Raila and Kalonzo) will sit down and agree. We cannot leak our secret card now. The secret is between Raila, Kalonzo and Oparanya. So long as we remain united, we will win the 2027 elections,” Mr Maanzo said.

“Kalonzo has not said he will not support Raila, he has just said he will be on the ballot in 2027 and there is nothing wrong with that, so long as he can make Azimio the winner. We have tried with Raila but Central Kenya has rejected him, we cannot repeat that mistake again,” he said.

He termed the views expressed by Mr Wamalwa and Ms Karua on the Nadco report as personal opinions, noting that Parliament will have the final say on the document, and that Azimio will make its decision once the matter is on the floor.

“Some of the proposals contained in the report, such as on the leader of the official opposition, need a referendum, but President Ruto has made it clear that he does not want a referendum during his tenure, hence he must come and negotiate with us in the opposition,” Mr Maanzo said.

Back Kalonzo for presidency or we cut ties, Wavinya tells Raila

ODM chairman John Mbadi said all fights should not be left to Mr Odinga, adding that other leaders within the coalition are at liberty to call for protests if they are dissatisfied with the report

“Who said ‘maandamano’ can only be called by Raila? Any other leader can do. Let them lead the agitation so that we can get more,” Mr Mbadi said.

He said he supports Mr Odinga’s position on the report, and that the proposal on the electoral reforms was a major win for the opposition that cannot be ignored.

“We did not get all that we wanted because we were dealing with a very difficult leader who is the President, but we got something and just like Raila said, we cannot throw the baby with bath water,” Mr Mbadi said.

Raila: Why Kalonzo decided to support me for a third time

On the 2027 coalition candidate debate, Mbadi said the Azimio leadership will come up with a strong candidate that will send President Ruto home in 2027.

“Leadership is not given, one must come out and convince the people. In 2027, it will be a discussion just like the previous years. Each person will convince others why he is the best with evidence such as the numbers he is able to galvanise across the country, what he stands for and capacity to conduct a nationwide campaign,” Mr Mbadi said.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said the different opinion expressed by leaders in Azimio over the report is a strategy to bring the government back on board for further negotiation.