Fifth time unlucky as Raila Odinga’s bid fails

Azimio la Umoja Coalition leader Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga who lost the presidential petition he filed against President-elect William Ruto.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the declaration of William Ruto as the President-elect has shattered Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga’s dreams, marking a possible end to his four-decade political stint.

The dismissal of the case by the seven-judge bench led by Chief Justice Martha Koome Monday marked an anti-climax wrap up to Mr Odinga’s ambition of becoming the country’s president, despite his political wherewithal and acumen.

The 77-year-old politician, however, Monday moved to assure Kenyans of his commitment, going into the future, to plans to continue “our struggle for transparency, accountability and democracy”.

“We have taken note of the decision of the Supreme Court on the Presidential election held on August 9th, 2022. We have always stood for the rule of law and the constitution. In this regard, we respect the opinion of the court although we vehemently disagree with their decision,” Mr Odinga said in a statement yesterday.

Unlike in his past four stabs at the top seat in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 when he put up a spirited fight against the governments of the day, the 2022 election was a new dawn for the country’s longest serving opposition leader as he had the state’s backing, putting him at a vantage point to clinch the seat.

However, political analysts have given varied opinions on Mr Odinga’s dalliance with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, with some pointing out that it may have eroded his credentials as a peoples’ voice and set him up as a “State Project.”

Downtrodden citizens

Styling himself as a “Hustler,” Dr Ruto successfully captured the attention of the country’s downtrodden citizens across communities, as he waged a war against the “dynasties” – wealthy families of former presidents and vice-president.

In his statement Monday, Mr Odinga took issue with the judges’ pronouncements.

“Our lawyers proffered irrefutable evidence and the facts were on our side, unfortunately the judges saw it otherwise. We find it incredible that the judges found against us on all nine grounds and (on) occasion resulted (sic) to unduly exaggerated language to refute our claims. This judgement is by no means the end of our movement, in fact it inspires us to redouble our efforts to transform this country into a prosperous democracy where each and every Kenyan can find their full belonging,” Mr Odinga said.

The ODM leader who ran for the top seat alongside Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate also lauded Azimio supporters for standing with the party.

Born on January 7, 1945 to the country’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Mr Odinga, served as MP for Lang’ata between 1992 and 2013. He first won the Lang’ata seat on a Ford Kenya ticket before he retained it on a National Development Party ticket in 1997, National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in 2002 and ODM in 2007.

The Azimio leader also served as Prime Minister of Kenya between 2008 and 2013 following the peace accord he signed with former President Mwai Kibaki after the disputed 2007 elections.

Mr Odinga’s political journey has however, been full of ups and downs, but on many occasions he has, like the proverbial phoenix, risen from the ashes and continued with the fight.

The ODM leader suffered detention for a record nine years and had been linked to the 1982 coup alongside his late father. Mr Odinga was accused of treason, and though the charge was later dropped, he spent much of the next decade in detention. His father was placed under house arrest.

Even though he said yesterday’s judgment is by no means the end of their movement, political analysts say the probability of Dr Ruto serving two terms is “extremely high”.

Nurture talent

“In this scenario, Raila may say bye to competitive politics and nurture talent. Beating an incumbent in Kenya is a tall order,” argued Mr Dismas Mokua.

Azimio, he asserted, may disintegrate “because there will be no glue holding the coalition together.”

Even though the presidency now seems to be a forgone case for the ODM leader, his achievements in the fight for democratic space and second liberation will continue to stand out, according to his supporters.

Mr Odinga and Ms Karua were instrumental in the fight for the introduction of multiparty politics in the country.

He is also celebrated with playing a major role in the enactment of the progressive 2010 constitution.