Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga faces a tough political battle amid increasing isolation by allies and rivalry within his party ahead of 2022.
The declaration on Tuesday by fellow National Super Alliance (Nasa) principals that they will decamp to the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) seemed to rebuff ODM’s offer for talks on sharing of party funds to salvage Nasa.
Meanwhile, power struggle in the ruling party seems to have slowed down pre-election coalition talks between Jubilee and ODM, although Orange party officials say they have given their partners time to put their house in order.
Stalled the process
Deputy President William Ruto’s camp portrayed the coalition talks as a planned merger, forcing President Kenyatta’s allies to dispute the characterisation during campaigns for the Kiambaa parliamentary by-election, which Jubilee lost by some 400 votes.
Within ODM, Mr Odinga has been ambivalent about a fifth stab at the presidency, although the party stalled the process to pick its flag-bearer after deputy party leaders Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya submitted applications.
Lately, Mr Odinga has been publicising snippets of what appears to be his campaign manifesto and the party has summoned a meeting of its top organ with the fate of the presidential nominations among the agenda.
An ODM National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting was initially planned for today, but was pushed to next Thursday due to Mr Odinga’s engagements in Coast where Mr Kenyatta is on a three-day visit.
ODM’s director of elections and campaigns Junet Mohamed said the meeting will discuss the matter of the presidential candidate.
Withdraw their bids
Reports suggest Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya are being asked to withdraw their bids, although the Mombasa governor recently stated he would not stand in the way of what seems the former prime minister’s best chance at the presidency given President Kenyatta’s apparent support.
At a meeting Mr Odinga attended, ODM leaders led by Kilifi Senator Steward Madzayo, urged the two governors to drop their presidential ambitions in favour of the Orange leader.
However, while it’s easy to navigate ODM’s internal politics, Mr Odinga’s dilemma is how to appease his fellow Nasa principals — Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Moses Wetang’ula.
The three have teamed up with Kanu’s Gideon Moi in OKA but, while the Baringo Senator has warmed up to the ODM leader (Kanu is also reluctant to withdraw from a post-poll coalition agreement with Jubilee) the Nasa principals are more antagonistic.
While Kanu is inviting Mr Odinga to join OKA unconditionally, Mr Mudavadi, Mr Musyoka and Mr Wetang’ula say he is only welcome on condition that he accepts that all partners are equal and shelves his presidential bid.
President Kenyatta has reportedly attempted to mediate the divisions among Nasa leaders but a senior Jubilee figure said he was running out of patience.
Faced with the reality that Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi are unlikely to return to his camp, Mr Odinga is reportedly keen on ensuring that Mr Oparanya is firmly on his side, and has also reached out to former MP Paul Otuoma.
The Kakamega governor and Mr Joho joined Mr Odinga in one of the campaign stops at the coast this week.
Incidentally, Mr Odinga’s close allies, who had attacked Mr Oparanya, questioning his loyalty, have lately gone quiet. Mr Odinga’s recent decision to accompany the President on a tour of Ukambani, which enraged Mr Musyoka, was viewed as taking the fight to the former vice-president’s doorstep.
The Musyoka camp has accused Mr Odinga of fuelling the war governors Charity Ngilu, Alfred Mutua and Kivutha Kibwana have constantly waged against the Wiper boss.
The Odinga camp is also confident that his improved ties with Mr Moi is helping their cause, and Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat’s declaration yesterday that the independence party wont terminate the pact with Jubilee just yet serves their interest.
Wednesday, Odinga allies said OKA leaders were in no position to issue ultimatums. “We’re not saying we don’t need them. Kura hata moja ni muhimu (every single vote counts). But they are not equals with Raila. We can discuss equity but not equality,” ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said.
In a bid to court new allies and counter the perceived hostility to his presidential candidature in Mt Kenya, Mr Odinga yesterday hosted Central MPs allied to President Kenyatta in Mombasa.
“Began the day with a working breakfast meeting in Mombasa with Central Kenya MPs,” Mr Odinga tweeted yesterday.
He posted a photo in which he had posed with the legislators, including National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri), Kanini Kega (Kieni), Peter Mwathi (Limuru), Maina Kamanda (nominated), Jude Njomo (Kiambu) and former Nairobi woman rep Rachel Shebesh.