ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday revealed details of a pact with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that would have paved the way for the CS to become a compromise presidential candidate.
Speaking in Nyamira yesterday, Mr Odinga said they had settled on Dr Matiang’i as a compromise candidate for the 2022 elections but changed their strategy after “surveying the country’s political landscape”.
“We discussed how things should be and at one time I said I am ready to support Dr Fred Matiang’i for the top seat. But when we later on did a review, to look at how the forest was looking like, he said that I should actually go to the forest first... But we are together, every step we have taken, we have taken after consultations,” said Mr Odinga.
Dr Matiang’i has been fronted as a potential presidential candidate since his elevation as the coordinator of government to replace Deputy President William Ruto, who has since fallen out with his boss President Kenyatta.
In the meeting yesterday, Dr Matiang’i and Mr Odinga detailed their plans for the 2022 General Election and how they plan to unite the country and beat Dr Ruto at the ballot.
It was also at the meeting that the ODM leader publicly announced that he has buried the hatchet with the CS and promised to work with him. An emotional Mr Odinga cut short his speech before calling Dr Matiang’i for a symbolic handshake.
“This way, we will be able to remove the hyenas from the forest,” he said in reference to working with the Interior CS.
The former Prime Minister poured praise on Dr Matiang’i, whom he referred to as his younger brother.
“He is a very hardworking minister and one who believes in Kenya and Nyanza as well. He knows his work well and is not a coward,” said Mr Odinga.
Dr Matiang’i hosted Mr Odinga and other leaders at Mwongori Secondary School for a fundraiser in aid of the school’s development.
The ODM leader and the CS were at loggerheads before and after the 2017 General Election over the manner in which Dr Matiang’i, in his capacity as the head of the country’s security docket, handled opposition leaders and their supporters.
The same was replicated during the recent Bonchari by-election where ODM’s candidate won.
But yesterday, Dr Matiang’i said he will support handshake between Mr Odinga and the President.
“I did not expect this. I did not know what the CS was planning and had planned to say in this forum. This is emotional,” Mr Odinga said.
During the event, Mr Odinga also brought together Dr Matiang’i and Kisii Governor James Ongwae, noting that he will work with the two sons of Gusii.
The two have had an on-and-off relationship due to their different political inclinations.
“We are going to walk together with Fred. Another son of Gusii we have walked with is Mr Ongwae, I will walk with both of them,” Mr Odinga declared.
During the meeting, Dr Matiang’i also received the endorsement of his community to lead negotiations on their behalf.
As they lifted their hands up, hundreds of residents who had attended the funds drive gave the CS the mandate to be their spokesperson and their link between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
Cabinet Secretaries Mutahi Kagwe (Health) and Eugene Wamwala (Defence), Health PS Susan Mochache, Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure, Solicitor-General Ken Ogeto and several other top government officials attended the event.
Nyamira Governor Amos Nyaribo and Senator Okong'o Omogeni and Woman Rep Jerusha Momanyi, and MPs Junet Mohamed (Suna East), Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South), Ben Momanyi (Borabu), Jimmy Angweny (Kitutu Chache North) and Simba Arati (Dagoretti North) were also present.
Dr Matiang’i used the occasion to thank the President for the opportunity he has given him to serve Kenyans.
“The President and Mr Odinga shook hands and that is where the country is. I have sat with Mr Odinga many times and I mean exactly that,” he said as he sought the blessings of his community to continue sitting in between the two Handshake partners.
In an emotional appeal to his Gusii community, the Interior CS said he will not take his community astray by swaying them away from the President and Mr Odinga.
“People should stop threatening us that we will see dust. When real politics start, we will go to the village and look for support. Our votes will speak,” said Dr Matiang’i, in an apparent attack on the DP Ruto.
He said the President and Mr Odinga are in the hearts and minds of the Gusii people and that is where the majority of Kenyans are.
“You must be a mad man to go where people are running from. You should be where other Kenyans are, “ said the CS.
Mr Kagwe and Mr Wamalwa stressed the fact that as ministers, they were appointed to assist the President and that they are right behind him.
“As the President’s humble servants, we are supporting the Handshake, “ said Mr Wamalwa.
On his part, Mr Kagwe said that the Mt kenya region will not forget the sacrifices made by the Odingas.
“Any time you want this nation to move forward and prosper, Mt Kenya and Nyanza must unite,” said the Health CS, noting that the co-operation and unity between the two regions must continue.
Mr Ogeto, Ms Mochache and Mr Obure said the Interior CS is the best boss they have ever had and one of the best ministers the country has ever had.
Mr Ogeto commended Mr Odinga for the sacrifices he has made for this country, noting that it is now time for him to be rewarded.
Governors Ongwae and Nyaribo asked the Gusii community to register as voters, noting that numbers will be key when the community leaders are at the negotiating table.
On Dr Matiang’i, Mr Nyaribo noted:
“He represents both Kisii and Nyamira and we have asked him to be very close to you (Mr Odinga).”
Mr Momanyi, the host MP, said the Gusii community is behind Dr Matiang’i and noted that there will be no meaningful negotiations on behalf of the community without the CS.
Mr Mohamed praised Dr Matiang’i for quickly understanding and adapting to the new formation after President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s Handshake.
“Our country needs peace. Wheelbarrows cannot help the country’s economy, people need real solutions on how to improve their economy. The real meaning of bottom-up is stealing from common Kenyans,” said Mr Mohamed.
Ms Momanyi urged Mr Odinga to work with Dr Matiang’i, noting that the CS has already given the community direction and they will heed to his call, while Mr Arati and Mr Onyonka said they recognise the CS as their leader and asked the Former Prime Minister to work closely with him, even as he remembers governor Ongwae in his government.