Raila Odinga allies ahead of 2022 elections
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Puzzle of Raila Odinga’s missing allies as new faces crop up to fill the void

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From right: Peter Kenneth, Alfred Mutua, Charity Ngilu,  Kivutha Kibwana and Wycliffe Oparanya on February 19, 2022. 

Photo credit: File

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s heightened political activities and calls for him to run again have turned the spotlight on the fate of key political allies who dominated the 2022 presidential campaigns but have been missing in action.

Mr Odinga was surrounded by political bigwigs from across the country, who had positioned themselves for possible appointments in key government positions.

But some abandoned the ODM leader immediately after he lost the election to President William Ruto, forcing him to prop up new faces in his inner circle.

The new faces have started yet another push to have Mr Odinga on the ballot in 2027, but have triggered debate on his isolation by key individuals who campaigned for him.

Out of eight politicians who contested to be Mr Odinga’s running mate in the race, only Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua and her Wiper counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka have remained active in Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition.

Azimio la Umoja leaders

Azimio la Umoja leaders (from left) Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ODM Party leader Raila Odinga and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua  when they held prayers at Jevanjee Gardens, Nairobi on February 22,2023. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

One-time presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho, Narc boss Charity Ngilu and Kanu chief Gideon Moi are some of those who have shunned Mr Odinga’s political activities following his loss. Their political stand is also not clear as some have been blowing hot and cold.

Nominated MP Sabina Chege who also wanted to be Mr Odinga’s running mate has officially ditched the coalition in support of the ruling alliance.

For Mr Kenneth, he has made it a trend to disappear from the public limelight after every election only to emerge months before the next poll. At one point he was seen as the front runner in being Mr Odinga’s running mate.

Some have openly declared support for Dr Ruto while others are still in Mr Odinga’s ODM and affiliate partner parties but have opted to shun his political activities, including his last year’s nationwide anti-government protests.

As reported exclusively in the Sunday Nation last week, National Assembly Minority Leader Junet Mohammed has since been served with a show cause letter over his “continued absence” from party activities. He was one of the closest allies of Mr Odinga and literally ran his campaigns.

Some of Mr Odinga’s allies yesterday labelled those who have ditched him as pretenders and opportunists who only joined the camp for personal benefits. They say Kenyans should call them out for their dishonesty.

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya — without mentioning names — said some of the individuals who have abandoned Mr Odinga are business people who cannot play opposition politics. He described them as opportunists, who only joined Mr Odinga’s campaigns for personal benefits like appointments.

“Some of these people are just opportunists. When they realise there is no opportunity for them, they leave. Some of them are in business and cannot survive by playing opposition politics,” said Mr Oparanya.

He added: “From the activities we are having, they are likely to come back because even the other side cannot entertain that behaviour. When real politics start, we will get new faces and some of them will also come back.”

Raila warns against early campaigns

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni told the Sunday Nation that the majority of Jubilee politicians crossed over immediately after Mr Odinga lost. He said he remains the only one active in Azimio politics. Jubilee Vice- Chairman David Murathe has also been making once-in-a-while appearances.

Ms Chege, East Africa Legislative Assembly MP Kanini Kega, Eldas MP Aden Keynan and former nominated MP Maina Kamanda have all ditched Mr Odinga.

Mr Kioni said the politicians never believed in Mr Odinga and only backed him because he had good chance of succeeding former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“We had people in our team who were very loud but when they realised there were no opportunities for them, they became cosy with UDA. They don’t believe in Azimio,” said Mr Kioni.

“It should help Kenyans to know who really believes in their course. How many people lined up with us but abandoned mzee (Raila) the moment we lost the election. These were pretenders. They did not believe in Azimio. They did not believe in Uhuru; they were only there because they thought Uhuru would transfer power to them,” he said.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said the exit of the political cons has given opportunity to new faces around Mr Odinga. He said the party was aggressively recruiting new members and will soon attract new allies to join forces with the former premier.

Raila Odinga

ODM party leader Raila Odinga (left) confers with his deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya during ODM National Governing Council meeting held in Nairobi on March 1, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“He is recruiting new members into the party as a way of strengthening ODM. We should not be worried about those who are not with him. Those who have joined Ruto have no ideology. They are in politics for self-interests,” said Mr Osotsi.

In Rift Valley, apart from Mr Moi, Mr Odinga was surrounded by other political heavyweights, who have since taken a backseat.

Former Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat, former governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), David Nkedienye (Kajiado), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Moi- era Head of Public Service Dr Sally Kosgei have all abandoned Mr Odinga. Others are Kajiado Central MP Memusi Kanchory, Kenya Copyright Board boss Joshua Kutuny, as well as MPs Samuel Arama (Nakuru West), Sarah Korere (Laikipia North) and William Kamket (Tiaty).

Mr Salat said some of them ditched Mr Odinga after he bungled his election by surrounding himself with people who could not help him. He said Mr Odinga has no chance of beating Dr Ruto in the next poll.

“Ruto knew what he wanted and picked the right people to do the work. Raila has no chance in the next election and people have to move on and pursue other paths,” said Mr Salat.

George Wajackoyah, Eugene Wamalwa, Jeremiah Kioni and Azimio leader Raila Odinga

From left: George Wajackoyah, Eugene Wamalwa, Jeremiah Kioni and Azimio leader Raila Odinga at a town hall meeting in Murang'a County on April 20, 2023. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Political analyst of university lecturer Macharia Munene says it is a good move to take a backseat and strategise for the next contest. Prof Munene notes that some of the players are in business and cannot afford to antagonise the government.

“I can see they are intelligent people. They have no reason to continue spending resources and time on activities that have no meaningful results,” he said.

“People like Peter Kenneth have done this after every election, which is very normal. Gideon Moi has business interests to protect,” he adds.

In his own Nyanza backyard, some of Mr Odinga’s MPs have rebelled against him and declared support for Dr Ruto, further exposing him to a ruthless political onslaught by the ruling coalition.

MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Paul Abuor (Rongo), Phelix Odiwuor alias Jalang'o (Lang’ata) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda continue to defy the ODM leader.

Mr Odinga, has, however, retained some of his foot soldiers. In his corner are Ms Karua, Mr Musyoka, Democratic Action Party - Kenya (DAP-K) leader Eugene Wamalwa, Mr Oparanya, Mr Kioni, ODM chairman John Mbadi, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi and ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna.

Others are former Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria, 2022 presidential candidate George Wajackoya, Kitui Senator Enock Wambua among others.

In an earlier interview, Mr Sifuna said that politicians with no values always get swayed to join the government side for purposes of personal benefits.

He said individuals who are always pursuing business opportunities with the government find it difficult to challenge its excesses for fear of losing out on business deals. Some, he said, have crossed over for protection purposes since they are engaged in questionable deals.

“People are doing business with this government. Others pursue undisclosed personal interests which would be jeopardized if they were seen at the front of the agitation. Those like me who are always at the front have nothing to gain personally from the regime and therefore nothing to lose for standing up for what we believe,” said Mr Sifuna.

He added, “If you are motivated by principle and conviction then you stay whether it rains or shines. If your personal ambition and advancement is the motivation, then you will sway with the wind.”