ODM leader Raila Odinga hosts his allies for a three-day retreat, as from today, even as he assembles a new inner circle to accommodate President Kenyatta’s team that is backing his presidential campaign.
Mr Odinga is walking a new political path, cobbling together a fresh team of strategists that includes members of the ruling party, who have allied themselves to President Kenyatta, who reportedly prefers his candidacy over that of his rebel deputy, William Ruto.
The ODM boss has invited his close associates for the meeting that ends on Saturday at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha.
One of the invitees told the Nation that although the meeting agenda wasn’t indicated in the invitation letter, it’s widely expected the forum will discuss Mr Odinga’s official declaration, later this month, to run for the presidency.
Mr Odinga is set to unveil his elections secretariat, which insiders say will include politicians, academicians, civil society actors, church leaders, career civil servants, women and youth representatives to drive his campaign.
Yesterday, the ODM leader disclosed he would announce his decision after conclusion of his nationwide meetings dubbed Azimio la Umoja (unity proclamation) at the end of the month.
“I’ve not decided if I’ll vie. Currently, I’m consulting with Kenyans and when I conclude it, that’s when I’ll make a decision. I’m remaining with around four areas then I’m done and then I’ll declare my decision,” Mr Odinga said in an interview with five Kalenjin radio stations yesterday.
“Next week, we will be in Turkana, then Eldoret where we will bring together delegates from West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties,” Mr Odinga said.
He added: “Then Nakuru, which will bring together Kericho, Bomet and Nakuru counties, followed by Meru forum for Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi. Then Ukambani and thereafter, we will be in Mount Kenya West and finish it in Nairobi. All these have to be completed in October,” Mr Odinga disclosed.
Yesterday, ODM national chairman John Mbadi said they were keen on assembling a formidable campaign team consisting of all ODM partners.
“We’re in this together. Obviously ODM is the mother party of Raila Odinga, but we’re alive to the fact that we’ve gained new friends and we need them probably even much more than we need some of us,” Mr Mbadi told the Nation.
“We will make sure they have space in this presidential quest. So there is discussion around who should perform what role,” he added.
Already, Mr Odinga has identified politicians — mostly governors — who are driving his agenda. He has also tapped on some university dons to help formulate policies.
Governors James Ongwae (Kisii), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) are among those visible in championing his cause.
Mr Ongwae, a career civil servant who headed Mr Odinga’s campaigns secretariat in 2007, has been involved in crafting key policies especially on his dream civil service.
On Prof Nyong’o, a highly placed source said: “He was very central in drafting Raila’s healthcare agenda.”
Besides political mobilisation, sources said Mr Muriithi and Mr Oparanya will be valuable in crafting economic strategies.
Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju and ruling party vice-chairman David Murathe have participated in pre-election coalition talks with ODM and have openly backed Mr Odinga’s presidential bid.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, CAS Rachel Shebesh and Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu are among others working to market Mr Odinga’s candidature in Mt Kenya.
Mr Kega yesterday said Mr Odinga will be consulting all the stakeholders in his team for advice and execution of his campaign programmes. “It’s now not just their party affair. He (Raila) is now owned by all of us. So there has to be more consultations,” Mr Kega told the Nation.
Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia, Mt Kenya Foundation vice-chairman Titus Ibui, civil society activist John Githongo and former administrator Joseph Kaguthi are also in Mr Odinga’s inner circle.
“Some of the people, including university dons, are consulted on a need basis and are yet to be put in permanent roles,” a source in Mr Odinga’s camp said.
“By next week, there will be a sitting secretariat — the team driving his agenda,” added the source, who also disclosed ODM’s Likoni MP Mishi Mboko is among women leaders leading the campaigns.
Today, Mr Odinga is expected to open the Naivasha retreat and then break tomorrow for an event in Vihiga County. He will then return to Naivasha for the meeting, which ends on Saturday.
Additional reporting by Onyango K'onyango