Days after his party kick-started the process to formally withdraw from the now moribund Nasa coalition, ODM leader Raila Odinga is crafting a new political outfit that he will be unveiling at the end of August.
The line-up will have a mix of the young and the old as Mr Odinga, who is expected to announce his presidential bid any time this month, seeks to appeal to the younger voters, some of whom were born as recently as 2004, sources privy to the plan revealed.
“The summit that Jakom (Mr Odinga) is working on will have a youthful leader as one of the key principals,” an aide of the ODM leader who did not want to go on record said.
Reference to the “summit” rekindles memories of 2002/20003 when President Mwai Kibaki swept into power riding on the back of almost all opposition parties, whitewashing Kanu. Leaders of the affiliate parties made up the top decision-making organ, the Summit, which was later disbanded after President Kibaki and his inner sanctum decided to flex their muscles.
The ODM leader left no doubt last week that he has his eyes trained on a new arrangement post Nasa.
“The ODM Party NEC (National Executive Council) has resolved that the party formally exits the Nasa coalition. We shall now embark on a new, inclusive and futuristic political trajectory,” Mr Odinga said on Thursday.
The timing of the announcement, a year to the presidential elections, is the culmination of what we established is intense pressure Mr Odinga has come under from supporters and handlers who feel he is taking too long to declare his State House bid yet Deputy President William Ruto, considered his strongest challenger, has covered so much ground, even dictating the national political conversation. The Orange party and other senior politicians have been forced to react to the raging debate on the bottom-up economic model proposed by the DP Ruto.
The feeling in Chungwa House is that they should be the ones setting the agenda and not allow themselves to be boxed into a corner, only reacting to an opponent’s sentiments.
The Sunday Nation also learnt that ODM finally agreed to bolt out of the coalition that had Mr Odinga and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as the presidential candidate and running mate, respectively, in the last elections to pave the way for fresh negotiations with some of his old associates.
The major partners are already known to be party honchos, with a leading strategist disclosing that they have two coalition names and a catchphrase they hope will resonate with their support base. The party leaders will make a choice on which of the two names they should go for. Mr Odinga used Cord in 2013 and Nasa in the subsequent General Election.
The need to breathe fresh air in his camp saw a team rooting for the disbandment of Nasa carry the day during the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) last week.
The faction that was of the view that the alliance could be revived was outnumbered largely on grounds that the affiliated parties had also grown restive and were threatening to go their separate ways. There was, therefore, the danger of their leader being exposed to blackmail in trying to persuade his co-principals to stay on, another aide said. Earlier, the pro-Nasa wing got the party to agree to release part of the funds meant for political parties to the partners, a decision that is now under review.
Between now and the month’s end, when the former Prime Minister will be unveiling his new lineup, he will embark on nationwide consultations that largely target the strongholds of the new partners.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, Kisii Governor James Ongwae and his Homa Bay counterpart Cyprian Awiti will be playing host to the inaugural meeting next Friday in an approach Mr Odinga’s handlers say is a departure from the past coalitions.
The meeting will have representatives from six counties: Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay.
“This time we want partners who will come from the grassroots. All the past coalitions have been products of boardroom negotiations. We will be visiting all parts of the country to listen to issues that concern the people, the kind of political direction they want us to take and develop action points before we decide which way to go by the end of August,” Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, a very close ally of Mr Odinga, said. He promised a major announcement that would change the political landscape.
On Saturday, Kakamega Governor Wickliffe Oparanya and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa will host a similar gathering targeting all the counties that make up “Mulembe Nation”: Busia, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia.
Governor Oparanya and the CS are considered possible replacements for ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula who are also leading their troops out of Nasa.
Next will be Mombasa where Governor Hassan Joho is organising a grand fete meant to show that the Coast, which has cast its lot with Mr Odinga in the last three general elections, is still with him. Mr Joho is fully back into the fold of the former premier. Mr Joho was at some point seen as leading the region in a different political direction, at one point even meeting President Kenyatta without Mr Odinga in what those with information about the inside dealings suggested was part of efforts to create an alternative centre of power in the region away from ODM.
Mr Joho had a Damascus moment and is expected to partner with Mr Odinga as one of the regional kingpins. He will be working with others like gubernatorial hopeful Suleiman Shabhal, who recently defected from Jubilee Party.
Mr Joho’s Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi is yet to reconcile with Mr Odinga after he attempted to spearhead a break-away from the Orange party to create a Coast-based party. The mission is yet to gain traction.
Governor Kingi faults ODM for what he terms “failure to champion the interests of the Coast people” after Mr Odinga made a political truce with President Kenyatta in March 2018.
Once all the regions are covered, Nairobi will be the last stop. It is here that the declaration and presentation of the team will be made, tentatively on the last weekend of the month.
“These will not be ODM meetings, expect to see faces from other parties such as Jubilee and others,” Mr Mohamed said.
Running concurrently with the plan to unveil his 2022 partners is also the push to have old friends back to his camp since he is aware that to hit the magic number, 50 per cent plus one of the total votes cast, requires a “gather all and scatter none” strategy.
In the event that the political marriage with Mr Musyoka proves beyond redemption, Mr Odinga has already lined up other politicians from Ukambani. Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, who recently accompanied him to a public event in Murang’a are crucial fall-backs, not only to checkmate the former vice-president but to also ensure he keeps his footprint in the lower Eastern bloc.
A number of governors serving their second and final terms in office and supporting Mr Odinga’s bid to succeed President Kenyatta are featuring prominently in the team that hopes to cash in on the proposed changes to the Constitution to expand the Executive.
Murang’a governor Mwangi Wa Iria, another second-term governor, accompanied Mr Odinga to a meeting with Central Kenya musicians last week, a function organised by business magnate SK Macharia who is among billionaires from the Mountain rooting for a Raila presidency.
When he met Abagusii leaders on Friday, Mr Odinga charged the team led by Governor Ongwae to ensure the region is united for better bargaining power on the national front.
They may not admit it publicly, but in their power matrix, both Mr Odinga and DP Ruto are banking on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which seeks to amend the Constitution and create “a bigger cake” to ease coalition building.
The High Court stopped the BBI push and the case is before the Court of Appeal, with a ruling expected towards the end of this month.
In the event the BBI goes through, positions such as those of Prime Minister and two deputies, together with giving the President room to appoint some of Cabinet secretaries from Parliament, will be key in enticing politicians to support any particular coalition.
In the evening of the same day he hosted Dr Matiang’i and team, Mr Odinga hosted representatives of the Agikuyu business community operating in Nyama Kima, Nairobi at the 3D hotel, a session that saw him get first-hand information on the challenges they are facing and discussed ways of solving them.
The ODM leader is scouting for a Central Kenya politician who can appeal to a broader audience in a divided Mt Kenya region to earn considerable support at the ballot. Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo are some of the names being bandied as possible pillars of the new outfit from Central.
Interestingly, some of Mr Odinga’s harshest critics in the past from the region today think he fits the bill. They argue that other than the fact that he has mellowed with age as opposed to the firebrand he once was, his business acumen would work in the interests of the Mt Kenya region.
“Raila will be a transitional president. The country has a chance for a Mandela moment,” Mr Murathe said.
Mr Odinga and the Deputy President are all betting big on the Mt Kenya vote to become the fifth president. If the results of the recent by-elections are anything to go by, DP Ruto has a slight edge over him that could grow bigger or diminish depending on the kind of re-alignments the country witnesses ahead of the election day.
At the same time, Mr Odinga’s handlers are not ruling out the possibility of a reunion with one or two former co-principals in Nasa who are also disengaging from the union to strengthen their respective parties and a new grouping; One Kenya Alliance (OKA).
Last month, OKA held out an olive branch to Mr Odinga, asking him to join them as part of a larger coalition to block Dr Ruto’s march to State House.
“We are firmly in One Kenya Alliance together with my brother Kalonzo and others, but doors are wide open to accommodate more leaders. We want Raila and others to join us. We can’t afford to lock others out because everyone has a part to play in building the country,” the Baringo Senator Gideon Moi said.
Mr Odinga is also keen to fill the void left in Turkana County after Governor Josephat Nanok crossed over to the DP’s camp. Petroleum CS John Munyes is increasingly being seen as a possible replacement, even with suggestions that Mr Nanok could be making his way back.