Raila Odinga now takes over Uhuru Kenyatta poll machine

Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga during the coalition's National Delegates Conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi on March 12, 2022.

Photo credit: PSCU

ODM leader Raila Odinga has inherited President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign strategists and online influencers, handing him a timely boost less than five months to the August 9 election.

The Azimio la Umoja presidential nominee has received President Kenyatta’s public endorsement, which comes with other benefits like huge campaign resources and potential inheritance of a section of the president’s voting base.

The robust Jubilee political machinery of strategists and advisors includes individuals who have held powerful positions in the previous regimes, most who work behind the scenes to shape public opinion and sway voters’ sentiments.

Some of Mr Odinga’s new campaign strategists accompanied him in his tour of the United Kingdom, and actively publicised his engagements.

Ms Nancy Gitau, a veteran political strategist who has advised former President Mwai Kibaki and currently Mr Kenyatta, is now a key cog in Mr Odinga’s campaign team. Ms Gitau rarely takes media interviews, but prefers to work behind the scenes.

She does not hold an official government position, but her prowess in political strategy has seen her transcend regime changes and strut the corridors of power for nearly two decades.

Devised political strategies

She operates from Gigiri, in Nairobi, where she has lately been crafting the president’s succession agenda. Under the Kibaki presidency, she devised political strategies that the former Head of State used to counter the opposition both in his first and second terms. Ms Gitau was one of the coordinators of Mr Kenyatta's presidential elections in 2013 and 2017.

Though it appears to operate in isolation and could be difficult to associate it with any government agency, a communication unit led by Alfred Getonga, a one-time aide of former President Kibaki, has been responsible for synthesising and disseminating information during President Kenyatta’s two terms in office. The unit has now taken a new role of advancing and messaging the Azimio agenda.

Uhuru Kenyatta's full speech at Azimio la Umoja NDC

The 2017 Jubilee party social media lead, Ms Pauline Njoroge, is also now an integral part of Mr Odinga’s campaign team. She is among those who accompanied him in his tour of the United Kingdom.

Ms Njoroge previously served as the communication manager of President Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA). Political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi, widely known for his ‘tyranny of numbers’ phrase in 2013, is also another strategist who is working behind the scenes for an Azimio power takeover.

Mr Ngunyi, who is based at State House Nairobi, often accompanies the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) officials on inspection tours of government projects.

Fiercest rival

He has become a fierce critic of Deputy President William Ruto, Mr Odinga’s main opponent in the August presidential poll.

“Dear Kikuyus, I do not see how UDA (DP Ruto’s political party) will beat Azimio. You will cry and gnash your teeth when the truth is revealed,” he tweeted last week.

President Kenyatta has come out strongly to campaign for his once fiercest rival, Mr Odinga.

Jubilee deputy secretary general and Cherang’any MP Joshua Kutuny yesterday told the Saturday Nation that the President is central to initiatives aimed at catapulting Mr Odinga to State House.