Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga arrives at Kasarani Stadium on December 10, 2021for the Azimio la Umoja convention where he declared he will vie for the presidency in the 2022 elections.

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Raila Odinga’s big show as he declares 2022 bid

ODM leader Raila Odinga on Friday declared that he will run for the presidency – his fifth attempt – in next year's polls in what could shape up to be his most-definitive bid for the country’s top job.

Buoyed by huge crowds, political allies, at least five Cabinet secretaries and security apparatus in tow that would ordinarily only accompany an incumbent defending his seat, Mr Odinga expressed hope that finally, he would win the seat that has eluded him in various circumstances since his first attempt in 1997.

The declaration that he is going for the top seat next year ended four years of speculation that has characterised his politics since the March 9, 2018 handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He made the declaration at a fully packed, 60,000-seater Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi. This was witnessed by seven Cabinet secretaries, a host of chief administrative secretaries, principal secretaries and 21 governors in what was the boldest show of might ever by the former prime minister. The attendance could have been more than 60,000 as more people took their places on the grass.

While unveiling his bid, Mr Odinga announced that his manifesto will be pegged on a 10-point agenda he described as “People’s Programme” even as he also launched the Azimio la Umoja Movement, an umbrella organisation that will be a coalition of all political parties that support his fifth stab at the presidency.

“Having been faithful and committed to building a national, democratic and progressive Kenya in our lifetime, having worked with many patriotic Kenyans to achieve this goal, I do hereby accept to present myself as a presidential candidate in the August 9, 2022 General Election,” Mr Odinga declared, serenaded by his band of loyal, adoring and fanatical supporters, some who had arrived at the venue  in the wee hours of Friday.

 Azimio la Umoja convention

Orange Democratic Movement supporters dance at Kasarani Stadium ahead of Azimio la Umoja convention on December 10, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The programme will involve “Inua Jamii, Pesa Mfukoni, BabaCare and Kazi Kwa Wote”, which is about securing the welfare of the people by generating avenues for productivity, through job creation programmes and “Uchumi kwa Akina Mama”, which will focus on women who are the true multipliers of wealth.

Others are “Hashtag Inawezekana” which will focus on the youth, “Waste not a Single Child” which will focus on education for all and “Fukuza Njaa”, “Maji kwa Kila Boma” and “One County, One Product”.

The tenth point is what he called the “Principle of Administrative Continuity”, which indicated that he wanted to carry on with President Kenyatta’s programmes.

“By continuity, I mean building and improving on the gains that have been made by the administrations that came before,” he said.

Mr Odinga sought to bask in the glory of his past struggles for a democratic Kenya that saw him arrested and detained without trials for close to nine years by the Moi state, using his speech to pay homage to those who also fought the second liberation.

Thousands of Raila Odinga supporters flock to Kasarani Stadium

“I stand here a proud son of Kenya, a liberation fighter and servant of the people for the last 50 years. I boldly declare that I am neither repentant nor regretful of my own experience in the fight for a liberated Kenya. I bear my physical and psychological scars with pride. This is because my country was worth it then; and is worth it now,” he said.

He paid homage to all those who were with him in the struggle, those who have gone, the fallen heroes of the second liberation that include Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia. Other fallen compatriots are George Anyona, Jean Marie Seroney, Martin Shikuku, Mukaru Ng’ang’a, Oki Ooko Ombaka and Wangari Maathai.

Azimio la umoja

Supporters of ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kasarani Stadium during Azimio la Umoja convention on December 10, 2021

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

He also paid homage to others he described as audacious martyrs who, for the sake of the people, chose constant crucifixion over the relative comfort of conceding to repression.

“I hold the deepest respect to living icons like Mukami wa Kimathi, wife of Dedan Kimathi, Ngugi wa Thiongo, whose powerful written work enriched the ideologies of the struggle against the one party regime; Koigi wa Wamwere and Dr Willy Mutunga,” he said.

As expected, three of the five One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals skipped the event. Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula did not show up as they had promised.

Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and United Democratic Party Leader Cyrus Jirongo ignored the calls by their OKA colleagues and attended in show of support of Mr Odinga’s bid.

While Mr Moi said that he has shown up to repay the debt after Mr Odinga attended Kanu’s NDC that endorsed him to contest for the 2022 presidential race, Mr Jirongo said he attended because he had faith in Mr Odinga’s capacity to take over from President Kenyatta and lead Kenya on the path of reform.

However, it was Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli who stirred the hornet’s nest after he challenged Mr Moi not to go back to OKA.

“On his deathbed, the former President Moi told us not to abandon you. I thank you for coming. But we are not going to leave you to go back to OKA. We shall not,” he charged.

But the younger Moi downplayed the challenge, reminding Mr Atwoli that both Mr Odinga, and all those present yesterday are part of what he described as “allied forces”.

“We, both OKA and ODM, are one thing. Baba’s gain is our gain and our gain is also Baba’s,” he assured Mr Atwoli.

“We know our problem is a moving target. But time will come when it will slow down and all of us will aim our artillery towards it,” he said.

Mr Odinga said he had decided to throw his hat in the ring following the request and unanimous decision made by his supporters during the Azimio la Umoja conventions that started soon after the Court of Appeal nullified the BBI-propelled Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Azimio la Umoja convention

Supporters of ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kasarani Stadium during Azimio la Umoja convention on December 10, 2021

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Mr Odinga also announced the formation of the Azimio la Umoja Movement, an umbrella body that will bring together all the political parties that are supportive of his bid.

“After getting the endorsement of the people of Kenya through the Azimio la Umoja consultative forums, I want to confirm that I will be in the 2022 presidential race,” the former Prime Minister declared, pointing that in entering the race, he is not in it for a personal fight with any candidate, including his main rival for the job, Deputy President William Ruto.

Much as it was Mr Odinga’s big day, businessman SK Macharia, the proprietor of Royal Media Services, was the man who stole the show when he petrified the country with two video clips he played to the gathering.

Taking to the podium, complete with a prepared speech, SK told the gathering that his motive was to show the nation the sacrifice the Odingas have made to make Kenya a truly democratic state.

He played two video clips, both touching on Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The first video was the famous one in which Jaramogi refused to form the government after the 1961 elections until Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was released from prison.

Azimio la Umoja

Supporters of ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kasarani Stadium during Azimio la Umoja convention on December 10, 2021. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

The second clip was an interview Mr Jaramogi conducted with a British press in which he defended Mr Kenyatta as the only elected leader who was above all else.

“Mr Odinga is a true son of his father,” he said, “He has lived a life of selfless struggle for a better Kenya.”

“Jaramogi said Tosha in the 1960s. Mr Odinga said Kibaki Tosha. Guided by these simple truths, I declare Mr Odinga Tosha,” he said.

Legal scholar and human rights activist Prof Makau Mutua, who had flown in from the US, also endorsed Mr Odinga whom he described as a personal friend and political soulmate.

While hailing Mr Odinga for sacrificing his youth for a better Kenya, Prof Mutua took a public undertaking to expend all his energies and resources in ensuring that Mr Odinga is elected the next president.

Long before Mr Odinga arrived at the venue, the stadium was primed to receive him as the chief guest – but it also braced for the trouble that would come with hosting an event of such a magnitude.

And the police were taking no chances. They screened everyone that went through the gate.

In the early morning hours, squads danced to beats by local musicians. Most people seemed cheerful. By Friday morning, people were already squeezed in the terraces as the stadium witnessed more arrivals.

Azimio la Umoja convention

Supporters of ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kasarani Stadium during Azimio la Umoja convention on December 10, 2021

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

In numbers, his followers thronged the stadium, ticking all the boxes of a people that heed the call to come in numbers. Some, the Nation, understood, held vigil overnight.

Mr Odinga memorabilia was all over: pins and T-shirts, wrist bands and placards, with the big man’s smiling face on them.

From as far as 10 kilometres, one could smell the aura of excitement that was the sports stadium. From the chaotic vibe to pro-Raila chants that rented what would have otherwise been the near-stoic silence of the stadium, not even the cold weather in the morning hours could dampen the mood.

Everything else appeared to be on halt. But time.

The track field witnessed a frenzy of activities before his arrival. Joyous fans danced from the terraces, benches and Russia. But nothing tickled the fans fancy quite like the clips of his convoy snaking the city that would occasionally beam through the big screens on the stadium.

A cheerful audience would grow more cheery, painting a picture of a people yearning to hear from the convener of the meeting.

At 12:18pm, the ODM party leader made his way into the stadium full of an audience brimming with excitement. With grandeur and majesty, and in a presidential fashion, like the president that he yearns to be, he would make a 10-minute lap of honour shortly after 12:20pm. During which “leo ni leo” beat, loosely translated to “it’s the D-day” blared from the speakers.

The audience were cock-a-hoop at his arrival. He waved to them from atop the sunroof of his SUV.

 Azimio la Umoja

Orange Democratic Movement supporters at Kasarani Stadium during Azimio la Umoja  convention on December 10, 2021.

Photo credit: Jeff angote | Nation Media Group

To a cheerful audience, he stretched his arms. To an audience waving placards, he waved back his flywhisk. Mama Ida would take the podium to introduce her husband and symbolically “release” him to pursue his quest for presidency and serve Kenyans.

Then she kissed him. Shortly after, former Speaker of Parliament Francis ole Kaparo took to the podium to lead a mock plenary session at the stadium, before Raila got up, with his hands held by two youths, male and female, as symbolic of the Biblical Moses, to whom, whenever his hands were held high, the Israelites could win all their wars.