ODM leader Raila Odinga.

ODM leader Raila Odinga. 

| Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Raila Odinga’s poisoned chalice as partners present him with dilemma

What you need to know:

  • The grand coalition that he’s cobbling together means Raila will have to please many leaders who are backing his bid.
  • Jubilee has demanded the running mate position and a share of government, making it difficult to satisfy other coalition partners.

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga will need Solomonic wisdom to accommodate competing interests in a coalition of heavyweights as he gears up for his fifth stab at the presidency.

The former Prime Minister has too many political bigwigs angling for positions should he form the next government that he could struggle to honour all promises. 

The grand coalition he is cobbling together means he will have to please many top politicians who have postponed their ambitions to rally behind him ahead of the August 9 General Election.

With the constitution stipulating the Cabinet consists of not fewer than 14 and not more than 21 Cabinet Secretaries, Mr Odinga especially would have a delicate balancing act to nominate CSs should he succeed to form the next government. 

This is because there’s expectation that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s support would mean his party will secure a portion of government appointments, a power sharing deal that is ring-fenced in law through a coalition agreement deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties. 

Backed by President Kenyatta, the Odinga camp has attracted senior figures in the Jubilee administration as well as second-term governors who have gone flat out to campaign for the Orange Democratic Movement boss.

Political commentator Martin Andati said accommodating the interests of all people in a super coalition would pose a serious challenge.

“Accommodation of all these people will be a real headache. To balance it, put a few of them in Cabinet, some as chief administrative secretaries and others as parastatal bosses,” he said.

Some of the Cabinet secretaries who have hit the ground for Mr Odinga are Peter Munya (Agriculture), Ukur Yatani (National Treasury), Eugene Wamalwa (Defence), Dr Fred Matiang’i (Interior Cabinet), Joe Mucheru (ICT), Keriako Tobiko (Environment), Mutahi Kagwe (Health), James Macharia (Transport) and Raphael Tuju (without portfolio).

Mr Munya and Mr Yatani shelved their political ambitions in Meru and Marsabit counties, respectively, in what many see as part of a negotiation for their placement in the next government. 

Before the March 2018 ‘handshake’, the CSs used to attack Mr Odinga, but have now trained their guns on Deputy President William Ruto – the common political enemy.

In case One Kenya Alliance leaders – Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu’s Gideon Moi, Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua and United Democratic Party’s Cyrus Jirongo – join Azimio, things will be tougher for Mr Odinga.

Jubilee has demanded the running mate position and a share of government, making it difficult to satisfy other coalition partners as well as key ODM loyalists, especially with President Kenyatta set to stay on as party leader to guarantee the coalition deal. 

There are also second-term governors who have decided to put aside their political ambitions to campaign for the former Prime Minister. Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya and Mombasa’s Hassan Ali Joho – who both deputise Mr Odinga in ODM – stepped down for their boss.

Some of the retiring county chiefs have formed political parties to up their bargaining power in Azimio la Umoja, complicating Mr Odinga’s dilemma.

Other governors supporting Mr Odinga are Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Ali Roba (Mandera), Martin Wambora (Embu), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo-Marakwet), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay) and James Ongwae (Kisii). 

“If you look at the appointments to be made, there are too many and these people are few. Secondly, it is not a must that they must be appointed. They can do other things,” said Mr Oparanya.

“We must, however, cater for their interests. That’s why Jubilee created CASs to reward those who had failed in the election,” he added. 

The CAS position was formed by President Kenyatta to accommodate 2017 poll losers.

It was, however, nullified by the courts, which gave the Jubilee administration a year to streamline the process of their appointment. 

ODM national chairman John Mbadi said it’s too early to talk about how Mr Odinga’s administration would look like.

“This country needs good governance and it is on that basis that CSs and second-term governors have come out to support Raila. He wants competent people in his administration. We want a functioning government. He will have a free hand to choose who the best people are, not necessarily those in the political forefront,” said Mr Mbadi. 

“Some of these people have worked well but it will be Raila’s discretion to retain them or not. There are other positions, not necessarily in the Cabinet. We will have executives of various parastatals, ambassadorial positions and senior advisers. Government is big and Raila will go to that office with a clear mind – to offer serve Kenyans,” added the National Assembly Minority Leader.

Mr Odinga’s press secretary Dennis Onsarigo dismissed the fear that the big names would present a post-August headache for the ODM leader.

“Ignore those saying that senior public servants and politicians supporting Mr Odinga are doing so in order to “buy shares” in government after the elections. This false narrative originates from the long political culture in Kenya where principles were alien,” he said. 

“The media should desist from suggestions that the only reason a principled Kenyan can forego electoral ambitions is if they are getting something in return. In any case, the government is a large institution. There’s space for everyone,” he added. 

Prof XN Iraki of the University of Nairobi said Mr Odinga will have to reward many supporters. 

“His biggest headache is rewarding those who have shelved their ambitions to campaign for him. Expect the CAS post to stay,” he said. 

Mr Yatani and Mr Wamalwa yesterday said they were supporting Mr Odinga because the former Prime Minister is the only person who can continue with President Kenyatta’s projects.

The duo said they shelved their political ambitions to assist President Kenyatta to fulfil his promises and secure his legacy.

“I am not too worried about my position as time will take care of that. My decision to support Azimio is informed by my personal conviction that Baba stands a better chance,” said Mr Yatani.

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