Raila Odinga will run for presidency, says John Mbadi

Battle lines drawn ahead of 2022 polls as Raila and Ruto allies lash out

The Orange Democratic Movement boss Raila Odinga will be on the presidential ballot in next year's polls, the party’s national chairman, Mr John Mbadi, has said.

While Mr Odinga did not submit his application for the party’s presidential ticket by the time the party stopped receiving applications in March, Mr Mbadi said the ODM leader will be on the ballot in 2022, anyway.

“Raila is going for presidency come 2022, I know,” Mr Mbadi, who is also the National Assembly minority leader, told the Nation.

Coming just days after President Uhuru Kenyatta — whose Handshake with Mr Odinga in March 2018 changed the political course of the country — vowed to work with the ODM leader in the future, it would seem that leaders allied to the latter take that as an endorsement of the former Prime Minister.

But while acknowledging that Mr Odinga and the President will still work together, Mr Mbadi said the Tuesday Madaraka Day statement should not be seen as an endorsement.

Battle lines drawn ahead of 2022 polls as Raila and Ruto allies lash out

“I do not think us, promoters of Raila’s presidency, would want the President to endorse him publicly because it doesn’t work well when an outgoing President endorses you. People would not want a leader who is imposed on them,” said the Minority Leader in the National Assembly.

Endorsed

Mr Mbadi said: “Raila is someone who has cut a niche for himself. He has worked so hard and everybody knows what he stands for. He is not someone to be endorsed. He is not that kind of politician. We should not read too much into what the President said because he should be at liberty to also make comments from his own feelings, without being seen to be endorsing someone.”

Political analyst-cum-governance expert Javas Bigambo said the President’s remarks were all but a confirmation of his 2022 choice of Mr Odinga.

“It is easy to have Project Raila and sell it, because it is not a strange product in the market. However, three remarks did not necessarily mean the exclusion of other key politicians in a political matrix, only that Raila's interests would supersede the interests of other politicians in the circumstances,” said Mr Bigambo.

He went on: “As such, Raila occupies the pride of place in President Kenyatta's succession arithmetic. Nonetheless, the President was just a declaration shy of endorsing Raila.”

If Mr Odinga will apply for the party’s presidential ticket, he will battle it out with his two deputies -- Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya, who had submitted their applications by the late March deadline.

The ODM chairman had revealed that the former PM was free to apply for the party’s presidential ticket, arguing that there is no legal requirement barring him from doing so, giving the clearest indication yet that Mr Odinga will be on the ballot come 2022.

“There is no legal requirement in our Constitution or nomination rule that at such a particular time, the last person should submit his/her application, the deadline was just a procedural matter by the party’s National Elections Board (NEB), it does not affect anything,” Mr Mbadi had said in a previous interview.

He went ahead: “You know, the deadline was just an internal arrangement, it was not a legal requirement, the media are hyping something so much, we were just indicating that it would be neater if they submitted their applications that time.”

ODM National Elections board chairperson Catherine Mumma, whose docket is concerned with conducting nominations for the party, insisted that the former PM has not shown interest in the party’s presidential seat and the party will process the applications of those who applied after issues around the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) are concluded.

“If there is a deadline, and it is gone, as far as I am concerned, Raila has not indicated any interest in being a presidential candidate, we are not carrying out any presidential party elections until after the matters of BBI are settled. We also postponed grassroots elections in accordance with the presidential directive on Covid-19 and the people who vote for presidential candidates are delegates and they come from party structures,” Ms Mumma told the Nation yesterday.

2022 General Election

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, also the party’s secretary for political affairs said the party was concentrating on pushing the BBI and anything concerning the 2022 General Election will be decided after the referendum.

“Let us talk about who will be the party’s flagbearer after BBI is concluded, at the moment, our main focus is on BBI and nothing else,” he said.

Homa Bay Town MP Opondo Kaluma told those who are expecting not to meet Mr Odinga on the ballot come 2022 that they are in for a surprise.

“Raila will be on the ballot in 2022 to be our fifth president,” he said.

Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga also suggested that the former PM will be on the ballot and they would like his candidature to be supported by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Most of us are looking forward to the President supporting Raila for presidency come next year,” she told the Nation.

Deputy President William Ruto in April disclosed that he views the former PM as his worthy opponent in next year’s elections.

“When I see Raila Odinga, I see my competitor in 2022, in fact, from where I sit, Raila is the most formidable opponent that I have in 2022 and I do not know how the politics of Kenya would look like … if Raila Odinga will not be my competitor, who will be my competitor?”

If Mr Odinga will apply for the party's ticket, it means that he will be making his fifth attempt at the top seat.

Mr Odinga first ran for presidency in 1997 on the National Development Party (NDP), and came third after the late President Daniel Arap Moi of Kanu, who won, and Mwai Kibaki (Democratic Party) who was second.

Former vice president Michael Kijana Wamalwa of Ford Kenya came fourth with 505,704 while Kitui Governor Charity Kaluki Ngilu, running on the Social Democratic Party (SDP), emerged fifth with a total of 488,600 votes.

In 2002, Mr Odinga teamed up with Wamalwa, Ms Ngilu and a host of other former Kanu stalwarts and rallied behind Mr Kibaki, who flew the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (Narc) flag, ending Kanu's 40-year rule.

In 2007, Mr Odinga, running on an ODM ticket made his second stab at the top seat and was declared first runner-up to Mr Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU), in one of the country's most controversial elections.

Top leaders

The declaration of Mr Kibaki as the winner against Mr Odinga, who was backed by several top leaders, including current Deputy President Ruto, was followed by spontaneous violence and protests across the country, leading to the month-long negotiations culminating in the formation of the Grand Coalition Government with the ODM boss as the PM.

The chairman of the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Mr Samuel Kivuitu, declared Mr Kibaki winner with 4,584,721 votes against Mr Odinga's 4,352,993 while Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) candidate Kalonzo Musyoka managed 879,903 votes.

Come 2013, Mr Odinga joined forces with other politicians, including Mr Musyoka, and formed the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) on whose ticket he vied for the top seat, coming second to President Uhuru Kenyatta, then of The National Alliance Party (TNA).

Mr Odinga got 5,340,546 votes against Mr Kenyatta's 6,173,433 while the then United Democratic Forum party (UDF) leader Musalia Mudavadi managed 483,981 votes.

In his fourth stab at the top seat in 2017, the ODM leader once again came second to President Kenyatta of the Jubilee party, an election he successfully challenged at the Supreme Court.

He had received 6,822,812 votes against President Kenyatta's 8,223,369, results which were cancelled by the Supreme Court on grounds that the election was marred by "massive irregularities and illegalities in the transmission of results which affected the integrity of the poll".

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