Raila succession talk grows following Oburu’s remarks

Raila and Opiyo Wandayi

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga (left) and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi during a rally in Siaya on July 3. Mr Odinga’s elder brother Oburu Oginga recently suggested that Mr Wandayi should succeed the Azimio leader as the Nyanza political kingpin.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Mediaa Group

What you need to know:

  • Raila’s family and the Luo elders seem to be pondering the community’s political future without him in the driver’s seat.

The succession of opposition leader Raila Odinga appears to have started after his family and the Luo council of elders strongly hinted at his retirement.

Mr Odinga is yet to officially declare his retirement from politics after his fifth, and possibly last stab at the presidency in last year’s elections.

The 78-year-old has on several occasions declared publicly that he would not be pushed to quit politics despite his unsuccessful attempts at the presidency and advanced age.

“There are people who keep on telling me to go back to Bondo. Don’t give them your ears because they don’t understand that I know the road leading to Bondo better than they do,” Mr Odinga said in December in response to calls by pro-government supporters to quit active politics.

But his family and the Luo elders now seem to be pondering the community’s political future without him in the driver’s seat, an indication that the veteran politician may be on his way out.

The Jaramogi Oginga Odinga family spokesperson Dr Oburu Oginga, who is also the Siaya Senator and Mr Odinga’s elder brother, recently stirred the succession talk with a statement that hinted at the former Prime Minister’s possible exit from the political stage.

Dr Oginga went ahead to point to a possible successor by showering National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi with praises.

Even though Dr Oginga hinted at Mr Wandayi as the best bet to fit into Mr Odinga’s shoes, other names have also emerged, opening the ground for a major political battle. The race could open fresh battles pitting South Nyanza—Homa Bay and Migori—against Mr Odinga’s Central Nyanza of Kisumu and Siaya counties.

It is also likely to pit youthful, against elderly and seasoned politicians from the region, as well as opposition and government allied leaders who are also keen to end Mr Odinga’s ODM party’s dominance in the region.

Other possible successors include Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, Mr Odinga’s daughter Winnie, ODM National Chairman John Mbadi, former Cabinet Secretary Raphael Tuju, and governors Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Ochilo Ayacko (Migori), James Orengo (Siaya) and Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) who by virtue of their positions have ready resources to catapult them to the top.

But Prof Nyong’o, at 77, and Mr Orengo, at 72, could face a challenge due to their advanced age and are likely to retire alongside Mr Odinga.

The list also has President William Ruto-allied politicians who would have a rough time trying to dislodge their ODM counterparts due to Mr Odinga’s immense influence. They are former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Internal Security Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo. The latter two, by virtue of their roles in government, are in vantage position to influence the public.

Mr Wandayi who already seems to enjoy Mr Odinga’s family support, holds the highest national position, putting him at an advantageous position.

“Leaders just grow like mushrooms. They emerge as mushrooms do and that’s how Opiyo is growing and nothing will block him from top leadership because we have now left it for him. These are the people that will now guide us and give direction,” Dr Oginga said. “We have seen him shine and what we must understand is that leaders are not elected, even Raila who is now seen as the Luo leader, where did Luos sit and elect him as their leader?”

Barely a week after Dr Oginga’s statement, the Luo Council of Elders top leadership held a meeting in Kisumu on August 25 where the matter was reportedly discussed. The meeting was attended by council chairman Ker Odungi Randa, his deputy James Ayaga and other members. Also in attendance was Duol chairman and Seme MP James Nyikal.

After the four-hour deliberations, Mr Randa reinforced Dr Oginga’s sentiments on Mr Wandayi.

“Leaders come and go. Wandayi is a young man who is a go-getter and that’s good for him. He is on the right path and he will succeed,” Mr Randa said.

But another elder Awandu Ondewe who also attended the meeting denied that Mr Odinga’s succession was discussed.

When reached for comments on whether he was aware of the succession plans, Mr Wandayi only said that he respects Dr Oginga’s thoughts.

“I have never aspired to be an ethnic community leader even as I take great pride in being a Luo. As the leader of the Azimio troops in the National Assembly, I consider myself simply as first among equals, but I respect Dr Oburu’s freedoms of thought and expression. I also appreciate his confidence in my leadership capabilities,” Mr Wandayi said.

He went on: “Alongside my colleagues, I continue to champion the interests of the Luo community, with the same verve that I do for the rest of the Kenyan people, without any apology, and above all, I am the quintessential political student and disciple of Raila Odinga.”

Mr Nyikal declined to comment on Mr Odinga’s succession debate, while another MP said that Dr Oginga’s views cannot be taken for granted. Another legislator from Homa Bay said it was too early to discuss Mr Odinga’s succession. “It is like planning to inherit a woman whose husband is still alive and kicking.”

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said that Mr Odinga’s retirement from active politics will open a new chapter in his strongholds.

“There is a high probability that the talent in the region that largely remains latent will morph to kinetic and not only transform Mr Odinga’s strongholds, but the entirety of Kenya,” he said.