Ruto targets Raila strongholds, allies in preparation for 2027 polls

President William Ruto with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at Nyayo National Stadium

President William Ruto with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at Nyayo National Stadium during a past Jamhuri Day celebration.

Photo credit: DPPS

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga’s traditional bastions are increasingly becoming the target of key political players in government and ‘friendly fire’ from within the opposition coalition.

While Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is largely considered to stand a good chance of inheriting Mr Odinga’s base, should the former prime minister give him the nod, political rebels and President William Ruto have started a twin assault to wrestle the regions from the veteran politician.

Already, a group of politicians from Nyanza led by former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero are pushing the 77-year-old opposition chief to retire from active politics to allow younger people to take over the mantle.

The group – a majority of losers in the August 9 polls – have declared their intention to work with President Ruto to bring development to the region, which they say has been marginalised because of bad politics.

At the same time, Dr Ruto has also launched political overtures in regions that did not back him by dolling out government positions to them for purposes of 2027 polls.

Dr Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance government have their sights on Coast, Gusii, Western and North Eastern. Some leaders from these regions have since ditched Mr Odinga, with the latest being the resignation from ODM of former Kisii governor Evans Ongwae and former Woman rep Janet Ong’era.

Mr Ongwae has been Mr Odinga’s pointman in Nyanza and was his chief campaigner in the region in the August 9 presidential campaigns.

A majority of North Eastern leaders led by Senator Ali Roba also ditched Mr Odinga immediately after he lost the presidency.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua while in Mombasa to open the five-day agricultural show on Thursday lifted the lid on their intention to wrestle some of Mr Odinga’s strongholds in preparations for 2027.

“We are hopeful that you will abandon the person you have been supporting because we have good plans for this region,” Mr Gachagua told residents.

“We have given you cabinet secretaries – Salim Mvura (Mining) and Aisha Jumwa (Public Service) – principal secretaries, Senate Speaker (Amason Kingi) and we are still going to give you more,” said the DP.

Yesterday while in Kajiado, Mr Gachagua asked Governor Joseph ole Lenku to abandon Mr Odinga and work with the government.

Mr Odinga has, however, remained active in politics and has since taken the administration head on over high cost of living and the purge at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations over alleged extra-judicial killings.

Mr Odinga has indicated that he will continue to oversight the current government for better service delivery. His move to remain active in the political scene has left both his backers and foes guessing his future plans.

Dr Kidero-led team has asked Luo voters to join the rest of other Kenyans in working with the government.

“The Luo have always followed and supported Raila for the sole reason for taking them to Canaan — the presidency. Since this is no longer tenable he has to give way. It is clear that he prefers the youth only in the political rallies and demonstrations but not in leadership,” said Kasipul Kabondo politician Odoyo Owidi.

But political commentator and lawyer Danstan Omari said Nyanza leaders agitating for change have no backing of the voters in the region.

Mr Omari argued that most of the politicians will be forced back to Mr Odinga’s fold when they realise that they do not have the support of the people.

“The people from Luo Nyanza who are walking to Ruto are not going with any votes. They are walking to Ruto so that some of their court cases can be dropped, among other favours. They are strategically moving there and will troop back in 2027 because people are not with them. This is the time for people to migrate and will go back to their communities when the time comes,” said Mr Omari.

Jubilee secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni also downplayed any efforts to chip away Azimio support base saying that the coalition has made a decision to grow the movement for purposes of kicking Kenya Kwanza out of power come next election.

“The resolve is to grow the movement to replace Kenya Kwanza come 2027. The leadership of the movement is in the hands of our principals. The chairman is Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga is the party leader,” says Mr Kioni.

Strategists in Mr Musyoka’s circle believe that Mr Odinga is unlikely to run again for presidency in 2027 and have since started to project him as the alternative face of the opposition. Mr Odinga is 77 and will be 82 when the country holds its next General Election in 2027.

Mr Musyoka recently chaired a meeting that brought together Azimio secretary-generals in Nairobi in the absence of Mr Odinga.

On October 22, Mr Musyoka was in Homa Bay County in the company of Governor Gladys Wanga and a host of other elected leaders to attend the burial of Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma’s father.

The following day he was in Kisumu for a church service where he was a companied by Azimio elected leaders, among them Mr Odinga’s sister Ruth, who is the Kisumu Woman rep, Siaya Governor James Orengo, Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ andMathare MP Antony Oluoch, among other leaders.

He later toured the newly refurbished Kisumu Port alongside a host of elected leaders from Nyanza.

Earlier in the week, Mr Musyoka accompanied Mr Odinga to attend the burial of Governor Fernandes Barasa's mother in Kakamega.

In the run up to the August 9 polls, Mr Musyoka disclosed that he would begin his 2027 presidential bid immediately after the elections.

He had said that he would follow in the footsteps of Dr Ruto who started to campaign to succeed former President Kenyatta immediately after their reelection in 2017.

“DP Ruto started campaigns immediately after they were reelected in 2017 because he knew that he was focused on the presidency. I will also start my journey to State House a day after swearing in of Odinga as president,” said Mr Musyoka in March.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua – a close ally of Mr Musyoka – told Sunday Nation that Wiper is already preparing its party leader for presidency come 2027.

He said the former vice-president will continue making political forays not just within Azimio strongholds but also in other regions that did not back the coalition.

He stated that an endorsement by Mr Odinga would be a major boost for Mr Musyoka’s second stab at the top seat.

“He is a national leader, and will be making visits not just in Nyanza but in all parts of the country. It would also be okay if Raila throws his weight behind him.

“As Wiper, we are preparing for a stab at the presidency. Expect more of those visits in all parts of the country. He will continue engaging his contacts, old friends while building new networks in readiness,” said Mr Wambua.

Kitui central MP Makali Mulu says although it is still early to campaign, he described Mr Musyoka as a politician with ambition to be the country’s president.

ODM chairman John Mbadi said that Mr Odinga’s support base has a soft spot for Mr Musyoka because of his consistent support. He said the decision by Mr Musyoka to visit Nyanza did not come as a surprise since he has an ambition for presidency.

“It is a good move for him to reach out to the Azimio support base if he is keen on running a successful bid. He will certainly need Raila’s support. He will need to reach out to Nyanza, Coast and Western that have traditionally been Azimio support bases.”

But political analyst Javas Bigambo said that the visits may not yield much for Mr Muysoka in the absence of an endorsement by Mr Odinga if he is to garner many votes.