The Head of State said he initially toyed with supporting a number of politicians, including ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper Democratic Movement’s Kalonzo Musyoka, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi and Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, the former United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) boss.
But Mr Odinga became the ideal pick based on a number of considerations, some informed by data from state agencies (National Intelligence Service), he said at a dinner he hosted for leaders from across Nyanza at the Kisumu State Lodge.
It also emerged that after four unsuccessful stabs, Mr Odinga was initially reluctant to run for president. It took Mr Kenyatta’s convincing, that he was the only one who could successfully run against Kenya Kwanza’s Dr William Ruto, to change his mind.
The ODM chief’s younger sister Ruth Odinga confirmed to the Nation that Mr Kenyatta revealed to them a number of things he looked at before settling on Mr Odinga as his choice to take over for the next five years.
“The President spoke on the deliberations they had with Jakom to come to a conclusion that Baba is the best option to lead Kenya out of corruption,” said Ms Odinga.
With data backing Mr Odinga, he said he had a discussion with other potential picks, some agreed to walk with him, but others, like Mr Mudavadi, bolted out.
The handshake had also helped the two leaders to bury the hatchet, with closer interaction since 2018 also pointing to the fact that Mr Odinga had demonstrated goodwill, having not made any demands on the President, it emerged.
The President is said to have explained that his choice of Mr Odinga was informed not only by the need for national cohesion, but also development.
Sources at the dinner disclosed that the President urged the leaders to ensure the region moves from 74-76 per cent voter turnout to 99 per cent to realise an Odinga Presidency.
This was his earlier clarion call to the people of Kisumu when he addressed them in Oroba in Miwani and at the new Kenya Railways Corporation passenger train terminus next to KICOMI.
He is said to have warned candidates against focusing on winning their ‘small seats’, stressing that the bigger price remains an Odinga presidency, which will be beneficial to the region.
“We are known as a community that doesn’t come out to vote. We are used to say Giniwasekao (We have already won). The President wants us to rally our people to come out in large numbers and vote for Jakom irrespective of whether they are your voters or not,” said Ms Odinga.
Nyanza leaders present included Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, his deputy Mathews Owili, ODM chairman John Mbadi and Ms Odinga, who is also vying for the Kisumu Woman Representative seat.
Gubernatorial candidates Senator James Orengo (Siaya), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay) and Ochillo Ayacko (Migori) were also present.
Other leaders at the meeting were Rozah Buyu, who is contesting the Kisumu West parliamentary seat, Homa Bay senator Moses Kajwang’, Muhoroni MP James Onyango K’oyoo and Seme MP Dr James Nyikal.
Others MPs present were Aduma Awuor (Nyakach), Lillian Gogo (Rangwe), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Charles Ong’ondo Were (Kasipul Kabondo), Martin Owino (Ndhiwa), Kisumu Senatorial candidate Prof Tom Ojienda and MCAs from the four Luo Nyanza counties.
Mr Odinga and his running mate, Ms Martha Karua, however, did not attend the 10pm dinner meeting in which only leaders from ODM invited.
Kisumu Town East MP Shakeel Shabir, who is contesting as an independent, told the Nation that upon enquiring from Governor Nyong’o and Regional Commissioner Magu Mutindika, he was told that it was an ODM affair.
“I did not attend because they told me it was for ODM candidates only, but I am aware the President asked leaders, irrespective of their party affiliations, to push voters to come out in numbers,” said Mr Shabir.
Mr Kenyatta arrived for the meeting shortly after 10pm and was introduced by State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua after prayers by Dr Joyce Bensouda Osogo, a Homa Bay Woman Representative candidate.
After the President, only a few leaders spoke. They included Prof Nyong’o, Mr Orengo, Mrs Buyu and Ms Odinga.