Nasa, ODM divided over Raila 2022 bid

NASA Principal Raila Odinga and ODM Party Chairman Ali Hassan Joho during party's national delegates conference at Orange House February 23, 2018./JACK OWUOR
NASA Principal Raila Odinga and ODM Party Chairman Ali Hassan Joho during party's national delegates conference at Orange House February 23, 2018./JACK OWUOR

Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s possible fifth stab at the presidency in 2022 continues to stir heated debate within NASA, as well as whether he should retire.

While a section of his lieutenants from Luo Nyanza are pushing Raila, 73, to take another attempt at the highest office at age 77, two of his deputies are angling to succeed him.

Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) have both declared their 2022 presidential bids, erecting a roadblock for Raila, even within ODM.

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The ex-Prime Minister, who is battling succession wars in ODM, is also facing growing pressure from the NASA affiliate parties that want him to step down and support a different candidate in 2022.

NASA co-principals Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya) have clearly stated that they will go for nothing short of the big seat in 2022.

Oparanya at the weekend was categorical he would contest for the presidency in 2022.

“I will be on the ballot. I have done my job as Kakamega governor. I should be the man to beat William Ruto in 2022,” said Oparanya at a funeral in Kakamega on Saturday.

The county boss regretted that ODM’s previous presidential attempts have been futile and asked Raila to retreat and re-strategise.

To actualize the ODM's presidency bid, Oparanya suggested, the party should seek God's hand.

“Let’s even go to church and seek divine intervention to find out why power has always eluded us, despite trying so hard,” he said.

On the other hand, the youthful Joho has declared he will go for the top seat in 2022 and has been positioning himself as Raila’s heir apparent.

During Raila's controversial oath-taking ceremony at Uhuru Park, Joho was conspicuously present, stirring speculation he was seeking public approval in his bid.

Coalition partners ANC, Wiper and Ford Kenya are said to be carefully monitoring Raila’s steps before publicly stating their 2022 game plans, amid fears of a falling out.

Analysts and a section of opposition MPs now warn that talk of 2022 could puncture NASA’s reform push and disintegrate the coalition prematurely.

Top decision-making organs of the NASA parties have already separately approved programmes aimed at strengthening internal structures and buttressing grassroots support.

Raila on Saturday met leaders from Kisii and Nyamira counties to strategise on grassroots activation programmes.

Raila intends to soon rollout county tours to revamp branch offices.

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Over the weekend, the NASA leaders sharply differed on whether time was up for Raila to quit active politics and handover the baton.

As the debate appeared to gain unexpected currency, Busia Senator Amos Wako poured cold water on calls to have the ODM leader retire, saying Raila was still ‘young’ and primed for leadership.

“Many people have been saying that Agwambo is old and should retire. However, if you read history, the liberators took over liberation leadership when they were in their 70s,” he said in Kakamega on Saturday during the homecoming of Sports CS Rashid Achesa.

“When did Nelson Mandela take leadership of South Africa? Wasn't he in his 70s? When did Jomo Kenyatta become the President of Kenya? Wasn't he over 70? Whoever is saying that Agwambo should retire, he won't.”

MPs Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) also dismissed calls for Raila to hang up his boots and step down from taking a fifth stab.

“Jaramogi Oginga Odinga retired from politics at the age of 90, how do you want Raila to retire at his current age?” said Odhiambo. Jaramogi died in 1994 aged 83.

Wandayi said that they would not relent in the fight to ensure that Odinga delivers the country to a new political leadership as long as he remained alive.

“We do not recognise any other leadership rather than that of Raila, what he says is law,” added Wandayi.

They spoke during the burial of David Orengo, uncle of Siaya Senator James Orengo, in Nyawara village, Ugenya constituency, on Saturday.

ODM Treasurer Timothy Bosire said Raila remains an undisputed figure that would restore the country from impunity and lawlessness. “He is revolutionary, he has the best structures and sufficient intellectual capacity and experience to redeem this country,” he told the Star.

Even as succession politics rock ODM, Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party renewed its push to have Raila step down in 2022 and back the ex-VP.

Yesterday Kibwezi East MP Jessica Mbalu said ODM must honour the 2017 pre-election NASA pact, which she said obliges Raila to support Kalonzo.

“We know that there is an agreement and every Kenyan knows. We still believe in it and we are just going for it. We are aligning ourselves, we are in NASA and we would be shocked if the other principal [Raila] does not support him [Kalonzo].”

The NASA agreement was deposited with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties before last year’s polls and bars ODM from fielding a presidential candidate in 2022.

“We, however, just pray and hope that there will be unity in NASA as we seek support from other regions in the country. We are seeking countrywide support,” said Mbalu.

Raila has run for president four times. He first ran in 1997, and then 2007, 2013 and 2017, but has claimed he was cheated out of his victory in the last three consecutive bids.

Yesterday Kakamega Senator Cleopa Malala warned that NASA risked an acrimonious split should the parties continue with the ‘reckless’ 2022 talk.

“I want to discourage NASA members from advancing the 2022 dialogue because this will divide the coalition and impede the fight for electoral justice,” warned Malala.

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Political analyst Makau Mutua - a distinguished professor of law in the USA, said NASA needs to weed out distractions “or it will collapse of its own self-inflicted internal contradictions.”

“The principals mustn’t allow reckless aides any oxygen. It’s true that aides don’t speak without a wink-and-a-nod from the principals. That’s why the principals need to rein in their attack dogs,” warned Mutua, in one of his weekly opinion articles.

He warned: “If NASA fails – and it could unless these fissures are addressed – the opposition can forget 2022. Let’s remember how Kanu routinely beat the opposition in the 1990s.”

Raila has maintained that debate around the 2022 flagbearer debate should be suspended until they resolve the 2017 matter.

“We will decide amongst ourselves on the 2022 presidential candidate now that each side is fronting Kalonzo, Wetang'ula and Mudavadi. If we don't fix the 2017 election issues, in 2022 the results will be the same. We will defeat them then they steal again,” Raila said in Machakos recently.

Tongaren MP and Ford Kenya secretary general Eseli Simiyu said the debate should be suspended until the coalition's push for electoral justice in the country is realized.

“I am not among the bandwagon talking about 2022 politics and am not going to be part of that. What are we talking about 2022? Another stolen election? I would rather not participate in that if it is going to be stolen again. We can only talk about the 2022 flagbearer once we rectify the electoral process," Eseli told the Star.