• Raila's allies warn that the opposition leader has departed from his reform course.
• A section of his think tank claims Raila's 2022 ambitions could be crushed, his 'brand' could be soiled.
Anxiety is growing in Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s camp that his endorsement of Jubilee’s controversial projects could ruin his enduring brand and wreck his political clout.
The moves seen as cementing his truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta have exposed Raila for perceived 'double-speak' amid concerns the former Prime Minister has drifted from his long-held pro-people politics.
The details emerged as Raila announced his inclusion in President Uhuru’s high-powered delegation to Beijing, China.
The ODM leader is now a chief proponent of the controversial Huduma Namba registration and supported the government's push for a higher fuel levy meant increased taxation.
In the wake of the government’s new 1.5 per cent housing levy and fresh plans for billions in Eurobond loans, the opposition leader has maintained studious silence. A court has suspended the housing levy.
The China trip is meant to seal a fresh Sh368 billion loan to extend the standard gauge railway from Naivasha to Raila’s Kisumu backyard.
This comes at a time when the Treasury is on the spot for borrowing an average of Sh2.1 billion every day, racking up Sh126.4 billion in loans between January and February.
This has raised Kenya’s total debt load to Sh5.4 trillion.
Ironically, the ODM leader has previously blasted Uhuru’s government for “overborrowing, overspending and over stealing”.
Raila claimed the SGR project was the brainchild of the Grand Coalition Government but Jubilee turned it into a cash cow, inflating the cost from Sh227 billion to Sh380 billion.
“We in the Opposition have warned that we are on the road to nowhere. We warned that Jubilee is overborrowing, overspending and over stealing,” Raila said in one of his stinging rebukes of Jubilee ahead of the 2017 polls.
“Please get up and report to duty,” Raila told Uhuru, saying the country was on auto-pilot.
As the countdown to Beijing started, close associates of the ODM leader warned that Raila will inherit the Jubilee’s political and economic baggage.
“It’s a fact that his brand will suffer irreparably because people cannot see the ideological and policy differences between ODM and Jubilee. Unfortunately, it also shows that Raila’s campaign was not-issue based,” a former think tank member during the Nasa campaigns told the Star.
Some, however, interpret this cosiness as a clear demonstration that Raila will hang up his political boots ahead of the 2022 presidential contest.
Former Nasa communications official John Onyando said more than ever before, there are so many people who are anxious about Raila’s political future.
“The handshake changed Raila’s role from a critic of the establishment to its enabler, without any concessions so far to the huge movement he led in 2017. Sooner than later, Kenyans will begin to reckon with the fact that this fight should never have been personified in one person,” said Onyando, author of The Failed Quest for Electoral Justice, a book on the 2017 elections and the Nasa resistance.
Raila has also supported the controversial Huduma Namba registration — a programme that the civil society, a constituency that has perennially supported his bid — vehemently opposes.
In fact, the State is using Raila’s image on huge billboards to market the Huduma Namba biometric registration drive.
Economist David Ndii, who was Raila's lead think tank member in 2017, called the use of Raila’s image in the billboards as a “climb down”.
“This is such a climb down. I hope he knows what he is doing,” said Ndii who is among the strongest opponents of the Sh6 billion Huduma Namba project.
Former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett said Raila risked ruining his reform credentials by backing some projects he previously questioned.
Raila would now be hit hard on his brand and the agenda he has championed for many years. Now that he is turning old, if these things turn into a scandal, he would not be able to repair his imageFormer Minister Franklin Bett
Last week, Uhuru revealed that Raila advises him on a number of issues in government.
“When it comes to health, this is what we need to do. What is this issue of digitising our records and what is it about? We sit, we discuss, we agree. He also gives me ideas that enhance something and make it even better. Now, what's wrong with that?" an agitated Uhuru hit out at his critics.
However, Nairobi University don Herman Manyora disagree that Raila’s brand will be ruined by his new political moves.
“Raila is operating under unique the dynamics of the handshake. This is a completely a new ball game. And now that Kenyan politics are not issue-based I don’t see his image suffering a beating,” he stated.
Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi claimed the political lines between ODM and Jubilee were blurred by the handshake.
He said Raila is accompanying Uhuru to Beijing because of his role as African Union Envoy on Infrastructure.
“Right now there is nothing like Jubilee and ODM. All of us want Kenya to prosper. That is the reason why the President extended a hand to Raila. The President is consulting all stakeholders in the country,” he told the Star.
He said that the extension of SGR to Kisumu was actually Nyanza leaders' initiative to open up the entire region.
Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala defended Raila's latest political moves saying the opposition leader was carving out his legacy.
"I remember people were condemning him for opposing everything. Now that he is working with the current establishment, the same people who were condemning him for opposing are now condemning him for working with the government to do development," Malala said.