CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN

How Raila’s fortunes are changing in Mt Kenya

The ODM leader's ecstatic reception has inspired his allies

In Summary
  • The ODM boss was over the weekend hosted by three Mt Kenya governors who declared their support for him.
  • The former prime minister is said to be gaining traction as scales tilt for Ruto.
ODM leader Raila Odinga in Laikipia on Sunday, September 26, 2021.
ODM leader Raila Odinga in Laikipia on Sunday, September 26, 2021.
Image: EMMANUEL WANSON

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s falling-out with his deputy William Ruto over the 2022 succession has drastically changed fortunes for ODM boss Raila Odinga in the vote-rich Mt Kenya region. 

It was feared that a Uhuru-Ruto unity—which twice vanquished Raila in the 2013 and 2017 general elections—could have easily assured the DP a State House pass at the expense of the ODM boss. 

However, the President’s robust and elaborate scheme to deploy his confidants to market Raila and position him as his ultimate successor could have triggered Ruto’s waterloo on the mountain. 

This is even as it emerged that Raila’s strategists had been skeptical that a Uhuru-driven marketing campaign would have been counterproductive by portraying the former PM as a state project. 

The President’s men are delighted that contrary to the belief that Ruto was solid in Mt Kenya, the ODM leader is gaining traction in the region, heralding a shift that could jolt the DP’s strategy. 

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a key Uhuru confidant, on Tuesday exuded confidence that Raila had finally found the best route to rally mount Kenya in his 2022 presidential candidature. 

“He (Raila) has started his journey right. At the right time. With the right attitude,” Ngunjiri said. 

He went on,“As a region, we cannot be coerced or intimidated to vote for anyone. We will be wooed. And Raila seems to gerrit (sic).” 

After decades of a strong narrative that portrayed Raila as the bogeyman, the ground could be slowly shifting in his favour as he plots a historical presidential duel against Ruto next year.

On Tuesday, Mt Kenya tycoons expressed their leaning towards Raila even as they declared the beginning of a grand search for President Uhuru Kenyatta's successor.

The elite group popularly known as Mount Kenya Foundation, said they had been tasked by the President to present a name of a possible candidate to take over from him when he retires in August next year.

MKF Vice-chairman Titus Ibui said the President met the wealth club in Sagana, Nyeri last year and sought their help in identifying an ideal person to take over in 2022.

As part of the ongoing search, the foundation will meet the One Kenya Alliance as part of the broader scheme to identify Uhuru's successor.

Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (KANU) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) form the OKA team.

"We will listen to all candidates, today we have begun with Raila, on Friday we will come back here to hear from the OKA team," Ibui said.

"Once we have gone through the interaction, we will sit down to choose who we relate with and then take the name to the President."

Ibui said they will be looking for someone with the capacity to build on the foundation laid by the Jubilee's development projects and a person who will not disrupt the community's business interests.

Even as the team claimed to begin the search, a number of governors from the region did not mince their words on their choice for the State House race.

Governors Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Nderitu Murithi (Laikipia), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and Kiambu’s James Nyoro called on the region to support the Opposition chief claiming he has the best interest of the community.

Kinyanjui said they will rally the community to back the ODM leader and will ensure he defeats Ruto who has also shown interest in succeeding Uhuru.

Murithi said it is time the community reciprocates Raila's Kibaki Tosha endorsement of 2002.

The meeting came a day after Raila made a strong entry into the vote-rich Mt Kenya where he spent last weekend.

Former Cabinet minister Franklin Bett on Monday said Mt Kenya voters are cleverly embracing both Raila and Ruto before making a final decision next year. 

“The Mt Kenya people know how to receive their visitors in style before carefully assessing them,” the former Buret MP told the Star. 

Bett however, said Raila had mustered the art of seduction in his approach to Mt Kenya.

“Raila is playing a very tactical and smart game. He has been releasing snippets of his manifesto bit by bit and that way endearing himself to the region,” he said. 

It has been established that the President’s men are satisfied with the progress of Mt Kenya’s embrace of Raila so far amid reports of more engagements lined up to sell him. 

Mt Kenya governors are said to have been directed by the President to initiate political programmes to popularise Raila in the region with critics of the plan likely to be isolated. 

Members of Parliament who also support the President would also be co-opted into the strategy that will see Raila invited to most of the political events in the region as part of the campaigns. 

“The ground is shifting and it is a matter of time before Raila takes charge of the mountain’s support,” said Kieni MP Kanini Kega. 

Kega had accompanied Raila during a symbolic lap along the Nairobi-Nanyuki highway on Monday as Raila’s motorcade snaked to Nairobi after his tour of Mt Kenya.

"When we started the journey on Monday I was the only MP accompanying Raila. At the seventh stop we were eight and today we are here 13 of us. You can tell what will happen when we meet you as Mt Kenya MPs," he added.

During the tour Raila declared that he had found a way to climb the mountain carefully and “a step at a time.” 

For the first time after decades, Raila attracted enthusiastic crowds in the President’s backyard that climaxed at Githurai in Kiambu county where thousands turned up to listen to him. 

Murithi signalled the shift on Monday when he said Raila had located the route to climbing the mountain, insisting the region will back him in next year’s polls. 

“Raila came to Laikipia because he knows that just like the mountain climbers, he knows that using this county (Laikipia) he will be able to climb to the highest peak of the mountain,” the Laikipia governor said.

 

-Edited by SKanyara