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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 30 November 2014

RAILA'S 2017 GAME CHANGER

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is working on an elaborate political power strategy ahead of the 2017 general elections in a bid that is bound to shake up the country’s political terrain and send shivers down the spine of the political divide and ruling Jubilee government.
Part of the strategy is putting into serious considerations the current happenings at the International Criminal Court and its subsequent ramifications at the end of the trials facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto over crimes against humanity as a result of the violent chaos that erupted in the country after the disputed 2007 presidential elections.
First, the assumption is that Ruto’s case is likely to get complicated. If that happens, Raila is of the opinion that it will be the beginning of the end of Jubilee alliance, creating a vacuum that Raila is likely to capitalise on. Ruto’s Rift Valley vote block will feel betrayed and hence a need to work on a fresh alliance with new faces from the region.
Political pundits say that without the DP in the Rift Valley political limelight, the man to watch in the region is Bomet governor Isaac Ruto. It is against this background that Raila and Ruto who happen to be the chairman of governors’ council are now in a cordial working relationship. When Ruto lost his daughter recently, Raila was the mourner-in-chief during the burial ceremony which was also attended by the deputy president.
At the burial of Senator Otieno Kajwang on Saturday at his Waondo home in Homa Bay, Ruto by virtue of his position as chairman of Council of Governors was given an opportunity to address the mourners and was among the last speakers. Within URP ranks is the notion that Governor Ruto is out to control the influential Kipsigis vote and use it to bargain either with Raila or even Uhuru’s TNA in case the deputy decides to run for presidency in 2017 or is nailed by the ICC.
A section in URP even says the Bomet governor has links with State House and the person acting as go- between is Joshua Kuttuny, a political adviser of the president together with Nancy Gitau. Gitau is a marked woman within URP circles.
Insiders within Jubilee aver, just as Raila is keenly following the unfolding events at The Hague, so are Uhuru handlers with both camps preparing for any eventuality. His calculation is that the fall of Ruto would mean that the Kalenjin would opt out of the ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ arrangement with TNA and perhaps even return to his side. Failing in this, Raila’s strategists reckon that once the “Mountain and the Valley” part political ways, he can finally prevail and galvanise support from the rest of the country.
Ruto’s removal can happen in a variety of ways, including an act of God.  Raila is therefore watching the unfolding situation at The Hague extra closely, particularly now that the eight reluctant witnesses against the DP have been compelled by the court to testify via video link from a secret location in Nairobi.
Like the president and deputy president, Raila is surrounded by prominent lawyers - particularly in his own party, ODM, and the opposition alliance, Cord. They are Senator James Orengo and even Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula. In private, the trio has been heard stating that Ruto’s case at the ICC is more complex than that of Uhuru.
Aware of the Raila scheme, Jubilee has been pushing to change the constitution in order to keep Raila out of the race on the basis of age limit (he will be an overripe 72 in 2017) and the ruling alliance wants to cap the presidential eligibility at age 65.
Raila and his closest strategists and legal advisers are said to be hoping that Ruto meets with the judges’ full-throttle wrath that would ultimately result into a head-on collision. They are praying that one day the DP’s lawyers and entourage are suddenly, in the near-future, ordered by ICC judges to leave The Hague without him and that he is convicted not on the PEV atrocities but on witness interference and sabotaging the ICC case facing him.
In fact, it is said, if Ruto is out of the scene, Raila will certainly run for presidency in 2017. It is this political thought that has led to his allies start pushing for his last bid come 2017. They argue his co-principals, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula will easily back him on grounds he will be a one-term president.
Then we have the second scenario where in case Uhuru and Ruto are acquited. Here, Raila is said will back out of the race and support another person with Kalonzo emerging the preferred candidate with Wetangula his running mate to teach Jubilee a political lesson. The last time Raila endorsed a candidate other than himself was in October 2002 when he backed Kibaki and seriously disappointed Simeon Nyachae and Kalonzo, two egoistic leaders who imagined that the others would agree and propel them into post-Moi State House. The man he backed was former president Mwai Kibaki who came to defeat then Moi project Uhuru now president. It is waited to be seen if the man Raila will back will repeat history and make Uhuru a one-term president.
In fact, Raila is said to be reaching out to other faces who opposed his presidential bid in 2013 to knock Uhuru out. Notable one are Martha Karua, who ran for presidency and Bonny Khalwale who backed Musalia Mudavadi in 2013. Suprisingly, Vihiga senator George Khaniri is gradually also orbiting towards Raila, if recent political pronouncements are anything to go by. In senate on UDF ticket, the Hamisi senator is said to be reaching out to Mudavadi to join Raila for future political dealcutting.
It is argued that in case the deputy president is rendered irrelevant in 2017, Uhuru will be comfortable with Gideon Moi as his running mate and not Mudavadi. It is on these grounds that Ruto has declared war on the small Moi in Baringo county politics. He is said to be grooming new faces to take on the Gideon camp. The DP is said to have been bitter with the recent function where Kabarak University linked to Moi family honoured Uhuru with a doctorate degree in leadership. Ruto skipped the occasion without apologies despite the fact he was officially invited. But what raised eyebrows is that after the Kabarak fete, Uhuru flew with Gideon from Moi’s private airstrip to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where he met the presidential staff waiting and connected to Saudi Arabia to watch a Formula One race with Gideon.
The kind of intense focus that is being kept on Raila by the opposition fraternity and the realignment inside ODM as he apparently seeks to solidify zonal support across the country in his strongholds has favoured Western, Coast, Eastern and North-Eastern frontiers.
The rebellion factor in South Nyanza is being treated as a sideshow, but it is actually a sign that the times are changing, even in the Luo Nyanza epicentre of the politician who has the distinction of scoring the second highest number of votes in a presidential race in the history of electioneering in Kenya.
However, Raila is actually rolling out an intricate political strategy, engineered to be the gamechanger of the 2017 presidential contest.
This multi-pronged strategy has the aim of isolating the Mt Kenya region using “Never Again” tactics. The narrative is that 2017 is the last lawful chance of ending Kikuyu political hegemony and the head lock on State House by ushering in the first non-Kikuyu head of state and government since Moi called it a day in 2002.
The next presidential poll will be exactly 15 years since Moi went home and his preferred candidate Uhuru was buried in a landslide defeat by Kibaki. Fifteen years is also the total period that Uhuru’s father, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was in office as both Kenya’s first PM and first president.
The ultimate maneuver Raila has for 2017 is keeping the focus on himself by pretending that he is actually the candidate and the man to beat, only to step aside at the last minute and pass the ball to another player, most likely, but not assuredly, a Westerner.
When Raila last stood down and threw his weight behind another candidate, that man was Kibaki in October 2002 and the tactic worked. It served to prevent Uhuru from entering State House on a first attempt although there are those who believe Kibaki already had it in the bag with the backing of Wamalwa Kijana and Charity Ngilu in the Nak party that was to join hands with LDP to form Narc. By trying the same game changer a second time 15 years later, Raila will have an uphill, but not impossible, task – that of an Odinga trying to eject a Kenyatta from State House. It will be a titanic struggle but it has a major catch.
Raila’s accommodation of the Young Turks is suspicious because it is motivated by massive appeasement. To seasoned political analysts, the history of political appeasement has always involved shabby compromises that are merely the lull before the storm.
Raila is playing a game of political diplomacy with his appeasement card. The American comedian Will Rogers once observed that if you are confronted by a huge and fierce dog that is snarling at you, “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock”.
The coming gamechanger is going to be Raila’s multi-purpose “rock”, it will deal with party rebels of more than one type (both alleged moles and self-professed loyalists) as well as redraw the ODM Cord line-up.
By pulling out of contention and backing someone else, Raila will be playing the ultimate 41-against-one political chess move in Kenyan politics.
The son of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga is aware it demands a huge price from Kenyans in order to organise the ejection from State House of the president in power.
What could that price be? It is with this in mind that analysts aver that in order to make the ultimate political sacrifice, which is that Kenya’s second biggest vote-getter ever (10 million votes in two consecutive races) steps aside for someone who has never attracted even 1.5 million votes, Raila will demand, and in all probability get a new national leadership layer at the top that is like the Iranian Ayatollahs and supreme leaders who have the powers to reshuffle presidents.
This means that if Raila’s machination to remove Uhuru from power in 2017 is attained, the Kenyan presidency will be much weaker for good.
But long before he can hope for the success of this gamechanger, Raila needs a game realignment inside ODM, where the rebellion against his new handpicked line-up is now well under way after he made a surprise tactical move and gave the Young Turks what they had wanted since February but without the expedient of party polls.
The elevation of Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba to ODM secretary general shocked observers across the political divide and shook some ODM loyalists to the bone marrow.
Raila took the opportunity of Kajwang’s burial to emphasise that the Namwamba team is in office to stay, whatever the forces led by Funyula MP Paul Otuoma and Orengo do or say with their counter-rebellion. He expressed confidence in the team led by Namwamba and chairman John Mbadi, saying it is made up of youthful leaders who would revamp the party ahead of the 2017 general election.
“There have been claims that I prefer Old Guards for the leadership of the party; that is why I brought the young turks to spearhead the agenda of the party. It is a strong team that will strengthen the party. Are they able or not?” Raila asked thousands of attentive mourners who roared back affirmatively.
Kalonzo urged ODM members to accept the leadership change and hailed Raila for making what he termed a “bold move to restore sanity in the party”.
“I want to ask other members who were not elected into the leadership positions that all of us cannot be secretary general or party leader at the same time,” said Kalonzo.
Political affairs designate secretary Opiyo Wandayi has tactically appealed to the Otuoma brigade to wait for the National Governing Council meeting on December 5 at Bomas of Kenya to raise their concerns. When the ODM faithful gather at Bomas, perhaps they will observe a minute’s silence in honour of Kajwang since that was the arena of their last defeat on March 4 2013, when Uhuru was declared winner of the presidential contest.
Also on the political radar will be ODM’s financial backers, one of whom, Suna East MP Junnet Mohammed, are not at all happy with the rise of Namwamba.
There are political party funders in all countries and systems. In the US, both the Republicans and Democrats rely heavily on donors who consider a variety of issues in calibrating the costs and benefits of elections. There are top individual contributors, top organisation contributors including corporate, celebrity contributors and committee contributors. In ODM, it is Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and Mombasa’s Hassan Joho who the party relies on when it comes to funding hence they cannot be isolated as key players in Raila fundraising team.
In 2007, ODM benefited a lot from key donors such as Zakayo Cheruiyot and Joshua Kulei. In 2013 the two funded URP.
Raila has studied the American way of doing things closely in the time he has been out of government. If Raila sticks with Namwamba and focuses on the youth vote all the way to 2017, he would pose a major problem on all sides, not only Jubilee. Among his major donors, if he sacrificed his fourth bid and backed a young and vibrant newcomer to the presidential race would be South African billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa, a man who has given to Raila before.
Back to ODM rebellion, the anti-Namwamba forces are coalescing around   Nicholas Gumbo, Otuoma and Simba Arati and want the party secretariat positions filled by professionals and not legislators.
The leaders of the ODM counter-rebellion said they felt short-changed as each missed out on the positions they contested for. Namwamba and Joho got what they wanted at the botched ODM polls in the latest appointive line-up.
But even as he strategises for 2017 to take on the ruling Jubilee, a number of things are planned. First, is to disband the current Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Cord MPs and senators have agreed to sponsor a motion to have an internationally recognised body to be in charge of the next election. If the move fails and Isaak Hassan team is in charge, it is said, they will boycott the elections and call for mass action.