THE STAR :ODM leader Raila Odinga has initiated an elaborate plan to rejuvenate his run for State House as the Orange party confirmed for the first time he’ll be on the ballot in 2022.
The party has embarked on an aggressive grassroots revival as Raila prepares for a do-or-die battle against his fiercest rival Deputy President William Ruto.
The party will revamp all 47 county branches, replace officials who have exited, fill vacancies and energise the rank and file.
Yesterday, Raila chaired a meeting of ODM chairpersons from all counties at Chungwa House, Nairobi.
He informed the team ODM will field a presidential candidate and asked leaders to ready the party for “the mother of all presidential contests”.
In an interview with the Star, senior ODM officials and close Raila allies confirmed the former Prime Minister will be on the ballot in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We have started rolling out activities. Anyone who thinks we are not in this thing (2022 race) should know we are there,” ODM chairman John Mbadi told the Star.
The move is likely to narrow the presidential battle to a two-horse race pitting Raila against Ruto.
Raila’s 2022 plans, Mbadi revealed, will run side by side with the Building Bridges Initiative referendum drive.
“Beyond the BBI issues, Raila will be running the 2022 project. He will be busier in the coming days,” Mbadi stated.
Raila’s campaign will be hinged on his unity with President Kenyatta to push through the BBI.
Raila assured the ODM officials that his camaraderie with Uhuru is genuine and appeared to downplay speculations about turbulence.
“I want to emphasise that to you that the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta remains strong and unshaken,” he said.
“The BBI too is strong and remains unshaken. The two, which are sides of the same coin, are founded on very solid and enduring principles that will stand the test of time.”
The ODM boss has scheduled another meeting with the ODM Central Committee—a key decision-making organ—in preparation for the succession race.
Raila has yet to publicly declare his presidential bid with just over 17 months to the polls. However, in recent weeks, he has given all the signals that he is running.
“This (Raila’s candidature) is not even a matter of debate. It is only a matter of time before it is made official,” a senior party official told the Star in confidence.
The ODM leader is set to traverse the country on a tour of all the 47 counties in a twin operation to popularise the BBI and strengthen the party for the election.
Over the last two weeks, Raila has been meeting people mostly from the Mt Kenya region in efforts to win Kenya’s most-coveted vote basket.
His allies from Central are currently on a campaign to popularise the BBI and, by extension, position Raila as President Kenyatta’s successor.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth had earlier endorsed the former PM as the ideal candidate to take over from Kenyatta.
Igembe North MP Maoka Maore said that if people think the 2022 contest would be a two-horse race, then the other ‘horse’ would be Raila.
The National deputy Majority whip has been rallying Mt Kenya to support the ODM leader.
“As the mountain, the questions we ask are: has Raila hurt anyone? Have you heard he has killed anyone here or anywhere else? What is this notion that we should not bring or market Raila here?” he asked.
The lawmaker expressed confidence that in time, people will see clearly and debunk the lies that have been told about the ODM boss.
“Central even refused [former President Mwai] Kibaki] but he managed to enter State House. Our people should start asking themselves how will life be if Raila is President in 2022? When you consider the question, go get yourself answers,” Maore said.
During yesterday’s meeting, Raila received a status update on how the party is faring in all the counties. He also shared with the chairs the party’s plans ahead of the July BBI referendum and 2022 election.
Sources at the meeting intimated to the Star that the chairpersons asked the party leader to visit them in their regions. They reported that rivals have taken advantage of the lull in ODM bastions to mount anti-Raila campaigns.
“Their feeling was that the party has been so quiet while others are making noise across the country. They want Raila to start engaging as he has done in Nairobi,” a source said.
In his remarks, the ODM leader told them to consider that they are the party’s “last line of defence” at the grassroots.
“Our strength and connection with the desires of our people and ability to grow and win more converts depend on your active involvement with the people on the ground,” Raila told the group.
He made a strong case for the BBI, saying it remains critical to the ODM agenda of change, social justice and equitable sharing of the nation’s resources.
“BBI is critical to us. It is part and parcel of our long journey to creating a united country founded on the principle of shared prosperity.”
Raila is also seeking to tie up the loose ends in his party caused by internal wrangles in the jostle for party leadership slots. In this regard, the chairpersons have been tasked to harmonise the leadership at the county, branch and sub-branch levels.
“We need absolute professionalism and integrity in this exercise so we can get the right people who are committed to the success of our party and put them in charge at all levels,” Raila directed.
The meeting was also attended by Mbadi, deputy secretary general Agnes Zani and executive director Oduor Ong’wen.
The meeting, the Star has learnt, resolved that the filling of vacant party positions will be concluded before the year ends.
Initially, ODM had abandoned the grassroots elections which they noted would not be possible given the Covid-19 restrictions.
Raila’s grand housecleaning began last year when the party kicked out its largely discredited National Elections Board and overhauled the disciplinary committee.
The nominated Senator Judy Pareno-led elections board had been accused of bungling nominations, hence costing the party hundreds of seats.
ODM then tapped former commissioner in the now-defunct Constitution Implementation Commission Catherine Mumma to replace Pareno at the NEB.
BBI taskforce member Prof Ben Sihanya took over from city lawyer Fred Athuok as chairman of the disciplinary committee.
Raila, the AU special infrastructure envoy, also appealed to the chairpersons to counter DP Ruto’s onslaught on the BBI.
“It is, therefore, upon you as leaders in this movement to debunk the propaganda being peddled by persons who have no record and no ideologies other than plunder of public resources,” he said.
“You have to stand up and stop them from undermining the struggle for good governance and ending corruption—which is what BBI is about.”
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