It’s no longer a question of if Raila wishes to take the fifth stab at the presidency but whether his two opponents will step aside to give him a free pass.
A close source indicates that President Uhuru Kenyatta visited his handshake partner Raila Odinga yesterday in Karen and agreed that Raila is first in the line of people he prefers to succeed him.
The President who drove himself there made it clear that his handlers might have other plans but he prefers Raila.
Few days ago, The ODM boss moved his supporters into extreme anxiety anxiety and suspicions on the handshake status amid reports President Uhuru Kenyatta phoned him over betrayal fears.
The details emerged after some of Raila’s closest confidants publicly hinted at the collapse of the handshake, alleging a scheme to elbow him from the centre of the Building Bridges Initiative.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is also Raila’s deputy in ODM on Tuesday termed the BBI referendum untenable because of the economic slump occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suna East MP Junet Mohamed—the party’s director of elections and a close confidant of Raila’s—claimed there was a plot to push the former Prime Minister from the BBI despite his immense sacrifices.
Given the high-ranking status of the two top Raila confidants in the ODM hierarchy, it was believed that their outbursts had the former PM’s blessings.
An ODM official yesterday told the Star that Uhuru phoned Raila—at least twice on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning—affirming his support for the handshake and the BBI referendum.
The official could not divulge finer details of the conversation between the two leaders but alluded to the fact that Uhuru reassured Raila of his commitment to the BBI and the referendum.
And in a move to calm the jitters, Raila yesterday held a crucial five-hour meeting at his Karen home with the Central Management Committee, a key ODM decision-making organ, comprising top officials.
“Jakom (Raila) was categorical that the President called him with an assurance that all is well and that the handshake was solid,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
However, the ex-PM who has been ailing with Covid-19 related complications for nearly three weeks, reportedly warned his allies of possible “mischief by the deep state.”
“He (Raila) said there was a vacuum that had created fears but did not rule out the deep state mischief,” the source said.
The ODM boss is said to have tested negative for Covid-19, after weeks of management and isolation.
Those who attended the CMC meeting included John Mbadi (chairman), Edwin Sifuna (secretary general), Timothy Bosire (treasurer), Junet Mohamed, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga.
Mbadi, the National Assembly Minority leader, told the Star that yesterday’s meeting was meant to allay the confusion that the handshake was on shaky grounds.
The Suba South MP said the meeting was not that of the Central Management Committee.
“We just had a consultation meeting with our party leader at his home. We just reaffirmed that we are in the handshake. This confusion about handshake should stop. We are in BBI,” Mbadi said.
A statement released by Raila’s spokesman Denis Onyango left no doubt about the meeting’s agenda, revealing that the party would go the whole hog for the proposed constitutional amendment.
The statement affirmed ODM’s “unwavering commitment” to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that is a product of the BBI process.
“We agreed that the BBI must be subjected to a referendum because it entails a fundamental reorganisation of the architecture of the Executive and Kenyans need to have a say in the reorganisation. The party therefore fully supports a referendum on the document,” reads the statement.
There have been reports of possible mischief among some of Uhuru’s allies said to be scheming to have him assent to law some of the BBI provisions without subjecting them to a referendum.
This had triggered a deadlock in the parliamentary joint committee on BBI over whether or not to reopen the bill for further amendments in Parliament once it is tabled for second reading.
In a veiled reference to the squabbling in the joint justice and legal affairs committee, ODM urged that Parliament fast-track the bill and release the document to the public “to enable the people of Kenya to have a final say on the envisaged changes to the Constitution via a referendum.”
The crisis meeting was convened after the former Prime Minister’s allies in Parliament said ODM was being pushed out of BBI—a product of the handshake.
The meeting also came days after Uhuru met Coast governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Salim Mvurya of Kwale.
The surprise meeting was seen as part of a strategy by Uhuru to neutralise Raila at the Coast. Raila allies denied that claim.
Indicatively, Homa Bay Town MP Opondo Kaluma, on Wednesday morning wrote on his Facebook page that “disrespecting Raila, whether deemed or real, will be met with painful and immediate consequences.”
On Tuesday, Junet said some “small boys who have come to town recently” were out to push ODM out of BBI for unknown reasons.
“ODM is one of the parties with a huge stake in the BBI. How do you walk out on your agenda, like the BBI Bill?” he asked.
The One Kenya Alliance comprising Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi is said to have rattled Raila’s camp.
The team is said to enjoy the backing of some of Uhuru’s allies in a scheme to cut Raila down to size and render him a Luo Nyanza only kingpin without national support.
Simultaneously, on Tuesday Oparanya also sent signals that the Orange party could abandon the quest for a referendum, but Mbadi termed the remarks “personal views.”
The Kakamega governor had said that a referendum would not be tenable in the face of the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the economy, just a few months to the 2022 General Election.
“A referendum is just like a general election, expenses involved are heavy. I don’t think it is going to be tenable with the debts we have,” Oparanya said, sparking concerns among Raila’s allies.
The comments by Oparanya and Junet followed those by Sifuna who had said that they would not mind if money meant for BBI would be channelled to mitigating the effects of Coronavirus.
Political Analyst Martin Andati said the ODM leader, as well as Deputy President William Ruto, have been shortchanged.
“They have been played. The messaging by Junet, Oparanya, and Sifuna was coordinated,” he said.
The analyst argued the Orange party should have taken control of the reforms at the IEBC as an ideal path to electoral justice.