Wed. Feb 20th, 2019

Why Raila is the man to beat for the Nasa presidential ticket

In Summary

•More than any of the other candidates, Mr Odinga is the fulcrum around which Nasa politics revolve.
•Considering that ODM has a presence in most regions, it is presumed that Mr Odinga’s support base has a wide geographical spread.

As the National Super Alliance (Nasa) powers ahead with its plans to select or elect its presidential candidate, the one man who poses perhaps the greatest headache as well as effortless solution to the coalition’s Coordinating Committee’s task is Mr Raila Odinga.

Owing to his political experience and style, he is both loved and loathed in equal measure by Kenyan voters.

And to hide behind a parlance of the football, for which he has a partiality, the big question on the minds of Nasa insiders must be whether or not to allow Raila to take a penalty shot for the fourth time after “missing” three shots at goal in 1997, 2007 and 2013.

While he clearly lost the 1997 contest, emerging third behind President Daniel arap Moi and Mr Mwai Kibaki, Mr Odinga – who described that election as “a mere test drive” — has maintained that he was rigged out in 2007 and 2013.

The Saturday Nation has reliably established that one of the highly-guarded and sensitive debates within Nasa revolves around the idea of impressing upon Mr Odinga to stand down.

Only Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also a contender for the job, has dared to openly confront this issue.

According to him, Kenyan voters are now fatigued by a Raila candidature.

While popularising his own presidential bid, Mr Musyoka, who has equally observed that the Orange Democratic Movement leader has twice been a victim of poll rigging, has pointed out that a Raila candidature will only embolden and encourage Jubilee to rig the polls yet again.

And when this happens, the plotters will react boldly that “after all Raila never accepts poll results”.

POLITICAL RELEVANCE

Yet, a positive attribute of Mr Odinga’s, but which curiously works against his personal ambitions, is that more than any other Nasa leader, he has the strongest control over his core supporters.

He is, therefore, best placed to turn his numbers to support other presidential aspirants, more than would Mr Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, all of whom are interested in the Nasa presidential ticket.

“Raila probably has a greater capacity to ‘move’ his supporters over to vote for any of the others than do any of the others to move their supporters to vote for someone else if they are not the candidate,” Dr Tom Wolf, a political analyst and lead researcher at IPSOS Synovate, says.

Indeed, these realities complicate any possible moves to lock Mr Odinga out of the ticket.

Doing so is almost tantamount to punishing him for his own political strengths.

Mr Odinga remains a solid and crucial Nasa team player.

He is also a political schemer, who has “miraculously” kept the Jubilee administration on its toes for the last four years.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, were sworn in on April 9, 2013, many believed this would condemn Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka to political oblivion.

However, considering that the Constitution offers no soft landing for poll losers, the two remained active and maintained political momentum by lobbying for one cause or the other and exposing one scandal after another in the Jubilee administration.

Members allied to the two politicians, for instance, spent the first two years engaging Jubilee on the retirement packages for the former Prime Minister and Vice President.

The two resisted proposals to get paid on condition that they retire from active politics.

RAILA’S POPULARITY
Then the Opposition staged street protests, which were largely spearheaded by Mr Odinga.

First, they were meant to push for constitutional amendments through the “Okoa Kenya Initiative” and later to drive the Issack Hassan-led team out of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

In both instances, Mr Ruto singled out Mr Odinga for criticism.