Baraka Karama @PeopleDailyKe
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has laid out plans to retain his grip on his strongholds and in national politics, even as he serves as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure.
People Daily is privy to a behind-the-scenes strategy to ensure Raila does not lose popularity in his backyard.
Even though he has not indicated whether he will run for the presidency for the fifth time in the next election, the Opposition leader is said to be keen on ensuring he does not lose the support he has galvanised over the years.
The efforts come at a time Deputy President William Ruto, seen as a frontrunner in the 2022 presidential race, is making considerable inroads in Odinga’s strongholds of Coast and Western regions.
With his appointment as African Union’s envoy, it is expected the former Prime Minister would spend most of his time out of the country, which has prompted him to assemble his troops.
However, at the weekend, Raila downplayed the perception that his continental assignment removes him from the local political scene.
He assured his supporters that his new role would not alienate him from them.
“I am going nowhere. My new appointment as AU envoy comes with an office in Nairobi. I will just be travelling to Ethiopia, South Africa, among other nations, on assignment and returning to the office in Nairobi, where I will be based,” Raila said.
He was addressing mourners at a funeral in Nyangera village in Yimbo, Siaya county.
Already, his lieutenants have called for a special meeting this week in Nairobi to deliberate on how to ensure he remains politically relevant.
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, a close ally of Raila, disclosed that a meeting involving leaders supporting the ODM leader is scheduled for this week.
Raila is also said to have tasked his key allies with the duty of ensuring that his new duty does not give his political competitors a free ride.
At the national level, the source said Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho who is also the ODM deputy party leader, and Siaya Senator James Orengo will be speaking on his behalf of the party leader.
Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) Cornel Rasanga (Siaya) Sospeter Ojamoong’ (Busia) and Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) will form part of the national team.
Senators Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) Fred Outa (Kisumu) Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay) Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira) and Ochillo Ayacko (Migori) will take charge of their respective counties.
Others are Suba MP John Mbadi, Junet Mohamed (Suna East) Jared Okello (Nyando), Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) Babu Owino (Embakasi East), Osotsi (Nominated) Abdulswamad Sharrif Nassir (Mvita) and Mishi Mboko (Likoni).
Baringo senator Gideon Moi is also said to be among key leaders expected to take on Ruto allies in the Rift Valley region.
Last week in Homa Bay, Gideon announced that he is ready to work with Raila.
Key lieutenants of Ruto led by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen have been calling on Raila to quit active politics and concentrate on his role as the African Union representative.
But Raila’s supporters have dismissed the calls saying the Opposition leader will quit politics at his own volition.
“Odinga was not pushed to join politics and he won’t be pushed out either. Those calling for him to leave politics are daydreaming,” said Okello.
Osotsi said the appointment would give Raila more clout in local politics and his competitors should be worried.
“I can assure those people that with this appointment Raila will be a double threat so they should be more worried and find ways of taming him instead of calling on him to quit active politics.”