Baraka Karama @PeopleDailyKe
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has yet again reinvented himself politically, confounding both friend and foe.
Soon after the disputed 2017 presidential election, Raila, who recently turned 74, was considered a spent force by his detractors, and even some supporters.
Having lost the presidential race four times (five if you count last year’s repeat election), his opponents have been calling on him to retire from elective politics. Even some of his ardent backers feel it is time he hangs his political boots.
But his unity deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta appears to have rejuvenated his career – including the possibility of another run in the next elections – and weakened his opponents who anticipated to reap from his retirement.
The growing wrangles in ruling Jubilee, which has partly been caused by his association with Uhuru, could in the long run work to his advantage.
Politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto have been accusing the former Prime Minister of causing a rift in Jubilee, with the intention of frustrating the DP’s plans to succeed Uhuru when his term ends in 2022.
Political analyst Henry Ochieng says Raila made a well-calculated move to remain relevant in Kenya’s politics. “Those who thought he was finished politically have to think again. It’s a fact that Raila’s force combined with Uhuru’s is a very strong one,” says Ochieng who teaches at Maseno University.
Among the dividends of Raila’s March 9 handshake is his appointment as Africa Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa in October last year.
Besides affirming his relationship with the President, the position gives the opposition leader considerable stature not just on the continent but also locally.
One of the highlights of Uhuru-Raila unity deal was last month’s visit by the President to his Luo Nyanza backyard. Addressing residents of Ahero in Nyando constituency, Uhuru said: “I want you to know that Jakom (Raila) is now in government and he is part of us.”
Apart from strengthening his base, the unity with Uhuru appears to have mellowed some of his Nyanza opponents. Several politicians from the region who previously was his fiercest critics are now warming up to him.
Among them are Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju, MPs Shakeel Shabir, Olago Aluoch and former MPs James Rege and Ken Obura.
Speaking during the burial of his brother in Rarieda last weekend, Tuju told mourners, who included Siaya Senator James Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and ODM chairman John Mbadi, that he is now “closer to Raila than Orengo”.
Even though Raila did not attend the burial, the presence of his key lieutenants was a clear indication of a cordial relationship between him and the Jubilee secretary general.