THE STAR 06/10/2021
The confidence that ODM boss Raila Odinga has secured Uhuru's 2022 backing could have forced governors Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya to shelve their presidential ambitions.
With Raila considered a key cog in Uhuru's succession matrix, there is a bigger political scheme to bring all the pro-BBI forces under one umbrella to face Deputy President William Ruto in next year's general election.
Joho and Oparanya - the two ODM deputy party leaders - had declared they would run for president but a growing conviction that Raila could have received Uhuru's endorsement has jolted their plans.
The two second-term governors now say they will back Raila for president next year because they believe he has the best shot to end ODM's protracted dry spell in the quest for state power.
There were fears that Oparanya and Joho's presidential bids could have shaken up the Coast and Western Kenya — Raila's most dependable support bases— diminishing the ODM boss's 2022 chances.
Oparanya had in recent weeks jolted Raila's camp by his association with Ruto.
However, on Tuesday the governor told the Star that he will shelve his 2022 ambitions if Raila would be on the ballot.
“If Raila decided to run for the presidency then I will not oppose him,” Oparanya declared, signalling his plans to back off the presidential race.
He, however, insisted that as of now it was him and Joho who had submitted nomination papers seeking the ODM presidential ticket for 2022.
Raila did not submit his papers to the ODM National Elections Board in what was seen as a strategic decision by his think tanks.
“I have worked closely with Raila for many years since 2005 when I joined the party. I will consult with him on what position I will go for in case he will be running for president,” Oparanya said.
The Kakamega governor has previously asked Raila to step down for him, saying the ODM boss needed to reciprocate the support he has given him over the years by backing his 2022 presidential bid.
The change of heart signals the ODM deputy party leader's climb down from his hitherto strong position to run for president next year.
Weeks ago, Joho told a local paper that he would not wish to be the one who undermines Raila's mission “when he has secured the support of Uhuru”, and vowed to take part in “serious handshake action” .
“I’ve had numerous discussions with the former PM, which have left me convinced that the vision and dream that we have chased unsuccessfully over the years is around the corner,” Joho was quoted as saying.
He added, “His brother, the President, shares that belief very strongly."
Politicians and analysts say Oparanya and Joho could have made calculated decisions that would now hand Raila space to consolidate his ODM party for a fifth stab at the presidency.
There is talk that Raila is being prepared for a major pact with Uhuru's other political allies to build a behemoth coalition to face Ruto next year.
The Star has learnt that Uhuru's political mandarins are said to be determined to ensure that the One Kenya alliance works with Raila in 2022 to face Ruto.
The OKA of Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetangula is believed to be part of the plot to block Ruto.
However, there are growing jitters in the alliance over claims that some partners are getting cosy with their 2022 rivals, including Raila.
Moi has been holding meetings with Raila including one at his Karen home in April and another one on May 31 at the ODM boss's Riat home in Kisumu.
The President's strategists are said to have now roped in Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, Murang'a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria as well as Joho and Oparanya into the matrix.
The team, which has been holding secret strategy meetings, is said to be pushing for a Raila presidency to which some insiders say President Uhuru has agreed.
On Wednesday, former Cabinet Minister Musa Sirma, who worked with Raila in ODM before, hinted that the One Kenya Alliance will finally work with Raila in one political force.
The ex-Eldama Ravine MP told the Star that the decision by Oparanya and Joho to give up on running for president next year was part of the larger plan to establish a gigantic movement.
“Oparanya and Joho are a force and therefore they could not be written off. But the need to consolidate Raila's camp by averting disintegration was key to them shelving their ambitions,” Sirma said.
The former MP warned that unless One Kenya Alliance joins forces with Raila, Ruto would romp to State House as the country's fifth president next year.
“Raila with the support of One Kenya Alliance and the President, that would be a sure bet that will vanquish Ruto completely,” he said, warning that a three horse race would hand Ruto victory.
Kanu secretary general Nick Salat, a key Moi ally, yesterday signalled at a possible alliance with Raila saying the bigger the team the better in delivering victory in 2022.
“We do not want a one-man show. We want a bigger team that includes everybody if we are to win in 2022,” Salat told the Star on phone.
The former Sotik MP, however, said they hope the Building Bridges Initiative process will be concluded so that its proposals for an expanded Executive would strengthen the team.
“We have not given up on BBI because it will solve the leadership problems by having an all-inclusive government,” he said.
Former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett said it would have been a political miscalculation if Raila lost Joho and Oparanya.
“Joho has done very well as Raila's point man at the Coast and so has Oparanya in Western Kenya. If they will be in a different coalition, then it will be tough for Raila,” Bett warned.
The ex-ODM elections board chairperson said OKA will finally be boxed into a working arrangement with Raila in a bid to deal with Ruto.
“One Kenya was created to block Ruto. Raila is also there to block Ruto. Then the two (Raila and Oka) share a common mission that will force them into one movement,” Bett said.