Star (Kenya)

Cord leader Raila Odinga with Amani National Congress Musalia Mudavadi at St Stephens Church Jogoo Road on April 24,2016. Photo/File

Cord leader Raila Odinga with Amani National Congress Musalia Mudavadi at St Stephens Church Jogoo Road on April 24,2016. Photo/File

OPPOSITION chief Raila Odinga will not endorse anyone for the Presidency without competitive nominations, his allies have warned, in what is likely to mar muted early celebrations in Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC.

There have been reports that Raila could declare “Mudavadi Tosha” in 2017 and the ANC leader has created the buzz to market himself as the country’s best, inside the opposition, for the top job.

But wide-ranging interviews with Raila’s close allies and top ODM leaders painted a picture of a man who will not hang up his outsize political boots just yet.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed was most categorical, saying negotiations within Cord are open but “must be on the basis that Raila is a Presidential candidate”.

“Any other insinuations are just figments of the imagination. And for the record, Raila will be on the ballot in 2017,” Mohamed, a close ally of the ODM supremo, told the Star yesterday.

Expert comment: Raila’s stepping aside is a diversionary debate

ODM chairman John Mbadi claimed the Mudavadi narrative was being spun by the media and remained emphatic Raila remains the ODM 2017 candidate.

“I don’t think there is any politician who has ever come out to say that Cord – or Raila for that matter – will endorse a Musalia-Kalonzo ticket. I think the media has been trying to fish for information,” Mbadi said.

“That decision [who will fly the Cord flag] hasn’t been arrived at. We are not likely to announce who is the joint Presidential candidate until early 2017.”

But while key ODM leaders remain diplomatic, Raila’s core supporters are increasingly becoming infuriated and feeling disenfranchised with all the endorsement talk.

The former Prime Minister has started an aggressive 2017 charm offensive to reawaken his strongholds and there is a feeling Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangu’la aren’t doing as much.

On Saturday, renowned ODM blogger and youth leader Dikembe Disembe wondered why Raila should navigate the “coastal heat” only to return to Nairobi to encounter the “endorse-me group”.

“Now Raila Odinga is navigating the heat and dust of Coast region reaching out to the grassroots and selling our progressive agenda then he will return to Nairobi only to watch press conferences of people wanting endorsements right from the comfort of their homes. Is it fair?”

The Cord leader was on an aggressive four-day offensive at the Coast and visited Kwale and Tana River, marketing Cord as Kenya’s best choice to replace Jubilee, which he accuses of massive corruption.

“This government is not only corrupt but has no interest in ensuring devolution is successful,” Raila said at Hola Stadium on Saturday.

In an interview with the Star yesterday, Mohamed termed Musalia “a good man” and said they can form one coalition with him.

He however insisted that, as ODM, they would never compromise on Raila’s 2017 candidature.

“We can compromise on any other thing, but not Raila’s candidature…Among the people contesting in Cord, Raila is the most experienced, he has won elections twice but they were stolen from him and he is the only one leading a national political party with representation in seven regions,” he said.

Mohamed also argued that there is no guarantee the ODM bastions – including Nyanza, Coast, Western and Nairobi – will automatically vote for Cord if Raila is not on the ballot.

On Saturday, senior Luhya politicians kicked off a campaign to unite the community, with trade unionist Francis Atwoli hosting a key meeting to rally the region to vote for one Presidential candidate.

The attendants appeared buoyed by reports that Raila was willing to back Mudavadi.

“I need your support as a community to realise that dream [of becoming President]. I am not fighting Cord, but seeking to remove Jubilee from power. I want this to be clear,” Musalia said at Khwisero Girls’ Secondary on Saturday.

Even ODM rebel MPs from Western who have been openly working with Jubilee appeared to be excited by the prospect of a Mudavadi run endorsed by Raila.

“If Raila would back you, please don’t refuse. We as members of your community will strongly back you,” stated Sirisia MP John Waluke.

Waluke ditched Raila two months ago, alongside Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba.

“Why should Raila be leaving the race for other people all the time, and he is aggressively working for it?” Nyando MP Fred Outa wondered. “What we need to be advocating for is to have a clean register. If we do, you will see Raila become the President of the Republic of Kenya.”

Opinion polls have shown that the former PM remains a clear favourite for the Opposition ticket to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017.

However, there is a feeling, even among some of Raila’s confidants, that his victory could be stolen once more.

“The exigencies demand Cord goes for the second-best candidate to save the country from all this malaise we are being confronted with. It’s time for Raila to support somebody else in 2017. It is the only fair thing to do at this time to save our dear country,” argued former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim.

Maalim has been seen as among Raila’s strongest supporters from Northeastern.

But yesterday, Mbadi dismissed all such talk, saying he wouldn’t crucify Maalim for his opinion.

In June, an Ipsos poll indicated that 28 per cent of Kenyans would vote for Raila if elections were held then, with Kalonzo and Wetangu’la coming a distant

third – only 2 per cent support.

Mudavadi was classified under “others”, at 2 per cent.

Within the Luhya community, Wetangu’la has insisted he is the best suited for the race for State House and has asked Mudavadi to instead back his bid.

“In Cord we are three Presidential candidates. Raila, Kalonzo and Weta [short for Wetangu’la]. Am sure the luck would fall on me. And I am asking my brother Musalia Mudavadi to enter Cord and support me,” he said.

Raila has categorically stated he is willing to step aside if there is a stronger candidate who would help send the Jubilee administration home.

“Must it be me? No! I am prepared to support others if they have better prospects of beating Jubilee hands down. The whole thing is that we must not allow Jubilee to get victory when the country is in such a mess,” he stated a fortnight ago.

Cord’s three co-principals formed a five-man team to decide through opinion polling the most popular Presidential candidate and running mate combination.

The team spearheading the poll includes Senators Johnson Muthama (Machakos), James Orengo (Siaya), Bonny Khalwale (Kakamega) and MPs Chris Wamalawa (Kiminini) and Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba).

The poll’s progress remains unclear.