Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga has today started his five-day tour of the Coast in what is seen as a strategy to turn the tables on Deputy President William Ruto and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, while persuading the restive region that he has its best political interests at heart.
Mr Odinga landed in Taita Taveta yesterday evening to embark on an aggressive drive in support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) ahead of a planned referendum in June.
The ODM party is slowly losing its popularity in the Coast after a number of leaders and residents shifted their allegiance to Dr Ruto and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a party he backs.
Others like Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi have vowed to form a Coast-based party. Apart from opening various projects and holding public rallies in Voi and Mwatate constituencies, the ODM leader is also set to give a campaign roadmap for his possible 2022 presidential bid. Mr Odinga is expected in Kilifi tomorrow and Wednesday where he will address rallies in Malindi, Watamu and Kilifi town. Kilifi leaders have hinted that they will be out of the opposition party in 2022.
Yesterday, Mr Kingi had a second closed-door meeting with ODM elected MPs and MCAs ahead of Mr Odinga's arrival on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, Mr Odinga will be in Mombasa addressing rallies in Changamwe and Likoni before heading out to Kwale in the evening. He will be in Kinango for a rally on Friday. His visit, apart from popularising the BBI, is meant to calm down a restive region that has traditionally supported him but is keen to chart its own path.
The headache of the second-term governors, especially Mr Kingi of Kilifi, is also a big issue for Mr Odinga. In Taita Taveta, ODM has lost former Governor John Mruttu, former Woman Representative Joyce Lay and former Senator Dan Mwazo who are warming up to UDA.
Voi MP Jones Mlolwa, who was elected on an ODM ticket, has also gravitated towards the DP.
In his tour to Taita Taveta, the ODM leader will be hosted by Governor Granton Samboja who has been seen to have developed close ties with Mr Odinga despite being elected on a Wiper Party ticket. This is the second time that the governor will host the party leader in his county.
County spokesman Denis Onsarigo said the governor will take the ODM leader on an inspection tour of various county projects in Mwatate on Tuesday.
"Mr Odinga will inspect the ongoing construction of Mwatate modern market and the Covid-19 isolation centre in Mwatate Hospital," he said. In September last year, the governor hosted Mr Odinga on a two-day visit to the county. The ODM leader inspected several projects.
In contrast, Mr Samboja has been skipping his party leader Kalonzo Musyoka's meetings whenever he visits the county. His deputy governor Majala Mlaghui, who was elected the chairperson of Young Wiper Democrats, has however been active in party activities.
"Our party leader has been here twice and he (governor) has always given excuses but every time Raila comes the governor is there to welcome him. This means he is no longer in our party," a Wiper official said.
Although the governor is yet to publicly declare his move to ODM, his recent activities including holding several meetings with Mr Odinga in Nairobi could mean that he is being considered by ODM as their possible 2022 candidate for governorship.
Mr Samboja has also been vocal in declaring his support for the ODM leader and has been active in party activities in the county. Sources in ODM said the governor is plotting to ditch Wiper for ODM. There has been a growing disquiet in ODM in the county following Mr Samboja's involvement in party affairs.
Tomorrow, Mr Odinga is scheduled to hold public rallies in Mwatate and Voi towns. He is also expected to open Mwakinyungu Primary School in Rong'e, which was built through Mwatate's National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).