Kenya: Raila Odinga Devises New Strategies for a Fifth Stab at the Presidency

Opposition leader Raila Odinga (file photo).

Orange Democratic Movement boss Raila Odinga has devised new strategies for a fifth stab at the presidency in the 2020 General Election.

The enigmatic leader is yet to declare his candidature, but has indicated that he still has a "loaded magazine" for the mission ahead, countering claims that he ran out of bullets in the 2017 battle.

His continued release of snippets of his vision for the nation through his social media pages, observers say, suggests that the former prime minister will throw his hat in the ring.

He has rolled out vision boards for transforming rural economies, helping enhance the 'Made in Kenya' goal by supporting industries, and a proposal on how to have a functional civil service.

In what looked like a manifesto, Mr Odinga yesterday released what the party termed as "the granulated, clearly-explained how-to" steps that ODM will employ in its 2022 campaigns.

He spelt out his vision for better healthcare in view of the gaps witnessed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Public healthcare system

"The most urgent need facing this country is how to ensure universal access to quality, affordable and reliable healthcare: both preventive and curative. From primary school days, we were told that prevention is better than cure," Mr Odinga stated.

The country needs a robust primary public healthcare system, starting from the family level to the public healthcare delivery system, he added.

The ODM leader said he envisages a system where compulsory health insurance scheme is actualised to take care of both the employed and the unemployed, including farmers.

"We must ensure that this health insurance scheme gives the government primary responsibility to pay for the extreme poor (indigents) in rural and urban areas and that the rest of the population should contribute to, and receive health coverage from the insurance scheme," Mr Odinga said.

He also underscored the need to set timelines within which "we ensure substantial increase in the number of medical institutions, medical staff, medical insurance scheme, clinics and hospital beds and access to a diverse choice of quality and healthy food across the country".

Last week, the ODM leader outlined his vision for a modern civil service, noting the need for a proper rewards system for the hardworking and consequences for those who do not meet the mark.

He has also unveiled his rural economy plan, which has come under criticism from allies of his political rival, Deputy President William Ruto, who view it as an attempt to copy their 'hustler nation' mantra.

Mr Odinga also wants Kenya to focus on identification of skills to promote local brands. Political analyst Herman Manyora observes that the change of tack was necessary for the ODM leader.

Building Bridges Initiative

"Raila has a problem declaring his candidature openly given that he has said he will have to wait for the Building Bridges Initiative. Yet the BBI is delaying, so he can no longer wait. He is thus preparing Kenyans in such a manner but anybody with a small head can understand that he is in the race," said Mr Manyora.

The move to delay his declaration is also seen as a scheme to minimise attacks by opponents. Mr Odinga initially cut the image of a combative politician, but has since reinvented himself and seeks to concentrate on his message.

Last Thursday, his party announced the collapse of the National Super Alliance (Nasa). ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna said the move gives them an opportunity to seek new partners.

"The NEC has deliberated on the future of the party and its need to make new friends. We shall build new partnerships and extend the ongoing talks with our potential partners to the grassroots. Regional meetings and engagements have been planned with like-minded parties," Mr Sifuna said.

The Nation has gathered that Jubilee Party, with which ODM intends to enter into a new deal, will be part of the meetings to prepare the ground ahead of Mr Odinga's declaration of his candidature.

Mr Odinga said the events are aimed at uniting the country, citing his visit to Murang'a, where he was hosted by media mogul SK Macharia.

"You can see the face of Kenya here. From Gatanga, we are marking the beginning of a new journey. When I said we were working on something, some people did not believe me. The resolve to unite Kenya as a result of the Handshake begins from here," Mr Odinga said, referring to his recent declaration of the coming of a 'political tsunami'.

The ODM leader will link up with President Uhuru Kenyatta next week to begin countrywide tours with a visit to the Nyanza region, coming barely two months after their meetings in Siaya and Kisumu counties. From Nyanza, they will head to Western and Coast.

Mr Odinga's new style is a stark contrast to his campaign methods, which meant attacking the government over graft and other State failures.

In the run-up to the 2013 and 2017 polls, he took on the government over corruption allegations at the National Youth Service and the Eurobond scandal.

President Kenyatta and the Jubilee brigade branded him "an economic saboteur". Now, the ODM leader enjoys a cordial relationship with the President, thanks to the March 9, 2018 handshake.

Dent image

Political analyst Dismas Mokua, however, argued that his association with the government has also served to dent his image due the baggage of incumbency orchestrated by Jubilee failures.

Dr Ruto has on many occasions capitalised on the Handshake to attack Mr Odinga, claiming he should take responsibility over Jubilee failures. "The little matter of 'Railaphobia' is now a brand liability for him. In fact, Dr Ruto is rubbing his hands in glee as he waits for Raila to come in for the Mt Kenya vote scramble," said Mr Mokua.

But Mr Odinga is keen on seeking new allies in regions initially perceived as hostile to him including Mt Kenya

The Murang'a meeting was attended by several pro-handshake leaders, barely a week after holding another in Mombasa with a section of Mt Kenya MPs, including National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri), Kanini Kega (Kieni), Peter Mwathi (Limuru), Maina Kamanda (nominated), Jude Njomo (Kiambu) and former Nairobi woman rep Rachel Shebesh.

"Honestly you cannot ignore such a big constituency given their numbers. As a party we have had difficulty in penetrating the region in past elections but it's not for lack of trying. Ruto has only taken the region by rhetoric with no proper plans for the area," Mr Sifuna said.

Mr Odinga is also seeking to shed off the old guard in his inner circle and embrace the youth, who are the majority.

Mr Sifuna has hosted the executive members of the Young Aspirants-Kenya at Chungwa House where they discussed the idea of a partnership.

"The youths sought partnership with our party ahead of the 2022 general election," ODM party said after the meeting.

The party is also reaching out to artists and comedians in an image sprucing up plan. It has also waived membership fees to tap the youth.

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