ODM leader Raila Odinga's wife Ida has opened up about her relationship with Deputy President William Ruto's wife Rachel, her dabbling in ODM politics, and why she believes her husband is the best bet for president.
Mrs Odinga said she has had a cordial relationship with Mrs Ruto despite the rising political temperatures fuelled by the fierce competition involving their spouses.
She, however, acknowledged the bitter political fight between the DP and the former prime minister could create tense moments for them.
Mrs Odinga also extolled her warm relationship with President Kenyatta's wife, Margaret, with whom, she pointed out, they consult frequently.
"With Margaret, we're easy but for Rachel, I know with the current political situation, she may not be comfortable but what Kenyans should know is that politics is not enmity," Mrs Odinga told Nation in an exclusive interview at her Spectre East Africa office in Nairobi.
"In fact we're friends although we don't meet often. But I need not ask for permission from anyone to meet anybody," she asserted.
"There are certain decisions that I can also make. If I need consultation, I'll consult, but there are certain decisions I can make as a human being."
Mrs Odinga, who has been at the centre of a political storm in ODM over her recent statement calling for consensus in nominating various candidates for next year's election, maintained that her statement was personal and not influenced by the party leadership.
She noted that, while certain aspects of her statement were misconstrued, consensus remains one of the modes of nomination allowed by the party constitution, especially to avoid acrimony that sows divisions in the party.
"Consensus is allowed in the ODM constitution, but if it fails, then competitive nomination is the route. All in all, campaigns should not be a matter of life and death and in the event it's prone to cause divisions, we should not hesitate to have dialogue and consensus among aspirants," she said.
What's your relationship with Rachel Ruto and Margaret Kenyatta?
I have no problem with them. In fact we are friends although we don't meet as often.
But with Margaret, we are easy.
Even with Rachel we would be easy, but I know it won't be easy for her.
The spouse may not allow her to engage me for obvious political reasons. He may not like it.
Do you reach out to each other, especially Rachel Ruto whose husband is poised to be Mr Odinga's main opponent?
I don't ask for permission to meet anybody. I'm a senior citizen. I'm not mzee's little child (smiles). There are certain decisions that I can also make. If I need consultation, I'll consult, but there are certain decisions I can make as a human being.
There is a feeling that you wield a lot of power in ODM. Do you have any role in the party?
From where? I'm not elected, not nominated and not even vying for any seat. But I'm a senior citizen of this nation and a member of the ODM party with equal rights to other members. You can't deny me that opportunity to air my views because I'm also a member of ODM and I have a right to speak as a member of the party.
How do you juggle private business and politics?
I do my basic work from here. I'm the Managing Director of Spectre East Africa and I'm involved in the day-to-day running of its affairs. However, all my lifetime I've been into politics due to family relations. I've lived with it and it has never affected my business roles. Just today, you saw I hosted the Daughters of Kenya, an outfit that wants me to be its patron and help them on advisory affairs. I can't decline such guests. I know how to balance my work.
Do you support Mr Odinga's candidature in 2022?
Nine years after my marriage, Jakom (Mr Odinga) went to prison. You mean I could stay there for 10 years to wait for him to come back from prison and fail to support him? If I supported him in his absence, I can still support him in his presence.
Why do you think he is the best bet for the country as President?
I think he has got good ideas for this nation compared to anybody else.
Maybe that's because I know him better. But I feel he has good ideas and the interest of this nation at heart.
I don't know what others think but to me, he is the best that Kenya can get.
Do you have preferred candidates in ODM?
Not at all. As an ODM party member, I have the responsibility to give my opinion. If I feel like acrimonious nominations sometimes breed violence and divisions, I have a right to suggest dialogue, which is basically consensus that is enshrined in the ODM constitution.
This does not mean I support a particular candidate because consensus will be a discussion among the candidates.
Why do you feel ODM should give consensus a chance for some seats and certain regions?
Campaigns have become a matter of life and death, which should not be the case. Why should people kill each other just because you don't like your opponents? Remember the people who die or are maimed in such scenarios are not leaders but the supporters who turn against their kin yet in the end only one person is elected. Let the people know that nobody will die because they are not elected. Even if you are not elected you are not useless, you are still a leader. You can still serve elsewhere in other capacities.
There is a feeling that you are deeply involved in politics unlike other spouses of politicians. What's your take on this?
Look at my background; it's politics all through. I've faced a lot in my life in politics. My husband has been arrested and detained for nine years and I understand what politics can cost a people. That's why I can't sit back and watch the rising political temperatures and fail to give an advisory. I don't speak for others but how many times have they been arrested and thrown in the cells simply because they are politicians' wives?
How many times have they lost their jobs and [been] thrown in the cold? So I've passed through a lot and have a lot to share in this field.
What, in your view, do you think is the right thing to do to address the gender question in leadership?
To open space for women in leadership, we must reduce violence. Women would like to go to rallies like anybody else but violence scares them.
Men also don't want their women to get involved because they don't know when they will be attacked by their opponents. There are also a lot of legislations that have been proposed that could address this issue once and for all.
Let's adopt them.
Q: What's your take on the disturbing teenage pregnancies?
A: Teenage pregnancies are alarming and we must take responsibility as a society to be our young ones' keepers. It's quite absurd that girls between 10 and 14 are getting pregnant. This is a major concern and a big disaster. It's our collective responsibility to instil discipline and educate them adequately. I'm running a programme dubbed: Linda kesho, among other projects that seek to enlighten the young ones to avoid risky behaviours that are likely to ruin their lives. This is a matter of concern that we must all put [in] concerted efforts to address.
What's your message to Kenyans ahead of next year's elections?
We want peaceful elections and everybody to be alive and well as we go for the next elections. Kenya belongs to all of us. We must allow anybody to campaign and attend rallies and feel safe in any part of the country and ensure we have issue-based campaigns, and not violence. If there is a rally and you don't like somebody, why do you go to the rally? Why don't you stay home, go to the shamba and look after your goats? You know who is coming for a rally, why go there if you don't want him? We must avoid violence in rallies. Why go to rallies with weapons? Sometimes even the people you are fighting for don't know you. If you are arrested, it's you who will go to jail, not the person you are trying to protect or fight for.
What are your expectations on Mr Odinga's expected announcement on December 9 on whether to vie for the presidency or not?
That's his secret. I'm also anxious and waiting like anybody else to know whatever he will say.
What's your parting shot?
We are all Kenyans. We don't have any other country. We should, therefore, protect our nation and people ahead of next year's election because an election is not a matter of life and death. Let's do the right thing for the betterment of this great country Kenya and maintain brotherhood.