Opposition chief Raila Odinga has set the stage for a gruelling duel with Deputy President William Ruto and released snippets of his 2022 blueprint that will anchor his presidential run.
Over the last few weeks, Raila is going flat out to reawaken his political bastions and conquer new territory as he angles for the top job with or without the Building Bridges Initiative.
The former Prime Minister has been bolstered by reports President Uhuru Kenyatta has agreed to back his candidature — giving hopes to his team he could reap big from Mt Kenya — a region that has perennially voted against him.
For the first time on Tuesday, Raila gave out bits and pieces of his political blueprint making national stability, the war against corruption, job creation, industrialisation and support for small business the centre of his presidential run.
“All Kenyans have great aspirations and expectations amidst struggles to make ends meet. Our youth are struggling to clear school fees, secure good jobs, stop depending on parents, start families and, save for the future,” Raila said on Wednesday.
“It starts with building an economy that works for all. It comes down to the promotion of SMEs, realistic taxation and encouraging innovation. It’s possible. It’s doable.”
This was the closest Raila has come to declaring that he is in the race to State House next year.
“I am persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that Raila will be a presidential candidate in 2022,” former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett said. “From what has been happening in recent months, the former Prime Minister is preparing to run. You can take that to the bank.”
In the last one month, the ODM boss has held meetings with his allies from the Coast, Nyanza, Central, Western and Rift Valley regions as he gears up for a fifth stab at the presidency.
Last week, Raila met all the political bigwigs from Gusii region including Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.
Meetings were part of broader efforts to consolidate his Nyanza backyard.
The meeting was critical in unifying the Gusii behind him to fend off a vicious onslaught by Ruto who has been wooing the community ahead of the 2022 polls.
Raila is keen on locking Nyanza, Western and Coast and then getting a share of Mt Kenya region, votes that analysts say would hand him the win that has eluded him for decades.
The ODM boss also flew to the Coast twice last week in two days where he held talks with his lieutenants from the region, including Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.
Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya had declared they would run for President and even challenged their boss for the party ticket but they appear to have backed off.
Earlier, the ODM boss held talks with Oparanya and a section of ODM leaders from Western Kenya as he moved to firm up his bastions ahead of 2022.
He also met leaders from the Maasai community from Narok and Kajiado counties in a scheme to deflate Ruto’s influence in Rift Valley.
Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta, a key Raila ally, said the ODM party is ring-fencing the Maasai community from the DP ahead of the 2022 polls.
“The Maa community knows where their interests matter and they are going to stand with the former Prime Minister,”Kenta said.
Analysts say Raila’s efforts to firm up his strongholds as well the unveiling of his vision lift the lid on his plans for a fifth stab at the presidency.
However, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said Raila has not declared he will run.
“He (Raila) is expressing his views just like any other Kenyan. People should stop speculations and wait for a formal announcement,” Sifuna said.
However, in his 15-point agenda titled ‘What Raila Believes In’, the ODM boss outlined a raft of policy interventions that would likely form the essence of his 2022 manifesto.
The ex-PM’s proposals, without a formal government office to implement them, reveals his ambitions to succeed the President.
The former PM’s blueprint could mean the 2022 presidential battle will be largely issue-based with candidates expected to campaign on a policy platform.
The DP has been campaigning on a radical social empowerment platform for the downtrodden whom he has branded as hustlers and ignored self-starters. He promises an aggressive bottom-up economic model to uplift them.
However, Raila has promised zero-tolerance for corruption in a bid to save the country from entrenched graft in the public sector that drains away billions of taxpayers’ money.
“It must be zero-tolerance for complacency. Zero-tolerance for corruption,” Raila said in his policy outline.
The ODM leader said he will ensure a fair, efficient and transparent Judiciary, reinforcing his long-held position that the courts must be accountable to the people they serve.
“Investors and citizens need assurance that when disputes arise, there will be a Judiciary that will deliver fast, fair and transparent justice,” Raila said.
In the ODM boss’ vision for the country, more investments should be made to ensure stability by promoting social cohesion out of ethnic and religious diversities.
“A house divided cannot stand,” Raila said, insisting the time has come for the country to embrace employment for the jobless based on meritocracy.
“We go for rigorous application of meritocracy. Once we train our youth, they must be hired purely on the basis of merit,” he said.
Signalling a plan to counter Ruto’s bottom-up economic model, the Opposition chief said he will continue to invest in higher value-added industries and strong productivity instead of just consumption.
“Consumption of things which we do not produce is not sustainable,” Raila said in the release of his economic blueprint.
The ODM leader said he would ensure massive investment in manpower development through universal access to a top-flight public education system.
Trained manpower is the single most important factor determining whether the nation is competitive or not, he said.
In a direct indictment of the country’s high taxes, Raila said he would pursue a low and transparent tax regime backed by a clean and efficient public service run on a strong regulatory and legal framework.
“We will continue investing in an energy mix to power the nation’s ambitions,” he said.
He stressed that food security and primary health care would be his priority.
Raila said he believes in rolling out massive investments in air, maritime, rail and road transportation to position Kenya as a natural hub for multinational businesses in Africa.
“We continue the vision of making Kenya a regional transport, communications, business and diplomacy hub,” he said.
Raila also promised to continue with the ongoing social protection with subsistence allowance for the urban and rural poor. He also would promote entrepreneurship and hard work.
In the 2017 General Election, Raila’s manifesto had seven pillars including national integration, inclusivity, devolution, democracy and economic transparency.
Raila who was the Nasa coalition’s presidential flag-bearer said his administration would deal with historical injustices, extrajudicial killings, and wanton corruption.
In the last few months, Raila has given strong indications that his eyes are firmly trained on the presidency, going flat out to win Kenya’s most coveted vote bank, President Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya backyard.
In January Raila, was hosted at the sacred Kikuyu shrine with the Kikuyu Council of Elders, offering symbolic prayers for the ODM boss while facing Mt Kenya.
That was the first time in decades the elders were offering the prayers to a leader outside their community in what is seen as a calculated move to prepare the ground for a Raila candidature.
A section of leaders from Mt Kenya are planning to market Raila in the region in the coming weeks in what could complicate Ruto’s fortunes in the vote-rich region.
(Edited by V. Graham)