To quit or not: Tough options for ODM boss ahead of 2022

If ODM leader Raila Odinga chooses to, he could bolt out of what is left of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process. But that would only make him look bad, for he has been telling Kenyans nobody can stop the BBI reggae.

He must, therefore, sulkily hang in there, even as he ponders on the next steps towards the reggae of the 2022 election and whether it can be won and with which partnership. Already, he was set up to denounce his National Super Alliance (Nasa) allies.

They strategically asked him to return the “repeated political favours” they had done him by stepping down for him to have the opposition presidential ticket over the years. His response was cryptic. “They were cowards who had abandoned him during his extra-legal swearing in of 30 January 2018.”

It was an act of desolate hope and desperation for them to dream of his support.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna keeps rubbing it in. They are cowards and liabilities, he says. The moment of truth is here at last, however, when the ripe and unripe must be separated. The Deputy President’s voice in the BBI has been neutered. Raila has been cornered. BBI will sail through. Then focus will be on 2022, with President Uhuru Kenyatta in the mix. At this point, it is difficult to tell which of the five pieces in the Executive, Uhuru has his eye on – and whether it is for himself, or his alternate.

Regardless, the interest is certainly there. You don’t remove power from other constitutional offices to heap it in one office in the Executive only to hand that office over to someone else.

Raila and Ruto are left staring at each other in a strange corner, where they will be asking, “How did we get here, and what are you doing here?” They will be pondering their options in that corner. ODM’s reluctance to field candidates in recent by-elections speaks of a party in recession and a party leader whose tyres are losing their grip, with the tube in multiple slow punctures.

Inevitable alliances

Raila could brave it out and try to assemble another pentagon to go against the One Kenyan Alliance and the DP in a three horse race. It would promise a tough and messy affair that could force a presidential election run off. Accordingly, all players must moderate what they say about one another at this stage. They might need each other’s support to cross over to the Promised Land in September/October 2022.

Ruto faces the Hobson’s Choice. He could go with Raila, if ODM boss chooses to support him, at the risk of losing the Mt Kenya following, on account of the former PM support. Or, he could go it alone. Like the great Napoleon Bonaparte, he would soon discover you need partners in any battle, even when you are a great general. But would he also consider eating humble pie and working with the One Kenya Alliance? Would this be a stretching of political humility beyond its elasticity?

This is where President Kenyatta has brought two gentlemen who thought he was their friend. The way ahead is to be watched, including to see what plans Uhuru seems to have for himself, or his family, in the emerging scenario. When Raila has recovered from his current challenges with Covid-19 and rediscovers his tongue, what words are going to roll on the tongue? And words don’t roll on a dry tongue. What smoothie is he going to whet his tongue with? Will it be a smoothie blended with waters of humility in the wings of the One Kenya Alliance, or will it be a smoothie that helps the tongue to belt out defiant reggae tunes? Conversely, will the alliance survive bitter internal competitions for dominance and supremacy?

If the alliance should easily settle for one of them as the presidential flagbearer, are they thinking of how to mollify ethnic populations that are looking up to each one of them as the gallant tribal leader who bring home the golden fleece? How do the tribes behave when they hear that someone else has the silver spear that kills the fleece?

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