William Ruto made a direct phone call to Raila Odinga and wished the indisposed doyen of opposition politics swift recovery from the bottom of his heart. Those who heard the phone conversation said it was reminiscent of the duo’s days in the run-up to the 2007 elections when, then both in ODM, were the best of buddies.
Weekly Citizen heard that Ruto started with: “Baba how are you fairing on now?” to which Raila responded “William, I”m doing ok.” Ruto among other pleasantries told Raila: “I wish you quick recovery so we can see what the future holds for us.” It was after the phone call that Ruto went to Twitter and posted his get-well wishes to Raila. The veteran opposition leader had checked into Nairobi Hospital after complaining of fatigue and underwent a series of tests including food poisoning, stool test and high blood pressure among others. Food poisoning is a standard test for any politician booked into the hospital.
The tests were conducted through a coordination of a team of high profile doctors from Kenya, South Africa and Dubai led by his personal medic David Olunya. The tests were virtually shared among the doctors involved who then zoom conferenced to agree on how to handle the Raila case. It was after the consultations that Raila’s personal doctor David Olunya broke the sad news thus “Following my letter of 10th of March 2021, we have confirmed that Rt Hon Raila Odinga has SARS-2 Covid-19’’. Ruto was among the first leaders to send a message of quick recovery to Raila upon his admission to the Nairobi Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.
In his emotional tweet, Ruto quoted Isaiah 53 verse 5 which states: “By Jesus’ strips comes healing” to console Raila that he would get well soon, reminding him he had fought many battles and always demonstrated courage and bravery, and the sickness too would end. Ruto’s tweet also came in a week when Uhuru Kenyatta’s swordsman, Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe had for the second time dared Raila to quit the handshake if he felt he was not being treated well. Murathe’s remarks came a day after media reports claimed the president had called Raila at night after ODM’s leaders lashed out at Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho, accusing him of derailing the Building Bridges Initiative.
Though the tirade was directed at Kibicho, it was not lost to the president that he was the target and hence could have possibly told Raila off during their night telephone conversation. It was also the same week that a furious president banned for 30 days political activities citing the rising Covid-19 cases but pundits suspect the gag targets are Ruto and Raila, two leaders who attract sizeable crowds in their rallies. We can authoritatively report that a section in government is not comfortable of the current Ruto, Raila political marriage talk. To complicate matters is that those who surround the two, due to the fear of the emerging Sacred Alliance that is aimed at isolating Ruto and Raila in Uhuru succession, are crafting a team made of seasoned politicians, clergy and diplomats to find ways of reconciling them with a view to having them enter the 2022 presidential race on a joint ticket.
Sources familiar with the developments intimated that the team wants to sideline hardliners from both sides as it seeks ways to reconcile the two most popular politicians to jointly contest the presidency in 2022 against the president’s camp. Insiders revealed that the suggested members of the team include former cabinet minister Sally Kosgey and retired African Inland Church bishop Silas Yego, on Ruto’s side. The Raila side wants his elder brother and East African Legislative Assembly legislator, Oburu Odinga and Catholic archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth. Others in the team include Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana and Mukhisa Kituyi.
Former senator and UDA party leader Johnston Muthama and Ali Mwakwere said to be falling out with his Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka names also feature among those to reconcile Ruto and Raila. The choice of Kosgey is because of her diplomatic skills while Yego has fallen out with the Moi family after Baringo senator Gideon Moi refused to bail him out after his 50 high-end apartments in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa neighbourhood were put on auction over Sh153 million he owes Transnational Bank. For Bishop Okoth, he is being mentioned because of his ability to sway the ODM leader in making important decisions.
Oburu was the first to send signals of a possible coalition when during an interview with KTN said there was nothing that can stop the former premier from working with the deputy president in 2022, noting their differences are political and not personal. He at the same time ruled out ODM support for the impeachment motion against the deputy president instead challenging Jubilee to initiate the process and not leave the matter to other parties. The motion surprisingly is in hands of ANC party of Musalia Mudavadi. During Matungu by-election,UDA and ODM luminaries accused the police of having favoured ANC.
Ruto and Raila allies have in recent past decided to bash the police saying it is being used by state operatives to play partisan politics in Uhuru succession. It is not only Ruto who wished Raila quick recovery, Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a well known critic of Raila, did the same. Insiders pushing for the deal including Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Kirinyaga womem rep Purity Ngirici are for a reconciliation team being expanded to include key figures from Mount Kenya, Coast and North Eastern region.
To them, the team should explore three options with the first being the implications of fielding Ruto as the presidential candidate, second the implication of fielding Raila as the presidential candidate and the third having the two separately contest to force a rerun where the one with the highest votes will back the other against Uhuru’s candidate. The team pegs its hopes on passage of the BBI to expand the executive to include the president, deputy, prime minister and two deputies. For Ruto, the team is to be aware, according to those behind the move, he cannot be a running mate since the constitution bars anyone who has served as deputy president for two terms from running for the same office again.
For Raila, the team is to be informed, at 78 years, this is his last major attempt for presidency and hence if he backs Ruto it will mean he will give away his last chance of making a stab at the highest seat in the land. The team is also considering Raila’s poor health which could make him mince meat for Uhuru’s candidate in the 2022 polls. The sources added that the team is to enlist governance experts to weigh all the three scenarios and recommend the best way going forward. In scenario one where Ruto is the presidential candidate, the team is tasked with finding out the political repercussions in Raila’s strongholds.
It is also finding out how Ruto would fare if Uhuru’s side picks Mudavadi for presidency, Gideon Moi of Kanu or Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper. One thing that is emerging among the proponents of the move is that it is easy to reconcile Ruto and Raila compared with his former co-principals in Nasa going with the current happenings surrounding the handshake and BBI politics. The team is also weighing the possible outcome of Ruto endorsing Raila and Uhuru’s camp in return either endorses Mudavadi or Gideon. In the third scenario of both contesting the presidency with the ultimate aim of forcing a rerun, the team is weighing the possible outcomes should Uhuru camp field as its presidential candidate either Mudavadi or Gideon.
Here, the fear is that the state might deploy its full machinery to ensure the system’s candidate wins in the first round. Insiders reveal Raila, a shrewd politician, is using the alliance talk to checkmate Ruto and his deep system suspicious power games in 2022 succession. The ODM leader now believes the president is undercutting him and one example he is drawing is the head of state’s decision to invite behind his back Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Moses Wetang’ula of Ford-K and Charity Ngilu of Narc to State House for a key BBI meeting which the former premier also attended.
Sources say Raila blames his woes on Internal Security cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i who is scheming to become Nyanza regional political kingpin. Matiang’i hails from Nyamira county. The ODM leader believes the president is undermining him by giving Matiang’i his ear and also remaining mum as former Nasa principals up their onslaught on him. At the last State House meeting he attended, Raila also read betrayal after learning Uhuru had also invited Ruto for the cabinet meeting days after he dared him to resign. Ruto had missed out on a number of past cabinet meetings.
Ruto’s invitation to the meeting, to Raila, was a signal the head of state was playing them against each other for his selfish political ends. It was also worrying to Raila that at the cabinet meeting, Ruto was sitting at the high table alongside Uhuru where issues regarding the development agenda and the BBI were given top priority. Insiders added that both Ruto and Raila are reading mischief in the appointment of Winnie Guchu as chief administrative secretary in the ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Development where she replaced former Tana River governor Hussein Dado.
They blame her for the recent by-election chaos. Though the appointment is meant to help the faltering Kibicho to contain the deputy president, Raila is uncomfortable with Guchu, 46, for the role she played as a commissioner at Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which he says rigged him out in the last two presidential elections. Raila believes Guchu is being prepared to lead the elections rigging team in 2022, which will include the provincial administration.
Insiders added that Raila is also attributing his waning support particularly in Mount Kenya region to Kibicho for watering down his presidential bid by painting him as an unelectable. Insiders added that Kosgey, who is fluent in Kalenjin and Luo dialects by virtue of hailing from Aldai which has a large presence of Luos besides Kalenjins and is a close ally of the former premier who nominated her for a ministerial post during the grand coalition government, is chairing the team’s meetings.
Kosgey is also reportedly using her diplomatic skills to woo Kalenjin political big guns and tycoons to decamp to the deputy president’s camp, her biggest catch so far being former Bomet governor Isaac Rutto. Signals Raila is softening on Ruto emerged when he uncharacteristically opposed legislation against the hustler narrative, which is the campaign mantra propagated by the deputy president. The ODM leader shocked his support base when he poured cold water on the draconian proposal by the national assembly security committee led by Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange to amend the National Cohesion and Integration (Amendment) Bill 2021 to impose despotic measures against those who propagate the hustlers versus dynasties narrative.
The proposal was to see violators imprisoned for five years or pay a fine of Sh5 million. The bill, insiders added, had been cleared by the security agencies that included the National Intelligence Service but Raila’s objection forced the team to coil its tail. ODM leader’s supporters had, as usual, blindly and unthinkingly, welcomed the proposal as it would have helped tame Ruto whom they view as the greatest obstacle to their man’s ascension to the highest office in the land. The reaction by Ruto to Raila’s gesture also showed he had dropped his combative nature, choosing to instead weigh his words carefully unlike in the past when he would have dismissed him as a riddles man or witch.
Ruto’s strategists have also been sending signals they are ready to work with Raila with some saying they no longer consider the ODM leader as their enemy. The clearest indication Ruto and Raila can team up was given by Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, a staunch and outspoken ally of the deputy president, when he said though there were no active discussions between the duo they have “not ruled out anything”. Another signal was sent by national assembly minority leader John Mbadi when he asserted that though Raila and Ruto do not share any ideological views, they can not rule out a possible reunion ahead of next year’s election.
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