ODM Party leader Raila Odinga arrives at the Jomo Kenyatta international airport from America enroute through johannesburg received by ODM supporters on monday at 11:30 pm on 20th MARCH 2017 PHOTO DAVID GICHURU
Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga is back from his South Africa and United States trips, and in an exclusive interview with The Standard, answers burning questions that supporters and opponents of the new National Super Alliance are asking.
Raila landed on Monday night and fielded questions on speculation that forced Wiper Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka to fend off claims he may be preparing to go it alone and later strike a deal with the winning side in the coming elections.
He also spoke about the controversy stoked by the delay in naming the NASA presidential candidate ahead of the April 15 deadline because the relevant party organs were yet to decide on how to pick the candidate.
This week it emerged the party had whittled down its options to two; consensus by the four principals themselves or the creation and use of an electoral college.
Raila blames the perception of unease in NASA and the ‘fear’ factor prevailing against him in Mount Kenya region and Rift Valley on alleged systematic propaganda against him by State security agencies.
In the following question-and-answer session with Raila, the Orange leader also disagrees with calls for dissolution of NASA affiliate parties to pave way for one bigger outfit as Jubilee did after folding up President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance and Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party.
You have just come back from the US, what political engagement did you have?
As all Kenyans know, I have very many friends in the US acquired over the years in my public and private life.
Some are in government, others are in private sector, academia and among Kenyans in the diaspora. Some of those friendships have weathered strong storms. From time to time I touch base with them on a range of issues, from politics to investment in Kenya and also just to catch up.
For some time now, a number of those friends have been expressing the wish to have me go to the US to catch up on issues and also just to take a break from the daily routine. I decided to consolidate those invitations and go this past week.
It was a good trip on which we were able to discuss a number of issues of interest to our diaspora, investors and even government officials. As usual, I used that visit to appeal strongly to businesses to consider Kenya and the counties in particular for investment.
What concerned you about claims of unease in NASA over picking of the flag bearer while you were away?
I was not bothered at all about the so-called unease in NASA because I do not think there is such a thing.
A number of us in NASA have been in politics and public life long enough to notice when the so-called unease is being pushed and exaggerated by the Government using intelligence agencies, and that is what is going on. Jubilee has deployed the services of the NIS (National Intelligence Service) to feed media with information exaggerating discord in Opposition ranks. The aim is to make our supporters give up and also to break up the Opposition.
It is a criminal activity for NIS, which is a public body funded by tax payers, to engage in partisan politics but we know NIS is actively involved in campaigning against the Opposition. NIS is busy profiling Opposition leaders and telling the business community how a NASA regime would be bad for them.
We are aware of all that. In NASA we are a coalition and we are agreed that each one of us is a first among equals so each one is trying to maneuver to be the candidate. Each one of us is deploying what he thinks would best put him ahead of the competition.
I would not term that as unease worth worrying about. There is something good about experience. It steadies you and stops you from unnecessary panic or excitement at everything and every idea. In NASA, we are not excitable politicians.
We are not jumpy and we do not easily lose it. We remain calm even under the greatest pressure because experience provides one with shock absorbers and grace under pressure. I am sure Kenyans trust that we are steady leaders and we know what we are doing and what is going on around us.
What is your position on the statement that only consensus among NASA co-principals will work on getting flag bearer?
NASA has developed a set of options to be used for the nomination and election of the candidate depending on the elective seat. Consensus is one of them. There is also room for primaries and direct nomination, among others.
Any of these can be used. But that task is with the National Coordinating Committee and I have faith that the committee is equal to the task. I want to give the committee a chance. They have not said that they have failed. They have not even said there is a stalemate only the NIS is feeding the country with ideas of stalemate and breakdown of talks but we will have the last laughter as NASA.
Senator Johnstone Muthama (Wiper) has called for dissolution of NASA affiliate parties in the way URP and TNA went. What is your position on this?
We have had this discussion before even in CORD but we never seemed to make headways. Parties are reluctant to fold and preferred the route of National Rainbow Alliance (Narc) in 2002 where a coalition was formed with parties as members of the coalition. I don’t think this has changed but there may have been developments while I was away about which I am yet to be briefed.
If Kalonzo runs alone as speculated, would this be a substantive blow to your quest to free Kenya from Jubilee?
I have no reason to believe that Hon Kalonzo will go it alone. He has been very clear that he is in NASA to stay and I have no reason to second-guess him. Kalonzo has addressed press conferences and public rallies including last weekend where he stated categorically that he is in NASA. Why the media insists that he is leaving, why the media want to speak for him is something we cannot understand.
All options point at you being the favourite in NASA but there are those who claim if you are picked to run the Opposition would lose because of the ‘fear’ factor nourished by Mt Kenya and RVP political enclave. What is your response?
The so-called fear factor against Raila Odinga by the people of Central Kenya and the Rift Valley is a creation of the NIS. It holds no water.
The people of the Rift Valley have voted for me before. They voted overwhelmingly for me in 2007. In 2013 they voted for Jubilee probably because they felt they had better stakes there because William Ruto was getting the DP position.
So they voted Jubilee not because they feared me but because they felt they would be better off in Jubilee. Whether the Rift Valley people have fared better under Jubilee than they did when they voted for me in 2007 is up to them to assess.
My own assessment is that they did better under my leadership as Prime Minister. I addressed the concerns of the people there especially with regard to livelihoods. I paid very keen attention to agriculture and protected the interests of tea, wheat, maize and dairy farmers.
But I still appreciate that thousands of Rift Valley people voted for me in 2013 despite the heavy propaganda against me and the rigging that took place there and I am sure many will do it again in 2017 if I am the candidate.
As for Central Kenya, it ought to be known that out of the four principals in NASA seeking to be flag bearer, Hon Musyoka, Hon Mudavadi and myself have been presidential candidates before. Kenyans know how each of us has fared in Central Kenya. The idea that voters in Central Kenya would vote for my rivals and not for me is a lie peddled by NIS.
The records are there on how central voted for Hon Musyoka in 2007 and how they voted for Hon Mudavadi in 2013. I have received more votes from Central Kenya in previous elections than any other candidate from outside the region.