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Raila’s central position in Nasa favours his quest to fly opposition flag

The biggest political news of the day will not be the endorsement of Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga as the National Super Alliance (Nasa) flagbearer but, rather, failure by the former Prime Minister to clinch the presidential ticket.

This is not necessarily because he is more suitable or deserving than his colleagues in the Opposition outfit.

It is partly because, over time, Mr Odinga has emerged as the face of the official Opposition – thanks to his spirited fight for justice and regime change.

And, courtesy of this consistent battle, coupled with his ever vigorous legwork to cobble together the Opposition outfit, indeed many, including politicians from the rival Jubilee party and even the media, have assumed that the ODM leader is the Nasa flagbearer.

But intense competition for the presidential ticket from other Nasa co-principals, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, has thrown the battle wide open.

OBVIOUS CHOICE

And, while a decision has already been made, Mr Odinga was not an obvious choice.

He was placed on a weighing scale like the rest. In fact. the recent reaction by his party secretary-general, Agnes Zani, to circulate a press statement indicating the Nasa coordination committee had arrived at a Raila-Kalonzo ticket, betrays confidence on the part of Mr Odinga and his backers in clinching the presidential ticket.

By divulging this information, Dr Zani and the ODM fraternity may have wanted to guard against possible machinations aimed at overturning such a decision.

READ: Leaked Nasa line-up splits ODM, ANC

Instructively, Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi denied knowledge of such a development and demanded an apology from ODM.

From the high tension witnessed among the Nasa leaders, three weeks ago when this information came out, the situation seems to have calmed down.

MORE CONFIDENT

Mr Odinga is even calmer and more confident. He has lately been signing off statements to the press as “ODM/NASA Leader”, a possible reflection of the power arrangement within the coalition outfit.

Ideally, Mr Odinga is the apparent fulcrum around which Nasa politics revolves.

And, even judging from their body language and sitting arrangement at public functions, he is always positioned – by design or default – at the central position.

This position is not entirely misplaced because many factors indeed point to Mr Odinga as the team’s strongest possible flagbearer.

Says Dr Tom Wolf, a political analyst and lead researcher at Ipsos Synovate, who has carried out surveys on the running mate question: “The conclusion here is obvious – that Raila is more popular on the Opposition side at the moment than any of the others, though such opinion poll results do not indicate the maximum level of support each of the other candidates might be able to win as presidential candidates.”

ENJOYS BIGGER SUPPORT

And, going by statistics of the 2013 polls, Mr Odinga is also leader of the biggest parliamentary party within the Opposition.

This is an indicator that he enjoys bigger political support and, considering that ODM has presence in all the regions – except central Kenya – it is presumed Mr Odinga’s support base has a wider geographical spread.

Without singling out Mr Odinga as the favourite, former Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa adds the age factor as a plus to the ODM leader: “Going by the way they (President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto) have mismanaged the affairs of this country, it is evident that age is not a factor in good governance.

In fact the older, the more experienced the better.”

If he wins the ticket partly on this account, his colleagues may also demand of him to run for just one term as a transition president.

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