Deputy President William Ruto allies in the Rift Valley on Wednesday dared opposition leader Raila Odinga to a 2022 presidential match, saying they were readying their arsenal to counter Mr Odinga’s challenge.
They said they had all along been aware of Mr Odinga’s plans and that they had a counter strategy in place adding that his intention to take advantage of the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta will not help him.
This was in response to assertions by Mr Odinga’s allies on Tuesday that the former premier was contemplating a fifth bid at the presidency in 2022.
Siaya Senator James Orengo, Governor Cornel Rasanga and other ODM lieutenants on Tuesday disclosed plans to rebrand ODM and field Mr Odinga for the presidency in 2022.
“We are rebranding our party leader to contest on an ODM party ticket in 2022,” said Mr Orengo at the burial of the mother-in-law of former Gem MP Joe Donde in Ikolomani Kakemga County.
Those remarks jolted the rift lawmakers who said they were ready for the match.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said they had all along known that Mr Odinga was preparing for 2022 and that he had taken advantage of the handshake to rebrand himself for the bid.
“It is not a surprise at all. We have all along known he was getting ready for another bid. We are ready for him. We are working to solidify the DP’s base,” said the outspoken Senator.
President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga shook hands last March in a gesture indicating their willingness to work together after a tumultuous electioneering period where they faced each other for the second time.
The handshake has been warmly received across the country. The two have always insisted that the agreement they entered excluded talk about 2022 elections.
Mr Cherargei said the DP would not wait for any surprises.
He confirmed that a number of meetings would be held across the region to popularize and affirm Mr Ruto’ supremacy.
“He is our leader and is he is going around the country meeting people, making more friends and establishing networks. It is now upon us to ensure his political base remains intact. As Rift Valley leaders under him we will not sleep but will work hard to solidify his base,” said Mr Cherargei yesterday.
The sentiments were supported by Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono and his Soy counterpart Caleb Kositany who claimed that DP sacrificed a lot to elevate Mr Odinga to the Prime Minister position.
“Mr Odinga owes more than just a political debt to the DP and he should support him in his 2022 presidential bid” Mr Kositany told Nation on phone.
But according to Nandi Hill MP Alfred Keter, the 2022 presidential campaign should not be pegged on political debts but development records.
He predicted that the fight against graft will be a key feature in the coming polls saying those preparing the presidential bids should get ready to tell Kenyans how they are going to fight the vice.
“Every leader running for president in 2022 must understand that it will be an election where the pass mark will be on your passion, drive and capacity to fight corruption,” Mr Keter said on phone.
Mr Odinga’s expected bid has already an early boost from a section of former MPs from Meru and Tharaka-Nithi who said they were ready to support him if he declared his interest in the top seat once again.
“Although Raila said he will not run in 2022, we are telling him he should decide to run, he shall have our unqualified support,” said the leaders in a joint statement by former Tigania West MP Kilemi Mwiria last week.
Mr Odinga’s bid will be another headache for Mr Ruto who is already facing a challenge from Kanu leader Gideon Moi at his turf.
Mr Moi, the Baringo Senator, is yet to publicly declare whether he will run or back anyone but his latest moves has been interpreted as geared towards a bid for the seat.
The senator has been meeting leaders from different parts of the country and was last in Nyanza when former US President Barack Obama visited. He was warmly received in the region.