ODM leader Raila Odinga has adopted a new strategy, dropping henchmen from his Luo backyard in a bid to spruce up his 2022 presidential campaigns and craft a national outlook.
Raila’s strategy is seen as a bold move to cast a national image and shake off Nyanza’s domination of his campaigns.
According to those around the ODM leader, Raila is going full throttle to muster a serious face of the country around him in line with his unity campaign, Azimio la Umoja.
A lawmaker told the Star that Raila himself prevailed upon his backers from the Lake region to allow the newly acquired friends to run his Azimio la Umoja campaigns.
“Jakom (Raila) feels that we should step back and give room to our new friends to run the show. It is not that we have abandoned the rallies,” the lawmaker told the Star.
The same was confirmed by ODM chairman John Mbadi.
According to the National Assembly minority leader, it is foolhardy for Raila to continue preaching unity when he is still surrounded by the same familiar faces from his backyard.
“Raila has acquired new friends and those new friends should be given space to move around with him,” Mbadi said on the phone.
“If we are talking of Azimio la Umoja and you still see Mbadi and the rest around him, then where is that Azimio la Umoja.”
Saboti MP Caleb Amisi, Raila’s confidant from Western, said Kenyans should expect more unfamiliar and youthful faces occupying front rows during Raila’s engagements.
The swap, he noted, will make the former Prime Minister more appealing to Kenyans.
“We appreciate their (Raila’s Nyanza men) continued support and being the bastion of Baba’s support but we also need to align ourselves to the realities of the modern centuries and thinking of the modern young person,” Amisi said.
“You are going to see even more of those faces in the coming days because that is where the majority of Kenyans are.”
Of late, the ODM boss has been accompanied by leaders from across the nation with his erstwhile backers from Nyanza missing from the front row.
The new approach is also viewed as one that will propel his public acceptability as Kenyans identify with his camp.
Some of the faces outside Raila’s Luo ethnic community and who have been accompanying him in recent rallies include Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), James Ongwae (Kisii), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Nderitu Muriithi (Laikipia) and MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Maina Kamanda (Nominated), Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita), Teddy Mwambire (Ganze), Stanley Muthama (Lamu West) and Caleb Amisi (Saboti).
Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, business magnate S.K Macharia and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna have also been part of Raila’s entourage.
Nyanza leaders who have of late not been frequent in Raila’s regional engagements include Governors Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), MPs John Mbadi (Suba South), James Orengo (Siaya), TJ. Kajwang’ (Ruaraka) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja).
Mbadi told the Star the change of tack is to promote the spirit of Azimio la Umoja as well as ensure a formidable national image that will resonate with the majority of Kenyans ahead of 2022.
“It goes without saying that because we are in a serious political phase and Raila is sending a very powerful message to the whole country that he is reuniting the nation through Azimio la Umoja. That can only be put in practice by being seen to bring leaders from across the country who have come together with Raila so that we don’t see the normal usual faces around him,” Mbadi said.
He however said they are still free to join Raila in his engagement tours across the country.
By The Star