In Summary
  • An editorial cartoonist for the Nation depicted him in a cartoon as a rubber stamp being used by President Kenyatta to give legitimacy to the government’s controversial projects.
  • Mr Odinga has reportedly instructed his foot soldiers in Parliament to stop attacking the President in particular and the ruling Jubilee Party in general.

His legion of supporters long nicknamed him Agwambo, meaning the “mysterious one” in his native Dholuo, for his ability to pull political surprises.

And today, ODM leader Raila Odinga seems to be living true to the moniker, going by his latest pronouncements and decisions, which have confounded friend and foe.

Though he is the leader of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), a coalition of opposition parties which ODM is part of, one finds it difficult nowadays to call him an Opposition leader.

Short of inspecting a military parade, which is strictly the preserve of the Head of State, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Odinga has done everything else that a prime minister would do when supervising government.

For one, he has severally represented the man who defeated him in the last two presidential elections — President Kenyatta — in diplomatic functions outside the country.

In further proof of his newfound status, government delegations, including Cabinet secretaries, pay him homage at his private offices in Nairobi’s Capitol Hill to brief him on government business.

Yet one and half years ago, the very government that he now defends was mulling arresting him for “treason” after he swore himself in as the “People’s President” on January 31, 2018 after rejecting the re-election of President Kenyatta in 2017.

PEACE DEAL

In a stunning change of heart since the March 9, 2018 handshake between him and his erstwhile political foe, Mr Odinga seems he can longer find fault with Mr Kenyatta’s presidency.

Today, the former prime minister is likely to be found explaining government policies as opposed to criticising them as he used to.

In the process, he has found himself in the unlikely position of defending some of the unpopular Jubilee projects which he liberally lampooned when he was on the other side of the political divide.

For example, just over a week ago, he gave the Sh7 billion loss-making Galana Kulalu Irrigation Project in Kilifi and Tana River counties a clean bill of health, even though a parliamentary committee concluded that it is not viable.

"We were hearing reports that funds for the project have been embezzled but we have witnessed something good," he said while on a tour of the project.

At the height of the 2017 campaigns, Mr Odinga had dismissed the project as a white elephant which was gobbling public resources with little to show for it.

Following Mr Odinga’s change of heart over the irrigation project, an editorial cartoonist for the Daily Nation depicted him in a cartoon as a rubber stamp being used by President Kenyatta to give legitimacy to the government’s controversial projects.

NEW CURRENCY

Mr Odinga has reportedly instructed his foot soldiers in Parliament to stop attacking the President in particular and the ruling Jubilee Party in general, and seems to be having his way.

For example, ODM chairman John Mbadi had to eat his words over the new Sh1,000 notes which he had initially criticised for bearing the statue of founding President Jomo Kenyatta against the requirements of the Constitution, which prohibit the use of images of people in the new notes.

We have learnt from well-placed sources that the combative Gwassi MP was asked to ‘set the record straight’ and later publicly endorsed the new notes.

When governors sought Mr Odinga’s support during the two-month long impasse on the Division of Revenue Bill, they were disappointed when he asked them to take what the government was offering, thus echoing President Kenyatta’s stand.

Having been one of the staunchest defenders of devolution, the governors perhaps expected him to rally behind them to push the government into adding them more money, but they were wrong.

In light of these and many other examples, observers are at a loss on whether the recent happenings signal a change in philosophy or is just a matter of convenience.

RAILA-WAIGURU TRUCE

When he came under attack by those who feel he has sold his soul by working with Mr Kenyatta, Mr Odinga’s handlers fired back:

“Raila and opposition are not synonymous. He does not just oppose for the sake of it. He knows when to oppose and when not to,” one of his handlers said.

Even though he is not known to harbour political grudges, pundits say the speed at which he made up with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru was unexpected.

Mrs Waiguru had sued him for linking her to the first National Youth Service (NYS) scandal where the public is thought to have lost in excess of Sh790 million.

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