If I had any prospects of running for the Presidency next year against Raila Odinga, I would be a very worried politician today. His three most recent moves will leave most Kenyans guessing for a while as they point to a man who is either self-destructing or has a very solid comeback strategy.
It started with the kicking out of his close adviser Miguna through the pressure of some of his MPs. Then came the nominations to the Budget and AG offices that just stink of horse-trading. And then on Wednesday, Raila finally replaced ODM rebel MPs in new Cabinet changes.
The move to axe Ruto, Sambili and Duale and still leaving Kosgey in the cold can be viewed in three ways.
One, of a politician who is getting rid of excess baggage and cutting his loses ahead of the 2012 Presidential elections. Two, a politician who has already weighed his options and come up with a solid come-back strategy with the eminent loss of support in Rift Valley and Northern Kenya. And three, a politician who has been pushed to the edge, has reached a breaking point and is ready give up the race.
Any of the three hypothetical situations should worry any politicans serious about taking a shot at the Presidency in 2012 and plans on denying Raila the chance to lead Kenya. One of the main reason is that Raila is a very calculating politican who has managed to catch both foes and allies napping and who unlike in 2007, knows that the 2012 race is fundamentally different.
Raila knows that getting majority votes is not the only hurdle for Presidential candidates in 2012. The 25 per cent in at least 24 counties is a major hurdle that he is sure he cannot get in the areas where he still commands considerable support.
The Budget nominations were a major goof for Raila aided by the hawks around him and Kibaki and especially those around the President. They have made the two principals stink of horse-trading and nepotism that will be hard to wash off.
However, its not by accident that in the Cabinet mini-reshuffle, Raila promoted Kamar, Murgor and Sirma from Rift Valley, Mwazo from the Coast, Gabbow from the North and Nyamweya from Kisii-Nyanza.
The kicking out of Miguna from his office can easily be linked to the 2012 politics. In the face of reforms and 2012, Miguna was turning to be more of a liability to Raila for being too vocal especially on how reforms are been stalled by forces within government and always picking fights with PNU operatives. In putting together an “untainted” brand ahead of the elections, Raila needs the likes of Midiwo more than Miguna whose opinion could be interpreted to be Raila’s position.
I am not convinced that Raila is ready to give up the race to State House especially given that Mudavadi has already declared he is not going for the top job. But one day is a long time in politics and such a move wouldn’t surprise me.
All in all, Raila appears to be making too many quick moves that can be properly read or misread by his opponents. From the man who shocked fellow politicians when he prematurely declared “Kibaki Tosha” in 2002, anything is possible. We can only keep guessing.