The choice of Thika town as the ideal location for Azimio La Umoja Presidential hopeful Raila Odinga to kick off his 2022 presidential bid has sent tongues wagging in Mt Kenya region.
The rally will mark the start of his official campaigns in 2022 in a region that was perceived to be hostile in past elections.
The rally also comes at a time when the fortunes of his close competitor United Democratic Alliance (UDA)’s William Ruto are dwindling by the day in the region following the latest defections from the party.
“Saturday, we are in Thika . We are going to have our first public engagement in 2022 in Thika,” Raila said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s falling-out with his deputy William Ruto over the 2022 succession has drastically changed fortunes for Raila in the vote-rich Mt Kenya region.
This is what prompted Laikipia Governor and the chair of Raila’s campaign team Ndiritu Muriithi to exude confidence on Wednesday that the ODM leader is set to win 60 percent of the vote in Mt Kenya region.
“Raila has come close to winning without Mt Kenya in his previous elections. As we speak he is the leading candidate in Mt Kenya. I suspect he will get about 60 per cent votes from the region come August,” Muriithi said
Sources say there will be major announcements at the Thika rally where key defections are expected that will define a tectonic shift in Mt Kenya politics in favour of Raila. The Thursday January 13 meeting at State House by the pro-handshake MPs ahead of the Thika rally is a signal of big things ahead for Raila’s grand march to the House on the Hill.
After decades of a strong narrative that portrayed Raila as the bogeyman, the ground is slowly shifting in his favour as he plots a historical presidential duel against Ruto next year.
Kiambu county for instance is home to thousands of Raila supporters drawn from other parts of the country. Major towns like Thika Town, Limuru, Kabete, Kiambu Town, Ruiru, Githurai 45 and Kahawa Wendani have a significant number of supporters who are solidly behind Raila’s quest for the presidency.
Then the rural areas of Gatundu South and North constituencies,Lari, Githunguri, Kiambaa among others will be battlegrounds where Uhuru’s influence might carry the day in favour of Raila.
Political pundits say President Uhuru’s robust and elaborate scheme to deploy his confidants to market Raila and position him as his ultimate successor has triggered Ruto’s waterloo on the mountain.
This is even as it emerged that Raila’s strategists had been skeptical that a Uhuru-driven marketing campaign would have been counterproductive by portraying the former PM as a state project.
The President’s men are delighted that contrary to the belief that Ruto was solid in Mt Kenya, the ODM leader is gaining traction in the region, heralding a shift that could jolt the DP’s strategy.
“Raila’s decision to embrace small parties under the Azimio La Umoja coalition comes as a relief to many aspirants for various positions who are yet to recover from the shock of the bungled Jubilee party nominations in 2017. Unlike DP Ruto who insists that you must join UDA for you to contest Azimio has given many candidates a lifeline and assurance they will be at the ballot,” said Harun Kamau, Kiambu Town- based political commentator.
The Mt Kenya Foundation’s endorsement of Raila has further complicated Ruto’s chances and to worsen matters for the DP has continued attacks against the tycoon businessmen is now seen as an attack against Mt Kenya communities.
“You cannot underrate the influence of Mt Kenya Foundation in the region and even go ahead attacking the group on a daily basis forgetting that they have businesses that have employed thousands of Kenyans who also have relatives in various parts of the country,” Kamau added.
MKF Vice-chairman Titus Ibui said the President met the wealth club in Sagana, Nyeri in 2020 and sought their help in identifying an ideal person to take over in the August 9 polls.
Additionally a number of governors from the region have not minced their words on their choice for the State House race.
Governors Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Nderitu Murithi (Laikipia), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and Kiambu’s James Nyoro have remained steadfast in their resolve to rally the region in support of Raila claiming he has the best interest of the community.
Former Cabinet minister Franklin Bett recently said Mt Kenya voters are cleverly embracing both Raila and Ruto before making a final decision.
“The Mt Kenya people know how to receive their visitors in style before carefully assessing them,” the former Buret MP said recently.
Bett however, said Raila has mustered the art of seduction in his approach to Mt Kenya.
“Raila is playing a very tactical and smart game. He has been releasing snippets of his manifesto bit by bit and that way endears himself to the region,” he said.
It has now emerged that the President’s men are satisfied with the progress of Mt Kenya’s embrace of Raila so far amid reports of more engagements lined up to sell him.
“The ground is shifting and it is a matter of time before Raila takes charge of the mountain’s support,” said Kieni MP Kanini Kega.
Governor Murithi is confident Raila has located the route to climbing the mountain, insisting the region will back him in the August polls.