ODM leader Raila Odinga has escalated his forays into the vote-rich Mt Kenya, securing the crucial endorsement of key Meru leaders and business tycoons.
This heralds a big shift in the region’s politics.
In a first-of-its-kind meeting on Thursday, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi switched his support from National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to the former Prime Minister.
He described Raila as a focused, strategic, realistic leader and a man of sacrifice.
“The Raila I know is a strategist. The Raila I know is a man of ideas. He knows more history than historians although he is an engineer. The Raila I know is a man of energy, focus and determination,” Kiraitu said
Kiraitu and Lapsset board chairman Titus Ibui led a powerful group of Meru leaders, the business community and professionals to declare support for the opposition chief in his quest to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta next year.
“Those demons which we planted, the crocodiles which we put in the rivers, we are going to remove them so that you take people to Canaan,” Kiraitu said.
At the event were former Education assistant minister Kilemi Mwiria, former PS Mutea Iringo, Igembe North MP and National Assembly Majority Deputy Whip Maoka Maore, acting Nairobi Governor Anne Kananu, former Justice Aaron Ringera and BBI Secretariat member Dr Sarah Kilemi, among others.
The meeting came days after President Uhuru Kenyatta met Meru leaders at State House, Nairobi. The Star reported on Tuesday that Uhuru asked Kiraitu to back Raila for the top job
The leaders pledged to lead a campaign to reverse what they confessed to being a deliberate move to demonise Raila in Mt Kenya.
Kiraitu said he played a huge role in planting Railaphobia in the region, which has voted against the doyen of Kenyan politics in his past four stabs at the presidency.
He has almost won three elections without the support of Mt Kenya and with state machinery against him. If all of us can get him 10 per cent of the votes then game shot.
former Education assistant minister Kilemi Mwiria
“We are the ones who demonised this man (Raila) so that Kibaki and Uhuru could win. I want to tell you for sure there is nothing wrong with Raila,” Kiraitu said.
“Kibaki and Uhuru are no longer contesting in 2022, so we must abandon the propaganda against Raila. Anything that happened until yesterday is history.”
Mwiria said Raila stands a good chance in next year’s election given that he has remained a formidable candidate without the support of the community in the past three elections.
“Our business is to go and discount these lies. It is time we go and tell our people that those were lies,” said the Kibaki government assistant minister.
“He has almost won three elections without the support of Mt Kenya and with state machinery against him. If all of us can get him 10 per cent of the votes, then game shot.”
The meeting, a luncheon, was organised by the famed Mt Kenya Foundation, a wealthy club of Central Kenya top billionaires.
Members of the foundation are known to pull strings of government and are influential and financiers of presidential campaigns.
The close-knit billionaires’ club counts among its members Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga, Mastermind Kenya entrepreneur Wilfred Murungi and former Kenya Revenue Authority commissioner general Michael Waweru.
Former Kenya Airports Authority chairman George Muhoho and former Dagoretti South MP and co-chairman of the BBI secretariat Dennis Waweru are also members.
Raila promised to address the region’s problems, including the issues of miraa and tea which are the economic mainstay of the Meru people.
“The Ameru community occupies some of the most fertile and high-yielding lands in the country. Given their tenacity and work ethic, together we can transform livelihoods if we move forward together,” he said.
Accompanying Raila were Eala MP Oburu Oginga and Siaya Senator James Orengo.
The close-knit billionaires’ club counts among its members Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga, Mastermind Kenya entrepreneur Wilfred Murungi and former Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General Michael Waweru. Former Kenya Airports Authority chairman George Muhoho and former Dagoretti South MP and co-chairman of the BBI secretariat Dennis Waweru are also members.
Maore said the community is ready for Raila and invited the opposition chief to plan visits to the area.
He said in 2022 they will return the favour, saying the ODM boss has been supportive of the region and Uhuru’s agenda in Parliament.
“We open the gates of Mt Kenya for you to come and interact with us. We are planning to have a similar event in Meru and in the near future we will ask you to come to Meru to listen to our problems,” Maore said.
Kananu credited her rise at City Hall to Raila.
“For you to see Anne standing here today as deputy governor and the acting governor is because of Raila. If it were not for him, I would not have been where I am,” she said.
Ringera described Raila as a non-vindictive and honest leader who hates corruption.
Ringera was the director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission during the grand coalition government when Raila was the PM.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda said Mt Kenya was ready to hand over power to a person outside the region.
He urged the former Nasa chiefs to ignore pressure from allies and unite to defeat Deputy President William Ruto.
“Mt Kenya [is] ready to give one of you the presidency but that is not possible when you are not united, come and work together or else Ruto will rule you for 30 years,” Kamanda said.
The Raila ally said some of the MPs around the Nasa chiefs are only seeking self-preservation by insisting that their leaders go all the way to the ballot.