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Raila crafts new election strategy

NASA principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang'ula, Isaac Rutto, Musalia Mudavadi and presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga at Uhuru Park, April 27, 2017. /REUTERS
BARELY four days after the National Supper Alliance lineup was unveiled, its five principals have embarked on a mission to put their house in order and lay strategies to see them win on Election Day August 8.

On Thursday, Raila Odinga was announced the NASA torchbearer, Kalonzo Musyoka his running mate, Musalia Mudavadi the Premier Cabinet Secretary and Moses Wetang’ula and Isaac Rutto his deputies.

A litany of mistakes, internal wrangles, bungled party nominations, confused tactics and poor strategy cost Raila the presidency in 2013.

Raila got 43.7 per cent of the vote compared to 50.07 per cent for Uhuru, and later contested the results at the Supreme Court.

Among the contributing factors to Raila’s dismal performance in 2013 was the way ODM nominations were conducted. They were very messy, especially in Nyanza and Western Kenya, where unpopular candidates were given party nomination certificates. As a result, many Raila supporters did not turn up to vote on Election Day.

Franklin Bett, a one-time Comptroller of State Houses, who chaired ODM’s elections board at the 2013 election, had no kind words for Raila.

“He had divided attention: From dealing with the aftermath of bad nominations to looking for votes himself. His worst mistake was the people he hired to help him. They messed him up a great deal.”

Bett spoke in 2014, the year after the bitter loss.

During the ongoing party nominations, the NASA standard-bearer has completely kept off his party’s nominations, which have seen some of his key lieutenants floored in hotly contested races.

Raila even took the precaution of publicly warning the ODM Elections Board to respect the will of the people.

Back in 2013, Raila’s most trusted aides were blamed for laying the ground for his defeat. The aides fought among themselves for control of campaign funds, undermined each other throughout the campaign, and, in some cases, pocketed millions of shillings meant to facilitate party activities.

Recruitment, management and payment of party agents across the country, and especially in Central Kenya, was so poor that agents in some cases signed away results after they were paid off by Jubilee.

The Star has now established that top on the agenda of the NASA team is how to hit the ground running to popularise the Raila-Kalonzo ticket and stem any possibility of voter apathy in their strongholds, especially in Ukambani and Western.

It is said that of most concern to the five principals and the Technical Committee are fears that Ukambani, South Nyanza, parts of Coast and the Luhya nation may not turn out in enough numbers to bolster the Raila-Kalonzo bid.

“We have no time on our side, the next move is now to market our team across the country, beginning shortly,” Suna East MP and ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed yesterday, speaking to the Star.

He added: “We don’t expect voter apathy in our traditional strongholds because the team we have is strong enough to send the Jubilee government home”.

The other matter the principals pondered on for days on end before the lineup was announced was how Kalonzo would explain to his Ukambani backyard why he shelved his presidential bid, despite repeatedly affirming that he could not “sacrifice my ambition at age 63”.

“It is an issue that came up every time the principals met to discuss how to pick the flagbearer. Kalonzo always pointed out that he was under immense pressure from his community to run and his name missing on the ballot would puncture the hopes of his Kamba people,” a well-placed source who was part of the negotiating team told the Star.

On Thursday, Kalonzo put on a brave face, saying though he was determined fly the NASA flag, having sacrificed his bids in 2002 and 2013, he had concluded that Kenya was bigger than himself.

Kalonzo’s allies have previously accused Raila of disregarding an alleged 2013 deal to support him in this year’s race for State House, repeatedly and heatedly warning that the Kamba community would not take it lightly.

Apart from merging the NASA presidential campaign teams under one unit, Raila, according to sources at his Capitol Hill office, says that he has installed a team of experts to review and propose new tactics to correct what he believes was his undoing in the disputed 2013 election.

Well aware of UhuRuto’s massive resources and state machine, NASA’s think tanks are spending sleepless nights planning how to mobilise a war chest for a successful campaign widely expected to be the most expensive in Kenyan electioneering history.

Those close to Raila say he will spare nothing, be it resources – especially intellectual and financial – in his final presidential bid to decisively win the polls in the first round of voting.

Political observers also think that the next three months to the August 8 election could be the hardest for the NASA principals, as they will be put on their guard to fight back the ruling Jubilee’s schemes to divide them.

In the run-up to the 2013 election, politicians around Raila, mainly from his Nyanza backyard, were blamed for his repeated downfalls.

Months before Raila was named the flagbearer last week, he had already constituted a 14-member campaign committee, which largely excluded his traditional advisers and was made up of top businessmen and figures from civil society.

The team, whose role was to meet weekly to brief and review Raila’s strengths and weaknesses, had slowed down for about three-and-a-half months but has been fully reactivated now.

To eliminate any chances of foul play,

Raila has already announced that his team will be running a parallel system to that of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission using European ICTs.

At the 2013 election, Cord (now NASA) complained about fraud in the transmission and tallying of results.

The five principals have divided the country into 14 distinct regions as per the Bomas Draft Constitution of 2005 defeated in Kenya’s first ever referendum in November that year. In clusters of these regions, each principal will be responsible for coordinating the campaigns.

Another key move since 2013 has been Raila’s aligning himself with civil society activists who are uncomfortable with the Jubilee administration’s adversarial attitude towards non-governmental organisations.

Some civil society activists, including anti-Jubilee crusader David Ndii, have attended various NASA formative events.

Our sources in Raila’s inner circle indicate that two foreign public relations companies have been hired and have already started some work on Raila’s image.

They are reported to be behind Raila’s most hard-hitting statements of recent weeks and days targeted at the Kenyatta Administration.

In 2013, Uhuru recruited British PR company BTP Advisers, consulted by many state parties around the world, at great expense, to manage his campaign messages. It was BTP that advised Jubilee to use the ICC to win votes by presenting UhuRuto as victims of an international conspiracy.

By contrast, in 2013, Raila’s team gave marketing contracts to inexperienced friends and relatives. Raila’s son Junior was entrusted to implement key marketing messages.




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