By Osugo Moseti
The entry of Eliud Owalo, former campaign aide of Raila Odinga is causing jitters among first time Luo MPs who view Owalo as a direct threat to their survivalÂ in Luo politics.
When Raila lost in the March elections elections, several first time, and a few second time Luo Mps started coalescing around Nairobi Governor Dr. Evans Kidero whom they believed would automatically rise to take over from Odinga. At that point, Raila had maintained studious silence on his future in politics, and, according to several sources, had avoided all talk on him in so far as Â politics was concerned.
As the Kidero group became more daring, with each weekend holding harambees in several parts of Nyanza, the ‘oldies’ around Odinga, and a few newcomers who still viewed him as a force to reckon with were getting weary of the silence from their boss.
The anti-RailaÂ group had vocal MPs Millie Odhiambo, Silvanus Osele, Ken Obura, Agostino Netto, Ken Okoth, Hon. Ochieng’, Rangwe’s George Oner, among others. This group had their loyalties fast shifting to either Kidero or Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno.
There was also the team fresh led by Ababu Namwamba as the main-most character, with Mombasa’s Ali Hassan Joho and Turkana’s Josephat Nanok playing along.
Interestingly, these two teams had a bone to pick with a team of seasoned politicians always with Raila such as Otieno Kajwang’ of Homa Bay, Paul Otuoma, Â Oparanya, Anyang’ Nyong’o, James Orengo, and Elizabeth Ongoro. Also in the ‘Raila groupies’, as those around Odinga were being derisively referred to, included Opiyo Wandayi and Homa Bay Women Representative Gladys Wanga.
Suna East MP Junet Mohammed was also among the faces sticking their necks out for Odinga.
Then Raila left for Boston and in a matter of weeks, fuelled in part by young social media supporters, the ‘demand’ for his political presence shot through the rooftop. Both team Kidero and Dalmas found themselves increasingly becoming irrelevant and, or, overtaken by events. Somehow, they overestimated their political worth, or, sadly, underestimated Raila Odinga’s mutation abilities.
They were not alone. Even the Jubilee government which had ‘written off’ Raila Odinga were surprised. A mammoth crowd turned up at Uhuru Park to receive the CORD leader who, thereafter, sauntered into the condemned Eastleigh, an area which until then was a no go zone to those living outside it, for fear of terrorist attacks, including those alleged to be state sponsored.
And the somali traders had a lot to tell Odinga; with a first emerging father figure added to his political persona. Then came national dialogue calls and soon, Odinga was visiting every nook and cranny of the country, listening to passionate first person encounters with a digital experiment gone wrong in the lab – “Baba while you were away. . .”.
Many of the anti-Odinga groupies immediately transfigured, again joining the bandwagon, if only to remain relevant. Most, so to speak, were relaunching their political careers, silently praying for political forgiveness, if not Odinga’s famed forgetfulness.
Unknown, in the shadows, Odinga’s comeback was the handiwork of a team of Odinga trusted and traditional loyalists who remained unswayed by the politics of the moment. Young and old, these are folks whom the former PM turn to when ‘things are wrong’. Not only are they willing to get over the logistics, many of them owe very little to Odinga, or too much to him, and, have their minds intact on why they support him – may be ideology, or comradeship, or friendship, or all.
Eliud Owalo, the former campaign aide of Odinga, is in this team.
Several sources around Mr. Odinga told this writer that Mr. Owalo Â – who has already declared interest in Kibra constituency come 2017 – is among a few individuals whom Odinga turns to to get things done ‘in a hurry’. It is this closeness that has seen first time MPs who had technically decamped make an about turn to the fold, many to save themselves from political oblivion in 2017, few with real chances of return to national parliament on ODM ticket.
Though not an MP, Owalo is a powerful force in Odinga’s inner circle. He adds to the CORD leaderÂ his own long years of personal connections to the political players in the country, both in CORD and Jubilee.
“To know how the two relate, at the peak of Odinga-Otieno (Dalmas) differences, Owalo was the go between whenever the two wanted to share some sort of information. Dalmas would send Owalo to him. . .and he (Odinga) would respond through Owalo until they worked on their personal one-on-one relationships,” revealed a source closer to the inner politics of Odinga.
Just recently, media reports indicated that Odinga had invited Owalo while meeting Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto over the referendum, a meeting which is believed was meant to plan for the potential of a compromise of the two teams Â for a single referendum onslaught ahead of 2017.
So intense is the behind-the-scenes that a plot to cut Owalo down to size was recently hatched; where he was accued of bungling Raila Odinga campaign when he served as head of the Raila Odinga 2013 presidential campaign secretariat. This came to the fore when Owalo heightened his political activities in Kibra constituency, the slummy heartland of pro-Odinga city politics.
Owalo had to counter by a spirited publicity campaign with facts which led to respected journalist and long time Odinga advisor Sarah Elderkin wading into the role Owalo played in 2013 elections and that of former chief of staff Caroli Omondi. At issue was the manner in which campaign agents were procured and paid.
While many believe it is Owalo who was in charge ofÂ everything regarding Odinga 2013 campaigns, certain key functions were being undertaken by Caroli, then a powerful office of the Prime Minister staffer. Caroli would set up a parallel campaign centre and manage billions of shillings and resources, some of which ended up, as alleged, in his accounts.
Soon after Odinga lost the presidency, Omondi applied to join the Jubilee administration as a principal secretary and was rejected, thanks to William Ruto’s ‘vengeance politics’. It is said that as Raila’s Chief of Staff, Caroli once kept Ruto waiting in the lobby of PM’s BP and Shell office (which Ruto now occupies). Ruto failed to meet Raila. When he joined Uhuru and formed government, he swore to teach Caroli ‘and others’ a life lesson in politics.
Later, Caroli hatched another futile attempt to zone off South Nyanza to lock Raila out of it and ‘give it’ to Kidero. A lot of money went into it. But it too failed.
While it is becoming apparent that Owalo – who is fairly moneyed – will most likely take Kibra, his close handlers are livid about what next, and, whether their man is positioning himself, or being positioned, by Odinga, to ‘take over’.