President Uhuru Kenyatta has hinted he may back ODM leader Raila Odinga in the high stakes 2022 election.
The President said he will walk with Raila going forward to realise a prosperous Kenya.
Uhuru defied protocol to invite Raila to address the crowd after Deputy President William Ruto invited the President to speak during the 58th Madaraka Day celebration at Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium in Kisumu.
“I want to say here today that whatever the future holds, I look forward to working with him and all Kenyan leaders and Kenyans to build a better, brighter, more united and prosperous Kenya, East Africa and Africa,” Uhuru said amidst applause from the audience.
This is the first time the President has come close to speaking about his future plans with Raila.
Uhuru’s veiled endorsement came a day after Raila told his Nyanza backyard that 2022 presidential election is a big game hunt and Nyanza won’t return empty-handed.
Speaking on Monday during an interview with a Dholuo FM station in Kisumu, Raila exhorted his Nyanza support base to come out in droves to register as voters and boost their chances in the polls.
The President’s Madaraka Day remarks seem to assuage the long-held expectation in Raila’s bastions that Uhuru could pull a ‘Raila Tosha’ next year and rally his Mt Kenya backyard to back the former prime minister.
Fears had hit the Raila’s camp as signals of betrayal by the President’s men emerged months ago.
There had been a feeling among Raila’s allies that the handshake deal with Uhuru is unlikely to translate into any 2022 political supports that would have given him a massive head start in his fifth stab at the presidency.
The betrayal feeling was worsened by claims that Uhuru’s men were shopping for a line-up that could easily sell in Mt Kenya, the vote-rich region that is perceived to harbour reservations against the ODM boss.
On Tuesday, Raila’s close ally and ODM national chairman John Mbadi told the Star that the President’s assertion was a demonstration of the real reason of the handshake.
“On what he is working together about going forward, I think he was just re-emphasising that when they got into the handshake it was for the future and not immediate personal achievements,” he said.
He added: “He was just trying to demonstrate to us the main reason for working together in handshake was for betterment of the country.”
ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire welcomed the President’s statement saying it was in the best interest of Kenyans.
“Our President is a genuine leader who has demonstrated that he has the best interests of Kenyans at heart,” Bosire said.
The former Kitutu Mabasa MP termed the president’s speech a masterpiece that sought to reaffirm his determination to leave a lasting legacy.
“We commend the President for holding national holiday celebrations in Nyanza for the second year consecutively. The President deserves accolades for that,” he added.
During his speech, the head of state was full of praise for the ODM leader narrating the long journey they took with the ODM boss to ensure the country is united after a polarising 2017 presidential contest.
“Today, I want to particularly thank the Right Honourable Raila Odinga for embracing national pain over his personal gain when we did the handshake. What is more, he did this without asking me for anything; I thank him,” Uhuru said.
“I want to invite the political class to upgrade their status from being politicians to being leaders. Politicians are obsessed with personal gain; but our national pain disturbs leaders.”
He added the country was losing close to Sh1 billion every working hour for the 123 days after the 2017 election, a situation that ended with the March 9, 2018 handshake.