ODM leader Raila Odinga on Sunday took his unity campaigns to Mt Kenya as he intensifies efforts to claw back Deputy President William Ruto’s perceived dominance of the region.
The former prime minister laid bare to faithful gathered in Kigumo, Murang’a county, his plans for the region should he ascend to the presidency.
The ODM leader said he had big plans to solve farmers woes in the tea, coffee, avocado, milk, among other sectors of the agricultural economy.
Raila has increased his forays into Mt Kenya, the church meeting coming a day after he addressed the Kikuyu nation via FM stations broadcasting in the region.
The list of his allies in the region is growing, with the latest catch being Kigumo MP Ruth Mwaniki who played host to the ODM leader and his entourage.
The lawmaker said the former premier was the best bet to steer the country after President Uhuru Kenyatta retires.
She was joined by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda while Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati, Mathioya’s Peter Kimari, and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth sent apologies.
Several elected MCAs from Murang’a county attended the service and pledged their support for Raila, as well as aspirants drawn from various Mt Kenya counties.
Raila was accompanied by ODM stalwarts Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, Kabondo Kasipul MP Eve Obara, Nairobi Woman MP Esther Passaris, among other leaders.
Even as he prepares to scale the mountain, Royal Media Services boss SK Macharia, who accompanied the former PM, warned of the tough assignment awaiting the ODM leader and his camp.
“There is a lot of work to be done. Let us not cheat him (Raila) that the ground is okay. If we go to election today, those people who have shown us contempt and to President Kenyatta will win,” Macharia said.
The RMS boss pledged he’d not abandon Raila, saying his ties with the family started in the days of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
The presiding bishop of Bible Fellowship Church Peter Kamau, in his summon laced with political undertones, asked the region’s leaders to stop giving excuses about their support for Raila.
“We must rise above excuses and commit fully to our causes,” the clergyman said, touting the ODM leader as Kenyans’ ideal choice.
While at the church in Kangare Township, Raila set to undo DP Ruto’s bottom-up narrative revealing his plans to attain what he termed as “the Kenyan Dream.”
The ODM leader said the country has sufficient policies to help it grow economically and as such only needed unity of the people to achieve the dream.
“The Kenyan dream is to have a country that fears God, where justice is the shield and defender and where people are united without discrimination of gender, tribe, or religion,” Raila said.
The ODM leader said he also envisions “a prosperous nation where plenty is found within the borders.”
“That is the Kenyan Canaan I was talking about. A country where everything is found in plenty, one where there is no poverty, where every child has equal opportunity from cradle to the grave.”
He said every child will get an education in his reign and where the sick get proper medical attention. “We don’t want that people have to be assisted through harambees when they are sick.”
Raila challenged Ruto’s bottom-up approach, saying he desires a country where the youth have an opportunity, first to education – with or without money, and get proper skills to be able to move up.
“We want upward social mobility so that if your parents were poor, you don’t end up being poor. We want a nation where women have an opportunity to do business. We want a country where can add value to goods and earn from it,” he added.
“This area has great agricultural potential. There is tea, coffee, milk, avocado, pineapple but people still have problems. We want to find ways of helping the poor people as well as the farmers so that they get value for money in the business,” the ODM leader said.
Raila said he’d also fight for the creation of processing facilities nearer to the farms to create jobs for the youth – decrying the fact that the country was faced with a youth bulge.
“At least 70 per cent of our population is below the age of 35. That can be a blessing or a curse. If they are not empowered, they will become criminals, drug addicts, and delinquents. If they are empowered with proper skills, they can become a source of wealth creation.”
Raila restated that he would follow in the footsteps of countries that have beaten Kenya in economic growth.
“This is what countries which have left us behind have done. That is what they have done in Korea, Singapore, China, India, and Brazil. We can also do it here in Kenya.”
The ODM leader said economic growth would only be achieved if the country was united, saying it was the basis of his handshake with President Kenyatta.
“We must first be united. That is why we are talking of unity as the foundation of growth and economic development… and that is how the handshake becomes relevant,” Raila said.
The ODM leader said the lack of unity – largely among the Kenyan political class, is “the reason Kenyan dream has eluded us all these years.”
In the same vein, the ODM leader’s allies have challenged DP Ruto to declare his stance on matters deemed dear to residents of Mt Kenya.
They want the DP to state his position on the one man-one shilling – one vote, representation of the people, peace and unity as well as gender agenda.
DP Ruto opposed the BBI which was touted as the platform through which the region would have achieved the constitutional ideals.
Junet, Kioni, and host MP Mwaniki challenged the DP on the issues.
“What is your position on the issue of one shilling one man one vote, representation, peace and unity which the BBI was bringing,” Junet said.
He added, “Those coming here every weekend waving Bibles should answer these three questions… that bottom-up which they preach has no meaning to Kenyans.”
Kioni, for his part, warned that the region could lose several constituencies owing to the misinformation by those who opposed BBI, adding that they would conduct the pro-Raila campaigns in small doses.
“The defeat of BBI is not something to celebrate. The one-man- one shilling was in the BBI. The BBI was saving constituencies and laid the ground for sharing of resources. If you are not on that side of history, then you are on the wrong side,” the Ndaragwa lawmaker said.
Kamanda said they would overturn the Ruto narrative. “When we start campaigns here, we will change the narrative. We are with him (Raila) because I believe he means well for this country.”
Nyeri politician Waruru Gikandi said that much as the region has “accepted it doesn’t have a candidate”, President Kenyatta had shown the way.
“We have been given signal by President Kenyatta and it is indicating it would be Raila. The signal we have been given is that of Baba,” he said.