Kenya: Odinga’s Lack of Succession Planning Clouds Discourse in Luo Nyanza

Nairobi — The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the succession of leadership in Luo Nyanza, whether due to a deliberate strategy or a lack thereof on the part of Azimio Leader Raila Odinga, remains a complicating factor.

The recent retraction by Raila’s older brother, Oburu Oginga, who had previously endorsed National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi as the region’s prospective leader, has added to the confusion in the succession discussions.

Oburu, who serves as the Senator for Siaya and acts as the Odinga family’s spokesperson, made the retraction on Monday amidst the raging debate over who will follow in the footsteps of the former Prime Minister.

Raila has been a prominent figure in national politics for several decades and has been at the helm of leadership in the region.

“There is no political vacuum yet in the region. Raila is still firmly on the steering wheel and is doing good,” he said.

Although Oburu’s acknowledgment and subsequent renunciation seem to have been deliberate, they underscore the impending conclusion of Raila’s political career and his imminent departure from the stage where he has wielded significant influence.

However, as it becomes increasingly evident that his political presence on the national stage will soon wane, Raila faces the risk of leaving the region in a state of disunity if he does not utilize the remaining time to strategize for the succession in the region.

The impeding disunity in the region over the sucession plan was amplified by the dissatisfaction expressed by certain leaders in the region who openly voiced their reservations, if not outright opposition, to Oburu’s endorsement of Wandayi in August 2023.

At that time, Oburu, who has since criticized the media for misquoting him, was unequivocal in his belief that Wandayi is a skilled politician who would adeptly step into the void left by Raila once he departs from the political arena.

“I only encouraged Wandayi to work hard. I did not anoint him. I said he is doing well and he is among those in Raila’s line to watch in future.,” Oburu clarified in his retraction.

Nominated MP and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Chairperson John Mbadi is among the notable leaders from the region who has voiced his reservation on Oburu’s endorsement of Wandayi.

Mbadi, who had previously contested Wandayi’s elevation to the Minority role in the National Assembly, viewed Oburu’s statement as unnecessary

He claimed Wandayi is “a green horn among the current senior political cohorts.”

“He is still very young in politics to unite everyone, same way Raila had done for years.Those are just wishful thinking far from reality,” he said.

But Wandayi welcomed Oburu’s enforcement expressing gratitude for spotting his political and leadership potential.

“I am humbled by Dr Oburu’s suggestions. I can’t shy from thanking him and I will endeavour my best to realize the call,” he said.

– Ageing Raila –

Despite being 78 years old, Raila, who has made five unsuccessful attempts at the Presidency, has yet to publicly announce when he intends to retire from active politics.

In 2027, when Kenya is scheduled to hold its next General Election, Raila will be 82 years old, a factor that does not bode well for the possibility of him running for the presidency again.

With the political landscape in Nyanza still mired in uncertainty in 2027, the region runs the risk of not having its own candidate on the ballot, a scenario unprecedented in Kenya’s election history.

In his retraction, Oburu revealed that individuals of Raila’s generation were unlikely to succeed him, shifting the spotlight to the energetic young politicians from the region who aspire to ascend to the throne.

“How do you talk of Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang Nyong’o and Siaya Governor James Orengo, as possible successors, look at their ages,” he laughed off.

Nyong’o, currently serving his second term as Governor, is 77 years old, while Orengo, in his first term as Governor, is 72.

To date, only former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and the self declared General and outspoken lawyer Miguna Miguna, have made public announcements about their intentions to succeed Raila as the leader of Luo Nyanza.

A segment of the youth in the country who strongly support Raila appears to be rallying behind Embakasi East MP Babu Owino as a potential successor, although the two-term legislator has not publicly addressed the matter.

The Luo Council of Elders has maintained a conspicuous silence on the matter, even as the clock continues to tick for Raila to initiate discussions or at the very least provide some indication of who might succeed him.

The broader Nyanza population, who have steadfastly supported their native son in national politics, also seem hesitant to engage in succession discussions, largely based on their belief that such talks cannot commence while Raila is still actively leading.

The succession deliberations in Nyanza coincide with a period during which Raila seems inclined to keep a low profile, delegating responsibilities to his associates to advocate for the opposition’s agenda.

An example of this is the move by the Azimio coalition to designate Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka to lead bipartisan negotiations between the opposition and the Kenya Kwanza alliance.

It’s worth noting that former Presidents Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta, who also held significant leadership roles within their respective tribal communities (the Kalenjin and Kikuyu, respectively), did not endorse their successors, seemingly setting a precedent that Raila may follow.

So, who will emerge as the next Luo Nyanza leader after Raila departs the political stage? Only time will reveal the answer.

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