The perceived rivalry between former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero rekindles memories of bad blood between the doyen of Kenyan opposition politics Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Mr Odinga’s father, and the late politician Thomas Mboya who is Dr Kidero’s late father-in-law.
The two were not the best of friends with the senior Odinga seeing Mr Mboya as over mixing with the government of President Jomo Kenyatta. They often engaged in supremacy wars over who exactly was the leader of the Luo people, with Mr Mboya often dismissed as being a Suba and not Luo.
Dr Kidero is himself of Suba descent; the tribe was largely assimilated into the Luo in the 19th century.
Both the former premier and the city governor say they enjoy a cordial relationship although this has not convinced some ODM party members who feel that Dr Kidero could be plotting to backstab Mr Odinga.
“I enjoy perfect relationship with our party leader Raila Odinga, and there is no question about that,” Dr Kidero told Sunday Nation.
But Mr Odinga has been accused of fomenting the perception through his silence.
“It may just be a perception, but the popular view right now is that Mr Odinga does not support Dr Kidero, and his silence has only served to convince the people,” Maseno University Political Science Lecturer Tom Mboya––no relation––argues.
He says the Cord leader should consider speaking out in public to end speculation.
And in a demonstration that the feeling is also within the party, Mr Odinga attended a meeting in his Upper Hill office this past week where he is said to have distanced himself from claims that he could be using his aides to frustrate Dr Kidero.
A source at the meeting said Mr Odinga assured those assembled that there is no animosity between the two men.
“Some party officials asked for Mr Odinga’s word on whether sections of ODM MPs and some leaders who have publicly chided Dr Kidero claiming he represents interests of the Jubilee government are acting on his instructions, but he was categorical that he had instructed no one to throw mud at the governor.”
A similar meeting was held in Kibera, this time around organised by some city politicians who are not very comfortable working with the governor. And although they could not agree on the way forward largely because this was not a meeting sanctioned by ODM party organs, participants agreed that there was a need to tame Dr Kidero’s popularity among other Cord-affiliated parties Wiper and Ford-Kenya.
“Those in ODM trying to intimidate the governor must know that he is a product of Cord and not ODM. They also need to know that he was a consensus candidate, and any attack on him is an attack on consensus. I encourage him to reach out to all leaders for the good of the city dwellers because he will be judged by his track record and not party politics,” says Wiper vice-chairman Mohamed Affey.
Suffice it to mention that Mr Odinga has never paid a courtesy call on Dr Kidero since he took office, and analysts like Prof Nyaga Kindiki feel such is an indication that the two are not on the best of terms.
“In politics, every slight action or inaction tells a lot, and this is one such loophole. Remember President Kenyatta has visited him in that office, Cord principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula have been there as well, and so Mr Odinga’s absence is so loud,” he said.
Mr Mboya advises the former premier to move fast and dispel the cloud of enmity because for him, the fact that Dr Kidero hails from South Nyanza, which forms the bedrock of Mr Odinga’s political support in Luoland, would not be good for him. Residents from this area might choose to see Mr Odinga as unfairly targeting a son of the soil.
“He would not want to upset the loyal following he has had there, and again Dr Kidero must also be careful to be seen as scoring for his party because any contrary view can still be used against him, even on his home turf,” Mr Mboya said.
He said voters from this region believe that they have supported Mr Odinga throughout his political career more than their counterparts from Central Nyanza where he comes from, so “it would therefore be fatal for him to rub them the wrong way.”
But in the game of political positioning, Prof Kindiki says Dr Kidero comes out as an astute leader whose star is very promising, but he has to overcome a number of challenges if he wants to climb the political Everest — to the presidency or a higher office for that matter.
“He is more of a townie, and although this worked well for him with youths in the city, he will need to do a lot of homework to appeal to the rural voters who may not warm to him so easily,” he said.
The professor noted that the Nairobi governor has adopted a bipartisan approach in the conduct of his politics, something he said is rare among the ever combative Cord members.
Dr Kidero told our sister publication, Saturday Nation, that he had no apologies for doing what he was doing.
“I don’t know what being loyal enough [to ODM and Raila] is. If increasing the water flow to our people by 40 per cent is disloyalty then I am quite happy with that. I was elected by Cord, and I am in Cord in mind, soul and pocket.”