ODM boss Raila Odinga has moved to allay supporters’ anxiety and suspicions on the handshake status amid reports President Uhuru Kenyatta phoned him over betrayal fears.
The details emerged after some of Raila’s closest confidants publicly hinted at the collapse of the handshake, alleging a scheme to elbow him from the centre of the Building Bridges Initiative.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is also Raila’s deputy in ODM on Tuesday termed the BBI referendum untenable because of the economic slump occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suna East MP Junet Mohamed—the party’s director of elections and a close confidant of Raila’s—claimed there was a plot to push the former Prime Minister from the BBI despite his immense sacrifices.
Given the high-ranking status of the two top Raila confidants in the ODM hierarchy, it was believed that their outbursts had the former PM’s blessings.
An ODM official yesterday told the Star that Uhuru phoned Raila—at least twice on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning—affirming his support for the handshake and the BBI referendum.
The official could not divulge finer details of the conversation between the two leaders but alluded to the fact that Uhuru reassured Raila of his commitment to the BBI and the referendum.
And in a move to calm the jitters, Raila yesterday held a crucial five-hour meeting at his Karen home with the Central Management Committee, a key ODM decision-making organ, comprising top officials.
“Jakom (Raila) was categorical that the President called him with an assurance that all is well and that the handshake was solid,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
However, the ex-PM who has been ailing with Covid-19 related complications for nearly three weeks, reportedly warned his allies of possible “mischief by the deep state.”
“He (Raila) said there was a vacuum that had created fears but did not rule out the deep state mischief,” the source said.
The ODM boss is said to have tested negative for Covid-19, after weeks of management and isolation.
Those who attended the CMC meeting included John Mbadi (chairman), Edwin Sifuna (secretary general), Timothy Bosire (treasurer), Junet Mohamed, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga.
Mbadi, the National Assembly Minority leader, told the Star that yesterday’s meeting was meant to allay the confusion that the handshake was on shaky grounds.
The Suba South MP said the meeting was not that of the Central Management Committee.
“We just had a consultation meeting with our party leader at his home. We just reaffirmed that we are in the handshake. This confusion about handshake should stop. We are in BBI,” Mbadi said.
A statement released by Raila’s spokesman Denis Onyango left no doubt about the meeting’s agenda, revealing that the party would go the whole hog for the proposed constitutional amendment.
The statement affirmed ODM’s “unwavering commitment” to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that is a product of the BBI process.
“We agreed that the BBI must be subjected to a referendum because it entails a fundamental reorganisation of the architecture of the Executive and Kenyans need to have a say in the reorganisation. The party therefore fully supports a referendum on the document,” reads the statement.
There have been reports of possible mischief among some of Uhuru’s allies said to be scheming to have him assent to law some of the BBI provisions without subjecting them to a referendum.
This had triggered a deadlock in the parliamentary joint committee on BBI over whether or not to reopen the bill for further amendments in Parliament once it is tabled for second reading.
In a veiled reference to the squabbling in the joint justice and legal affairs committee, ODM urged that Parliament fast-track the bill and release the document to the public “to enable the people of Kenya to have a final say on the envisaged changes to the Constitution via a referendum.”