Opposition Chief Raila Odinga’s latest political battle with President William Ruto has ignited memories of his past protracted fights with the late President Daniel Moi.
Moi, Kenya’s second and longest serving President, was finally forced to cave in and accommodate Raila in his last term as he crafted a discreet succession game plan.
Raila had previously become a thorn in the flesh for Moi for decades before they temporarily buried the hatchet after the 1997 general elections.
In March 2001, Raila led his National Development Party (NDP), for a historic merger with the independence party Kanu to form New Kanu.
The merger was a culmination of a four-year political scheme to thaw their ties as Raila’ plotted how to succeed Moi.
The now Azimio boss had seen a merger as the best strategy to position himself as a potential heir of the late President.
Moi, whom Raila had fought for decades, would name Raila the new Kanu Secretary General, relegating long-serving party stalwart Joseph Kamotho.
It had all started immediately after the 1997 polls in which Moi exploited a fragmented opposition to cruise to victory.
Then, Raila made his first stab at the Presidency and finished third after Moi and Democratic Party candidate Mwai Kibaki.
His move to merge his NDP party with Kanu in the lead-up to the December 2002 general election was in the hope that Moi would anoint him as his successor.
To solemnize the marriage between the two parties, Moi gave Raila and a few other NDP leaders Cabinet positions.
Raila was handed the powerful Energy docket, a position he held from June 2001 to the last quarter of 2002 when Moi revealed Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred presidential candidate.
Raila later resigned as secretary general on October 13, 2002, on the eve of the New Kanu’s National Delegates Convention after learning that Moi was to anoint Uhuru.
Towards the end of 2002, Moi asked Raila and other presidential hopefuls in New Kanu to support Uhuru’s campaigns, but this was unpalatable to them.
When Raila left the party in a huff, he took with him his NDP brigade and a host of Kanu ‘rebels’ who had also expected to be named heirs to the throne.
They included Kalonzo Musyoka, Kamotho, and George Saitoti.
The group went on to form the Rainbow Movement, which would later merge with Kibaki’s National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).
The powerful Narc machine later ended Kanu’s stranglehold on power after successfully defeating Moi’s choice for successor, Uhuru.
It would later emerge that Raila had long plotted a handshake with Moi in 1997 after he decided not to contest Kanu’s victory in that year’s general election.
As Raila would admit in his biography, ‘An Enigma in Kenyan Politics’, authored by Nigerian Babafemi Badejo, he had secretly met Moi after the 1997 elections.
After indicating his willingness to work with Moi, the late president had in 1997 elections invited Raila to his Kabarak home for talks.
Moi’s invitation to Raila had come through Reuben Chesire, a successful farmer and a relative of the former president.
According to Raila’s biography, he arrived at Moi’s home in the company of former assistant minister Joab Omino.
Chesire also attended the meeting where Raila explained to Moi why he had decided not contest the election results.
Moi was impressed by Raila’s decision.
The Kabarak meeting came as opposition chiefs, who included Raila, went slow on planned mass action to protest the election results.
They dropped their plan to mobilize their supporters to disrupt Moi’s swearing-in ceremony at Uhuru Park in Nairobi.
Initially, the opposition leaders, who included Mwai Kibaki and Charity Ngilu, had planned to meet their supporters at GPO in the city centre at 7 am before marching to Uhuru Park for the 11 am ceremony.
While opposition supporters gathered at the venue, Raila went to Norfolk Hotel where opposition leaders were scheduled to meet.
Raila reveals in the biography that, none of the other opposition leaders turned up for the meeting.
“He felt that some powers within Kanu knew that President Moi was not serious about the merger and wanted to use Raila and dump him,” the biography says.
Raila was very angry and felt betrayed by the very people who had called him a coward the previous day.
It was at this point that, Raila admits in the biography, he rolled out full-blown plans to work with Kanu.
Raila wrote to Moi seeking cooperation.
NDP members supported Raila in his bid to work with Kanu.
However, it was not easy for him because some people, including members of his own family, were opposed to it.
Raila’s daughter Rosemary and her two brothers even called a press conference during which they differed with their father’s move to work with Moi.
But Raila stuck to his guns.
The relationship between NDP and Kanu was further strengthened after an attempt by James Orengo to remove Moi through a vote of no confidence.
Almost all of the opposition as well as Kanu rebels backed Orengo’s motion, which was, however, defeated as two opposition members voted with Kanu.
Moi had jailed Raila for treason between 1982 and 1988 when the agitation for change against the one party rule was at its peak.
He was released in June 1989 but incarcerated again in July 1990, together with Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia, for calling for the return of multiparty politics.
He was released in June 1991 after which, fearing for his life, he fled to Norway.
In February 1992, Raila returned to Kenya and joined the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) party which was led by his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
He became the director of elections of his father’s party as he intensified campaigns against Moi’s government ahead of the 1997 polls.
The Azimio leader has launched an aggressive resistance against President Ruto’s administration in what mirrors his past maneuvers against Moi.
Raila has warned Ruto not to underrate him saying he should refer to how he dealt with Moi.