Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga marked his 77th birthday two weeks ago with the main youth-themed celebration taking place at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.
The event was similarly marked in most of the 47 counties as the former Prime Minister’s family, friends and supporters converged to celebrate the Baba’s special day. Even his political rivals led by Deputy President William Ruto took time out of their busy schedules to wish him a happy birthday.
The evening celebration at Raila’s Karen home was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
At Bomas, the presence of Maina Njenga, the self-styled Laikipia peace ambassador, could, however, have gone without much significance attached to it. He was among representatives of the youth who took the opportunity to rally for Raila’s 2022 presidential bid.
The others included Nairobi Governor Ann Kananu, Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zach Kinuthia, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, his Kieni counterpart Kanini Kega and Donholm MCA Benson Mutura.
At the party, Njenga said time for politicking was over as he rooted for the youth to take the campaigns from hotels to the grassroots.
“Watu wanaongea hapa kizungu mingi sana. Lazima network ya vijana baba ianzie mashinani. Hii maneno ya hoteli na hoteli pia lazima ianzie mashinani,” he declared.
Unbeknown to many, the former Mungiki leader has been one of Raila’s staunchest supporters ever since his second stab at the presidency in the 2007 elections. At the time, he was declaring his support for Raila, Njenga was jailed at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.
This was after being charged in connection with the killing of 29 people in Karatina allegedly by the outlawed sect, of which he was the national chairman and spiritual leader.
After his release from jail in October 2009 after the Attorney General dropped his case, he got baptised by Bishop Margaret Wanjiru at the Jesus is Alive Ministries (JIAM) in Nairobi.
The bond between Raila and Njenga, however, came to the fore in August 2018 when Njenga led a group of youth, community and religious leaders from Eastern, Rift Valley and Central Kenya for a meeting with him.
During the courtesy call, Raila briefed the group under the auspices of Amani Sasa Foundation on his Handshake deal with President Kenya, which was birthed by the Handshake deal.
He dwelt on the positives in the pact, which he said would go a long way in helping the country find lasting peace and stability.
“We sat down as a nation with one destiny and presented views on how we want to be governed. We want to come together again and refine some aspects of our life that still seem to trouble us as a nation. These include runaway corruption, tribalism, divisive elections and marginalisation,” Raila told the group.
The meeting with the groups made a huge statement given that the regions bore the brunt of previous election-related violence.
In January last year, Njenga led youths under the umbrella of Team Kenya to Raila’s Karen home to declare support for the BBI ahead of the referendum before the process was halted by the High Court on May 14.
But apart from politics, Raila and Njenga are neighbours in Nairobi’s Karen.
When on May 24, 2014 the latter survived what is claimed to have been an assassination attempt on the Nyahururu-Nairobi highway, which killed his lover and four others, Raila and Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong’o, now Kisumu governor, visited his home where he demanded that the government comes clean on the matter.
“What we are reading in the newspapers on claims that former Mungiki gang members are the ones who carried out this attack, it is a clear way to show that the government is aware of those attackers and does not want to arrest them,” said Raila.
In the August 9 General Election, Njenga is eyeing to become the Laikipia senator, a seat currently held by John Irungu.
While opinion on his prospects is divided, his dalliance with Raila has attracted criticism from Deputy President William Ruto, who at one time even claim the ODM leader had enlisted him and a Molo politician to cause ethnic strife in the volatile central Rift Valley region, allegations that were never supported with evidence.
Twice, during his campaign tours of Laikipia, Ruto has faced off with pro-Njenga crowds, at one time challenging him to organise his own rally instead of storming his tours and, on another occasion, wondering why he should not join his United Democratic Alliance if he is the people’s favourite.
“Hapana, apange mikutano yake. Hii mikutano ni yangu. Please tuelewane. Tafadhali, please, tuwe na nidhamu. Msikuje hapa kupiga kelele kwa mkutano yangu. Mpange mikutano yenu, wacheni upuzi! Siwezi kukubali. Lazima tuwe na nidhamu, msikuje hapa kupiga kelele kwa mikutano yangu. Kila mtu apange mikutane yake… Apange mikutano yake, hii mkutano ni yangu,” Ruto told a rally in early December last year.
But Njenga has indicated he would stick with Raila, recently telling Ruto: “Sisi hatutaki Hustler Nation, tunataka kuwa masonko.”