Opposition chief Raila Odinga is preparing his Nyanza backyard for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit as questions linger as to whether Mt Kenya will reciprocate ODM’s gesture.

For the first time after his recovery from Covid-19, Raila on Monday addressed impromptu rallies in Kisumu and passionately appealed to residents to give his handshake partner a rousing welcome.

Uhuru is set to visit the lakeside city next week to lead the country in marking Madaraka Day celebrations.

“I have come here with a message. My message to you is that we are having high-level guests next week and I want you to warmly welcome the President and his entourage,” Raila stated.

Using a Swahili proverb, Raila likened Uhuru’s visit to a godsend that will bring glad tidings.

“As they say in Kiswahili, Mgeni njoo, wenyeji wapone (Let the guest come so that the hosts get well),” he said.

However, as Raila prepares the ground, there are murmurs within his Orange party that Uhuru may not reciprocate the backing the ODM leader has accorded his administration.

Uhuru has been given a heroic welcome many times in Nyanza following his truce with Raila, the latest in October 22 last year, just two days after the official launch of the BBI report in Kisii.

In Parliament, ODM has stood with the ruling party in the face of attempts by Deputy President William Ruto’s troops to scuttle Uhuru’s agenda.

However, Raila’s efforts to penetrate Central have largely been unsuccessful.

On January 27 this year, his convoy was stoned in Githurai 45, Kiambu county, with a section of leaders from the region being accused of organising the chaos.

“We hope that Jakom (Raila) knows something that we don’t. Otherwise, why should we welcome him (Uhuru) all the time and he cant take Raila to his backyard,” an ODM MP who did not want to be quoted told the Star.

Raila and Uhuru have not had a joint tour of Mt Kenya since the handshake in 2018.

Raila’s allies have previously protested that some top bureaucrats in the Jubilee administration were undermining the ODM boss while propping up other presidential contenders.

President Kenyatta is expected to lead the country in marking this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu’s new Jomo Kenyatta Sports Complex, formerly Mamboleo Showground.

Raila used the visit to highlight key development projects that have been initiated in the region following the handshake. He said the inland container depot at Kibos will also be commissioned during the President’s visit.

“The President will also launch the Kisumu Port, Uhuru Market and the revamped Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground. These are major projects that we celebrate because of the cooperation between the President and me,” Raila said.

The former Prime Minister said the many development projects being undertaken in Kisumu are meant to make the city a regional economic hub and expand trade across the East Africa region.

He noted that goods coming in through the Port of Mombasa will be transported via the SGR before being ferried to Kisumu using the rehabilitated meter-gauge railway linking the city with Nakuru and Naivasha.

“The line has been revamped all the way from Nakuru and a test run will be done this week,” he said.

“As you all know, Kisumu Port, which was known as Port Florence, was a gateway to the East Africa region in the past. We want to make it vibrant once again to tap into the immense economic potential it has to grow the economy of this region.”

He noted that 3,000 acres had been set aside in Miwani for the establishment of a special economic zone and free trade port that will host several investments.

“We will look for investors to set up agrochemical, pharmaceutical and textile companies that will provide jobs to many unemployed youths,” Raila said.

At the same time, he urged the people of Nyanza to adopt private investment to unlock youth unemployment.

“After the port collapsed, Kisumu’s economic fortune took a nosedive. Most youths migrated to other urban areas in search of jobs that have remained elusive. We must now focus on growing private investments because government alone cannot absorb those who are unemployed,” he said.

Raila addressed impromptu rallies jointly with Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o at Kondele roundabout and Kisumu main bus park where he told his supporters that Uhuru’s visit to the region will be a blessing and will translate into more goodies.

He said he was happy to be back in Kisumu and to have a public meeting with the residents after surviving the Covid-19 attack.

“I am happy to be back home. I have successfully battled Covid-19 and I now feel stronger,” Raila said.

The ODM party leader maintained that the reform agenda is on course and unstoppable. He declared that reggae is still strong, adding that the proponents of BBI are more rejuvenated and determined to ensure the process proceeds to a referendum.

Raila told his jubilant supporters who thronged the streets to warmly welcome him that the constitutional review process is on course despite the judicial setback. He said Kenyans should not be worried about the court decision that halted the BBI process.

He termed the decision a temporary setback that should not kill the morale of supporters. He said the country’s desire to have a new order is much alive.

Raila was also accompanied by other Kisumu leaders, including Deputy Governor Mathews Owili, former Muhoroni MP Ayiecho Olweny and several MCAs.

The ODM boss had earlier met party leaders from the county and MCAs in a closed door meeting at SunSet Hotel where he assured BBI proponents that a formidable team of lawyers had been assembled to ensure the appeal that seeks to reverse the High Court decision succeeds.

“Do not be worried about what is happening in the courts. We will ensure that the issue is sorted out so that we proceed to a referendum.”

He said the court decision was a mere temptation in the way of the constitutional amendment process and expressed confidence that the country will soon surmount the roadblocks being erected by those he described as the enemies of the review process.

“Even in the Bible, Job was tempted by the devil. Jesus suffered the same fate but emerged victorious. We must not lose hope because, in the end, we will defeat the enemies of the reform agenda. Nobody can stop reggae,” Raila said.

There have been concerns after the High Court declared BBI unconstitutional, throwing prjudgesoponents off balance.

During the meeting with the leadership of the county, he discussed the President’s visit and how to ensure the event goes on smoothly.

Raila is also said to have asked MCAs and other leaders who attended the Sunset meeting to support Governor Nyong’o in his efforts to make Kisumu a modern city.

There has been disquiet following demolitions carried out by the county government and other government agencies to give the city a facelift.

“These projects come with the sacrifice, which, in the long run, will result in enormous economic benefits. It is like labour pains that a mother has to endure to have a baby. We must, therefore, support the governor,” Raila said.