Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga vied for the presidency for the first time in the 1997 general election.

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It was during the same polls Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu made her only attempt at clinching power by defeating retired President Daniel Arap Moi who had ruled since 1978 when Kenya's founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died.

But before the polls, opposition activist and former Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) director Richard Leakey had noted it could have been impossible to try to remove Moi from power when the opposition was divided.

His plot was to have Raila and Ngilu join hands and attempt to dislodge the Head of State who had ruled for 19 years.

Leakey, who had just founded Safina party with lawyer and former Kikuyu Member of Parliament Paul Muite, came up with a plan.

He tricked Raila and Ngilu into having a cup of tea in Nairobi’s Hurligham area where he lectured them on the need to unite and deafeat Nyayo, as Moi was commonly known.

Without their knowledge, Leakey then locked them in one room and left. It was not without tough instructions. They must agree between themselves who should step down and allow the other face Moi.

After two hours being locked in the conservationist's office, everyone stood their ground. There was no compromise.

“We failed to agree, or rather we agreed to be hanged separately by Nyayo in the 1997 contest,” Raila narrated recently.

The former Prime Minister, who vied on the National Development Party ticket, emerged third with 667,886 votes. 

Ngilu vied on a Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket  and emerged at a distant fifth with 488,600 votes.

Moi won the contested followed by retired President Mwai Kibaki of the Democratic Party (DP). 

Between Raila and Ngilu was former Vice President Micheal Kijana Wamalwa who vied on a Ford-Kenya party ticket and garnered 505,704 votes.

The contest had other 10 candidates who include former MPs Martin Shikuku (Butere), Koigi Wamwere (Subukia) and Tetu's Wangari Maathai.

Raila narrated the story recently during the launch of Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o's new book at the University of Nairobi.