Defectors list to grow as leaders plot party raids

Sunday October 7 2012

Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh (left) and Makadara MP Gideon Mbuvi at a TNA meeting at Ufungamano house in Nairobi on October 01 2012. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL

Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh (left) and Makadara MP Gideon Mbuvi at a TNA meeting at Ufungamano house in Nairobi on October 01 2012. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL 

By ISAAC ONGIRI [email protected] AND PETER NGETICH [email protected]

More defections are expected this week as presidential hopefuls Raila Odinga and his deputies Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi scale up their campaigns ahead of next year’s elections.

At the weekend, Mr Kenyatta’s The National Alliance netted assistant minister Jebii Kilimo while Kanu seized former Cabinet minister Hellen Sambili in raids that have left other parties that include United Republican Movement, United Democratic Forum and Wiper Democratic Movement plotting their swoops.

Mr Kenyatta has set up a team to coordinate and negotiate with top politicians who have shown interest in decamping to TNA while Mr Odinga is personally engaging some of his party members feared to have been approached by rivals while also negotiating to poach from his opponents.

The ODM and TNA have both planned major meetings in the city where they will parade about 10,000 aspirants chasing their parties’ tickets to various elective offices on Wednesday and Friday respectively.

A top ranking TNA official told the Nation that the party had been negotiating with Cooperatives Development Minister Joseph Nyaga, his East African Community counterpart Musa Sirma and a set of names the party claims would shock the nation next Friday.

However, Mr Nyaga attended last week’s ODM strategy meeting in Naivasha while Mr Sirma, who visited URP leader William Ruto’s home a few days ago, is said to have sent apologies as he was out of the country on an official visit.

Mr Odinga’s team is also set to crystalise deals with Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara and assistant minister Richard Onyonka.

On Sunday, Mr Onyonka confirmed that he had changed his mind about cutting links with ODM after Mr Odinga called to assure him that his concerns would be addressed.

Personal undertaking

“The PM spoke with me on the issues I raised and he has given a personal undertaking that there will be no fraud in the ODM nominations this time round. Now on Wednesday, I will join ODM aspirants’ forum in Nairobi,” the minister said.

Mr Odinga’s phone call to assistant minister Margaret Wanjiru also spoiled the party for TNA after she failed to show up at Nairobi’s Serena Hotel, where she was expected to officially announce her defection two weeks ago.

Journalists who had turned up to cover the event were asked to leave. (READ: ODM plans rapid response after defections)

On Sunday TNA secretary-general Onyango Oloo declined talk about those planning to defect to the party.

“We are not going to mention names of those joining us because we do not want our rivals did when we were expecting Wanjiru to happen again. But I can promise that TNA will be a big movement after our Friday conference,” Mr Oloo said.

On Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri and assistant minister Wilfred Ombui said they were set to leave Kanu and officially join TNA.

Speaking to the Nation by phone, Prof Ongeri said he was to join TNA three days ago, but would now do so later, after Parliament extended the period aspirants may shift parties.

Mr Ombui said he was currently TNA’s pointman in Nyamira and he would officially join the party soon.

While welcoming the defectors to the party on Saturday, Mr Kenyatta said TNA would conduct free and fair nominations.

Mr Kenyatta, whose party has received a huge chunk of the defectors so far, is asking TNA supporters and aspirants to stick with the party even after the primaries promising that losers would not go home empty handed once he forms the next government.

“I want to urge those who will not be lucky to win to remain in the party as they will be rewarded with various posts in my new government,” Mr Kenyatta said.

On Friday, all TNA aspirants will meet to brainstorm on the party’s nomination rules which experts have been developing.

Several MPs from Central province who have been bad mouthing the TNA leadership have also been convinced to join TNA and are expected at the event.

Ms Alice Ng’ang’a, who is coordinating the Friday event, said that major surprises that will reshape the face of Uhuru’s Presidential run are expected.

“We expect serious defections on Friday. It will be a big event bringing together about 5,000 candidates seeking our party ticket,” Ms Nganga stated.

Over the weekend, Assistant Minister Kilemi Mwiria and Mithika Linturi officially switched camps to TNA while Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Rukia Subow and the Organization’s treasurer Mrs Mary Okul also joined Mr Kenyatta’s party.

So far the TNA has also netted cabinet minister Katoo ole Metito and Kabando wa Kabando from the UDF, Rachael Shebesh from ODM, Maina Kamanda and Betty Tett from PNU and former Education Minister Joseph Kamotho among others.

“For the sake of winning Nairobi we all need to be under one roof. And for that matter I will contest the Starehe seat on a TNA ticket,” Mr Kamanda said.

ODM has wooed former Attorney General Amos Wako, former Ntonyiri MP Maoka Maore and former University don Prof Ratemo Michieka, among others.

Mr Ruto’s URP also rocked ODM when Sotik MP Dr Joyce Laboso joined URP last week. On Sunday the Eldoret North MP was in Sotik to celebrate the defection.

“We are doing well as so many people have expressed interest in joining us. You will in the course of the week see prominent figures jetting in,” said Mr Odinga’s chief campaigner Mr Eliud Owallo.