As the battle for the control of Ford Kenya rages on, there have been accusations and counter-accusations from both camps on what is ailing the ‘Lion party’.
Besieged party leader Moses Wetang’ula and secretary-general Eseli Simiyu exclusively spoke to Sunday Nation on the intrigues in the party.
The Registrar of Political Parties has given the two factions an opportunity to solve their disputes internally, but will they agree to sit at the negotiating table?
What is happening in Ford Kenya?
External interference in an otherwise very peaceful and organised party. We have run our party very well, all the organs function and hold regular meetings of the National Executive Council (NEC) until coronavirus came and interfered with everything but we normally have our meetings every fortnight.
We have gone through grassroots elections right from the lowest unit up to the counties, meaning we have reached the level of the general council and had even set a date for the National Delegates Conference, which was scheduled for the last week of March.
Who is behind this “external interference” you are referring to?
We have now learnt several meetings were nocturnally held in the office of a Cabinet secretary in town and a senior leader in Nairobi, crowning with a meeting at Francis Atwoli’s Kajiado residence which was alleged to be bringing together leaders from the western region. But that is where the negative activities against the party were finalised.
A governor, who is my friend, informed me money was raised at that meeting by a few individuals and given to a Ford Kenya official. The next day, they started their activities.
We know both Dr Eseli (Simiyu) and (Wafula) Wamunyinyi are not men of substantial means. We are, therefore, left in no doubt that the money that is doing the mischief in the party must be from somewhere. The governor is being used to sponsor what is going on.
But you have been accused of gross misconduct and violation of the party’s constitution…
Dr Eseli is the secretary-general of Ford Kenya but he has never – even once – raised an issue of dissatisfaction with the management of the party by myself or any other member.
Ordinarily, natural justice would require that you give somebody notification that we want to do the following on these grounds, then a person is given an opportunity to be heard and defend himself and our constitution is clear on how party discipline should be conducted.
A few NEC members were given Sh100,000 at a city hotel to attend the meeting.
When we took over the party, it had only one MP – Eseli – but now we have 13, two governors and 86 ward reps across the country. So we have grown this party.
Election of leaders is set out in our constitution and we do not have any provision for coups as these are activities of cowards.
Why did ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and yourself blame ODM leader Raila Odinga for the woes in Ford Kenya?
Pictures circulated on social media showing Eugene Wamalwa, Eseli Simiyu and Wafula Wamunyinyi being entertained in the office of the ODM leader. I went out of the way to ask them what the meeting was all about and they lied to me about it. I have since learnt that at that meeting several issues including the destabilisation of Ford Kenya was discussed.
Two days after the meeting, the ODM chairman announced that they had removed Chris Wamalwa as the deputy minority leader and replaced him with Dr Eseli. That was a product of that meeting.
We have seen what is going on at ANC and even a member came out and confessed that he was approached by the ODM leadership and told to organise a similar destabilisation in ANC the same way they did in Ford Kenya. Unfortunately, where the ploy was hatched, some members tipped off Mr Mudavadi.
A section of Ford Kenya leaders were recently reported to have met with DP William Ruto (two weeks ago), what are these meetings about?
It is false. I was hosting MPs from my region and ANC members. I was at my home from morning to evening. I’m not aware of any meeting that was held between any MP and DP Ruto. No member of Ford Kenya met the DP for whatever reason and I have confirmed with Mudavadi.
Mr Simiyu is the new deputy minority whip in the National Assembly after the ouster of Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, who belongs to your faction. Were you involved in this decision?
Dr Eseli had been set up by a partner party in Nasa to non-procedurally and unceremoniously grab the position of the deputy minority whip in the National Assembly from Mr Chris Wamalwa. Ordinarily, those are seats discussed within the organs of the party, agreed upon on who takes what.
As the secretary-general of the party, it was highly irregular and non-procedural and immoral to take seats from his subordinates and that shows the level of scheming and planning on how at first they wanted to take positions of members who are close to the party leader, but they are doomed to fail.
You have promised the mother of all legal battles in the fight against the changes in the party leadership, are you ready for the other faction?
The only legitimate succession of the party is through elections. Any other unorthodox means will be resisted by members, not even me. You will see the overwhelming support from members.
What is going on in Ford Kenya?
We are changing the leadership of the party because the feeling across the board is that the leader has lost direction. And this is making the party to lose support to the point where the membership has gone down and it’s continuing to dwindle.
A political party is for the people; if you are doing things that are not for the people, then you lose them. So it became necessary to have a change in the leadership.
Why was the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting that ousted Moses Wetang’ula as the party leader not held at the headquarters and instead taken to a city hotel?
Because we did not want to start a confrontation, so we opted for the soft way out. So long as we have the members, we can meet anywhere. Having NEC in a hotel is not new.
In any case, our NEC is one of the largest in this country. We are 75 and even when we have the normal meeting, which is very infrequent, we usually don’t have it at the party headquarters because it is too small.
There are allegations that the coup targeting Mr Wetang’ula was engineered during the Luhya leaders’ meeting at Cotu sec-gen Francis Atwoli’s home to pave the way for a pact with Jubilee ahead of 2022. Was this the case?
We did not go to Atwoli’s place to discuss Ford Kenya matters. Atwoli has declared himself a life member of Kanu, so why would I discuss Ford Kenya matters with him?
All western MPs were there and there were only three from Ford Kenya – Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi, Mr Ferdinand Wanyonyi and myself. Mr Wanyonyi was there and he is on Wetang’ula’s side. He should have told him that we discussed ousting him.
Some of the reasons given for the ouster of Mr Wetang’ula as the party leader are gross misconduct and violation of the party constitution. Can you give us specifics and whether he was given a chance to defend himself?
He was fully aware of these issues but his nature is usually dismissive. For the past one month, he has been very evasive and does not show up for meetings. Eventually, we had no option.
There were also numerous complaints from members across the country on how the party nominations were conducted in the last general election.
When going to the polls, Mr Wetang’ula organised with a few NEC members to bar me from overseeing the nomination.
He even said that I should not sign nomination certificates, but I told him that can’t happen because that is in the constitution and I can’t change that.
They ended up messing up nominations by giving certificates to losers and rigging out popular candidates, which made us to lose some seats. So many people left the party and vied on independent tickets and won against our candidates.
People are asking if Bungoma is our stronghold. How is it that out of nine constituencies, we only have three MPs on Ford Kenya ticket and out of 45 wards, we only won 18.
Trans Nzoia is supposed to be our stronghold and out of five constituencies, we only have two MPs and Ford Kenya is the minority in the county assembly, yet these are supposed to be our strongholds. The simple reason is that people have turned their back on the party.
Mr Wetang’ula and ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi have both blamed ODM chief Raila Odinga for the woes in Ford Kenya. What is your take on this?
No, that is not the case. They saw us with the former prime minister in a photo session and thought that we were discussing Ford Kenya matters.
Our meeting with Mr Odinga was about Kibabii University, which is in Mr Wamunyinyi’s constituency. We needed some help with regard to the university, so it had nothing to do with the party.
A section of Ford Kenya leaders and lawmakers held a meeting with DP Ruto at his Karen residence. Is there a political pact in the offing and did you attend the meeting?
It is possible the meeting took place and that is one of the problems we are having in the party. Mr Wetang’ula was the leader of the party but he was not giving direction.
You find some of our members supporting the DP and others are in other places, so he has failed to give the party direction.
Mr Wetang’ula has promised the mother of all legal battles in the fight against party leadership. Are you ready for him?
We are ready for him but even if he wins the legal battle, does he still have the moral authority to lead the party?
There will be a massive walkout from the party and we will leave him with a shell.
We are also using the legal means, so there is nothing illegal we are doing.
It would be wrong for him to continue imposing himself on that position because he has lost the goodwill of the party’s top officials.
You are the new deputy minority whip in the National Assembly after the ouster of Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, who belongs to Mr Wetang’ula’s faction. Was this a reward after the coup in Ford Kenya?
That is not the truth. When we came to Parliament in 2013, we sat down and said Mr Wetang’ula is the party leader and the Senate Minority Leader.
Since I come from the same county and I am the secretary-general, it was wrong for me to take the position of the deputy minority whip in the National Assembly, yet we have another support base in Trans Nzoia.
So we agreed to give Wamalwa the position.
This time when they were kicking him out, I realised if I don’t take it, it might go back to ODM. So I took it. After all it was mine from the word go.