Discontent mounts among Nasa coalition members

Sunday December 17 2017

Nasa leaders Moses Wetang'ula, Musalia Mudavadi and Kivutha Kibwana.

Nasa leaders from left: Moses Wetang’ula, Musalia Mudavadi and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana during a media briefing. The Opposition remains tight-lipped on Mr Raila Odinga’s next move. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

By OSCAR OBONYO
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With President Uhuru Kenyatta now in office for a second and final term, key rival Raila Odinga is confronted with an uphill task of fronting a united Opposition capable of ousting Jubilee from power or keeping its leadership in check.

The task is made even harder by the fact that Mr Odinga – the engine behind the Opposition forces – is rightly or wrongly expected to exit the political scene in 2022. That he is this time round viewed as a transitory leader is a development that has persuaded his main lieutenants to independently seek political visibility. 

Little wonder Lugari MP Ayub Savula indicates the Amani National Congress (ANC), an affiliate party of Nasa, has already shifted focus to 2022 with a view to marketing the presidential candidature of its leader Musalia Mudavadi.

The thinking of Mr Savula, and some within the Mudavadi-led party, is that they should immediately embark on plotting a political future for the party and its leader “outside the huge shadows of Mr Odinga”.

ODINGA EXIT

This argument is prompted by fears of Nasa affiliate parties that Mr Odinga may, after all, not exit the political scene in five years’ time as largely presumed.

And, even if he does, he might quit too late in the day, after shepherding the Nasa brigade for the next five years against President Kenyatta’s administration.

“As ANC, we do not want to be caught up in the ODM or Nasa confusion. We want to chart our political future early enough by marketing Mudavadi as our flagbearer,” said Mr Savula.

But the second-term MP’s position is not necessarily the popular voice within the party. The stand by Mr Savula, who was angling for a parliamentary leadership position but missed out, may well be influenced by the thinking that ANC was being shortchanged by partners within Nasa.

Yet still some are of the opinion that having teamed up with Mr Odinga and supported his presidential bid twice, the prudent thing to do is to hang on with the ODM leader with the hope of inheriting his huge political constituency come 2022.

STEP DOWN

“Raila has made it clear – before and after the August polls – that he will stay actively in politics until 2022 and thereafter exit the scene. I have no reason to doubt him and this is the time to stay even closer to him and invest in his political friendship and not antagonise him,” said an ANC MP, who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity because he did not wish to publicly contradict some of his colleagues.

And, like in 2013 when MPs allied to Wiper party, another affiliate of Nasa, attempted to persuade one of their colleagues to step down in favour of their party leader Kalonzo Musyoka so as to enable him to join the National Assembly, a similar narrative has been doing the rounds.

Leaders of Ukambani region, in particular, fear that the absence of Mr Musyoka from the Executive and Parliament for the next five years will highly undermine his political ambitions.

The death of Kitui West MP Francis Nyenze, one of Mr Musyoka’s key allies, has further heightened pressure on the Wiper leader to join Parliament. Incidentally, Mr Musyoka’s rural home of Tseikuru is in Kitui County and the proposal to replace Mr Nyenze is unlikely to cause political hiccups.

MINORITY LEADER

But, the hiccups are likely to be evident at the coalition level, if Mr Musyoka heeds the calls of his supporters and joins the National Assembly as MP for Kitui West.

Owing to his stature as Nasa co-principal Mr Musyoka will be expected to assume the office of Leader of Minority in the National Assembly. This has been the case for another Nasa co-principal and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula who is the Senate Minority Leader.

The import of such a development is that despite being the senior partner in the coalition courtesy of the number of elected MPs, the giant ODM party will take the backseat yet again.

Sources indicate that this time round the Orange party will resist such “internal injustice of a rule by the minority”.

Mr Mudavadi’s ANC is similarly uncomfortable with such an eventuality and, if it comes to pass, it may mark the beginning of the end of Nasa.

But Mr Francis Mwangangi, the national vice-chairman of Chama Cha Uzalendo which is affiliated to Wiper, rules out the possibility of Mr Musyoka participating in the Kitui West by-election: “Those are rumours engineered by our opponents in Jubilee, who are clearly out to ensure we disintegrate.”

2022 STRATEGY

The former Yatta MP claims Mr Musyoka is instead investing politically in his son, Kennedy, who on Thursday won the endorsement of Parliament as a legislator in the East African Legislative Assembly. Nonetheless, his son’s substantial support from Jubilee MPs is another source for concern for the Nasa chiefs. Was the gesture by the Jubilee MPs a sign of overture towards Mr Musyoka whom they have always plotted to pull away from Mr Odinga or was it a gesture of peace extended to Nasa?

Nonetheless, the one man expected to give Mr Odinga the biggest headache in realising the unity dream among his political forces is Deputy President William Ruto. As heir apparent to the top seat within President Kenyatta’s Jubilee, it is in the interest of the DP to keep the rival camp busy, disunited and politically irrelevant.

As he gears up for the main contest in five years’ time, Mr Ruto is expected to make raids only in one direction – towards Nasa’s political kraal. This is partly out of caution, in case Central Kenya withdraws its support for his candidature after Mr Kenyatta’s exit, and purely as a strategy to widen his support base.

POLITICAL OVERTURES

That Mr Ruto is keen on eating into the Nasa-leaning zones is evidenced by his sustained political overtures in western Kenya in particular. Besides wooing Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who he severally paraded during the concluded presidential campaigns as his possible 2022 running mate, the DP has reportedly been playing the same card on former Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba.

Supporters of the Labour Party of Kenya’s Namwamba are convinced he will be the DP’s running mate. Also in Mr Ruto’s corner is former Funyula MP Paul Otuoma. There is also word that the DP is on an offensive charm with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. But Oparanya dismisses such talk as “wishful thinking”.

In the meantime, Nasa is grappling with the challenge of balancing representation in parliamentary leadership and House committees among its four member parties of ODM, Wiper, Ford-Kenya and ANC.

NO FRICTION

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi, however, maintains there is no friction over the sharing out of the slots. He said the “apparent differences are imagined and fuelled by Jubilee rivals”.

In the meantime, operatives in ODM and members of Nasa’s think-tank remain tight-lipped on Mr Odinga’s next move.

Mr Odinga has said he is dedicated to accomplishing a powerful mission for the country, which is ensuring democratic gains are not reversed, especially electoral justice.

The biggest dilemma, however, is how he will push for the same and protect his allies from presumed brutality by the Jubilee leadership without being viewed as a threat to personal political ambitions of those in Nasa.