A section of Coast MPs who were warming up to Deputy President William Ruto appear to have suddenly backtracked.
MPs Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and Paul Katana (Kaloleni) “clarified” that they were only supporting the DP on development issues alone and that it had nothing to do with the 2022 presidential election.
In an interview, Mr Baya denied that they had defected to Mr Ruto’s camp, saying that their working relationship with the Jubilee government is because of the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga,” said Mr Baya.
“We have a handshake which has allowed us to work with the government. Even my party leader, Mr Odinga has allowed us (MPs) to work with government.
“The government has a President and a Deputy President. Now if we are working together, why would we discriminate against the DP?” he said.
Last week, 14 Coast MPs mainly from the opposition called a press conference and announced that they would back Mr Ruto’s presidential candidature in 2022.
Led by Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori, who is the chairman of the Coast Parliamentary Group, the MPs said they had shifted their support to Mr Ruto because of his development record at the Coast.
They had earlier skipped a National Executive Committee cum Parliamentary Group meeting convened by ODM leader Raila Odinga in Mombasa to discuss party matters without giving any reasons, fuelling speculation that they had ditched his camp for Mr Ruto.
Yesterday, the MPs came out to deny that they had defected to Mr Ruto’s camp, saying they were only working with him for the sake of development at the Coast.
Mr Katana denied being an ODM rebel and defended the move by some Coast MPs to work with the Jubilee government.
Mr Katana, a close ally of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, said the media was "reading too much" into some Coast MPs’ failure to attend a National Executive Committee cum parliamentary group meeting without questioning the absence of MPs from other regions.
“Why did the media not question the absence of politicians from Nyanza, Western and other regions and yet it was a national party event,” Mr Katana said.
The lawmaker said coast leaders have decided to work with the Jubilee government because of the March 9 handshake between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta.
“We have not rebelled against the party and our association with Deputy President William Ruto was in the spirit of the handshake. We are following in the footsteps of our party leader Mr Odinga who decided to work with Jubilee.”
Others who skipped the NEC cum PG meeting included Mr Dori, vocal Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, Jomvu MP Badi Twalib, Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari, his Voi counterpart Jones Mlolwa and Taita Taveta Senator Jones Mwaruma.
Mr Mwaruma has also said he is in ODM to stay and that he has never backed Mr Ruto's bid.
Mr Odinga, Mr Joho and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi attended the meeting at Pride Inn hotel.
ODM has since written to the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi seeking the removal of Ms Jumwa from the powerful Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
Minority whip Junet Mohamed (Suna East) expressed ODM’s intention to axe the MP from the commission.
The MPs, however, downplayed their absence from the party meeting, saying that they had other constituency matters to attend to.
Ms Jumwa, who has declared support for Mr Ruto’s presidential bid, said she missed the meeting as she was outside the country.
“I sent my apology to the ODM’s group (WhatsApp) notifying the leadership that I will not attend as I was abroad,” Ms Jumwa told the Sunday Nation in a text message.
Ms Jumwa has termed Mr Ruto as not only the frontrunner in the 2022 contest but the “only runner.
Although Mr Kingi attended the ODM meeting, the Kilifi governor is leading the formation of a political party that will field a Presidential candidate in 2022 Elections.”