A crisis meeting by Nasa principals Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula on Thursday helped avert an imminent split within the opposition following infighting over leadership positions in Parliament.
The meeting at Mr Mudavadi’s home on Riverside Drive in Nairobi saw the three principals hastily craft a formula on how to share out the seats following days of apprehension and ultimatums by Nasa constituent parties after it appeared that ODM, the largest party in the coalition had taken the bigger chunk of the slots.
In the afternoon meeting, it was agreed that Mr Mudavadi’s ANC would take the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the National Assembly which has gone to Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi, and a seat in the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) which has been taken up by Vihiga Senator George Khaniri.
To appease the Coastal caucus comprising MPs from Mr Odinga’s ODM party, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa was nominated to PSC and the vocal Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir named vice chairman of the Public Investment Committee (PIC).
Mr Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper took the Senate minority whip which was taken up by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr and the National Assembly’s deputy minority leader’s slot which went to Kathiani MP Robert Mbui.
Sources at the meeting indicated that the principals were alarmed that continued interparty wrangling was giving their Jubilee opponents so much fodder to not only infiltrate the alliance but also distract them from their agenda.
Tempers had flared on Wednesday when National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi announced the proposed leadership of the various committees with Coast ODM MPs bitterly protesting that their region had been sidelined in the Nasa list.
The following day, there was a twist when Mr Nassir withdrew the threats and claimed that Mr Odinga had contacted Coast MPs and they had agreed that the region would be given the minority whip’s position in the National Assembly, which had been given to Suna East MP Mohammed Junet.
ANC MPs also had their own grievances and on Thursday, addressed the media and threatened to reconsider their stay in Nasa if Lugari MP Ayub Savula was not named the deputy leader of minority in the National Assembly.
But soon after the ANC MPs had issued the threats, Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi hastily called another press conference where he faulted his colleagues for overreaching themselves. He instead declared that ANC was in Nasa to stay.
“We are going nowhere because we are the ones who created Nasa,” he charged in Parliament Buildings. “The threats are premature because the principals are meeting over this matter. What is more, Nasa Parliamentary Group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday where we hope to thrash out some of these issues. It would have been prudent if my colleagues had given the principals time to deliberate on this matter,” he said.
The following day, Friday, ANC senators George Khaniri and Cleophas Malala joined the fray and supported Mr Osotsi while discounting claims that the party was considering its stay in Nasa.
“ANC is an integral member of the Nasa coalition and any insinuation and threats that it will pull out from the coalition are inaccurate, irresponsible and motivated by myopic selfish motives and supported by Jubilee,” the two said in a statement that was also signed by Mr Osotsi and Vihiga Woman representatives Beatrice Adagala, who described the threats to walk out as uncalled for and premature.
The MPs declared they will not allow Jubilee Party to use some of its members to divide the coalition by taking advantage of the perceived rifts over the House leadership positions.
“The House leadership will not only be based on party representation but will also be guided by regional, gender balance, competence, capacity, ability and loyalty to the party,” they noted.
On the surface, the bitter exchanges witnessed in Nasa was all about House leadership and other positions of influence in Parliament.
But in private, the name of Deputy President William Ruto looms large; a man many in the opposition believe has a hand in the divisions within Nasa.
Opposition MPs fear Mr Ruto is determined to scuttle the coalition by all means necessary to pave his own easy ascendancy to the throne in 2022.
By virtue of being the senior most ANC MP in Kakamega county, Mr Savula, who is doing his second term, was the natural beneficiary but was bypassed due to his alleged links with the DP.
Yet, the obvious choice of Mr Savula unsettled ODM MPs who protested and curtly told their leader, Mr Odinga, that the Lugari MP could not be trusted with such a sensitive position as he was a known ally of the DP.
“The MPs made it clear to Mr Odinga that under no account would they accept Mr Savula for the position,” the source said.
Mr Odinga in turn expressed his ODM MPs’ misgivings to Mr Mudavadi who promised to act, and was actually in the process of looking for an alternative to the Lugari MP.