President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party is planning to hold elections of its officials before March next year, the first of many plans to inject new blood to the party facing the risk of being a one election outfit.
The ‘survival’ plan comes as debate continues on the state of Jubilee and its future,
The party will from next month also start the ambitious project of opening branch offices and sprucing up those already set up in each of the 47 counties, way above the legally required 24.
To kick-start the process, secretary-general Raphael Tuju has sent out eight teams to the 47 counties to hunt for office space and report back to him. The report will be on his desk tomorrow.
“This is the biggest, most ambitious political project we have had since independence. We are talking about a paradigm shift here and for everybody to understand that it is in the best interest for us to have strong parties. It is not for this, or other group,” Mr Tuju told the Sunday Nation in an extensive interview.
Calls for party polls became louder and more urgent following comments by Mr David Murathe, who relinquished his post as interim vice chairman following widespread condemnations over his comments against Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 State House bid.
Mr Murathe, who has launched a ‘Stop Ruto movement’, believes that, legally, Dr Ruto should be barred from contesting.
If that does not work, the former Gatanga MP said he will convince other leaders, specifically naming Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Gideon Moi, to form a new political outfit, coupled with a mass walkout from Jubilee to cripple Dr Ruto’s chances.
“There are a lot of people within Jubilee and outside Jubilee who share my sentiments. Going forward, the ‘Stop Ruto’ movement which we are going to start, there is no stopping it. Let them form their troops, and we have no problem, let the best side win,” Mr Murathe told KTN News.
A comment by Mr Tuju during the burial of his brother — the same venue Mr Murathe revealed his intention to seek a Supreme Court advisory opinion on the DP’s bid — saying people should not plan for 2022 as well as an earlier statement that the party had no automatic candidate, quickly fuelled calls for his resignation.
On 2022 polls, Mr Tuju was unapologetic, saying his position of there not being an automatic candidate was backed by the party constitution that lays out a nomination process to pick a presidential candidate.
“The only thing I have pronounced is what is in the party constitution. Some people do not like it, I think it is mainly because of them not being informed, or not aware.
"The only thing I can do is refer them to it. And to his credit, the Deputy President has said that that is the position. He did not contradict what I said,” Mr Tuju said.
He went on to add that when Mr Murathe made his comments at his home in Rarieda, “I took the microphone and told the people who had come that those were his personal comments, and not the position of the party”.
In the end, the party — formed with much gusto in September 2016 following the merging of 12 parties — now stands in the precipice: Some parties claiming they were cheated, some threatening to bolt out and form others, with the DP’s 2022 bid being the party’s biggest test.
Will it stand the test of time? Mr Tuju thinks so.
“The party is very stable. I am very satisfied with the way things are. We have had discussions with the President, Deputy President and we are okay.
"We might have had some of our troops talking at cross-purposes, it is because they do not understand what we are doing here, and that is to unite Kenyans, above anything else,” he said.
Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, his Bahati counterpart Kimani Ngunjiri and members of the Uasin Gishu County Assembly have led calls for Mr Tuju to step aside to allow for election of new officials.
The leaders see it as an opportunity to instal officials loyal to Dr Ruto.
However, Mr Tuju was defiant. “I am serving under a transitional clause, which ends in March 2020. I was privileged to have been asked to serve.
"I serve at the pleasure of the President, and he can fire me. So, any member that feels that I do not have the mandate should take it up with the President,” Mr Tuju said.
But possibly aware that the calls will grow, and have some legitimacy, Mr Tuju promised to hasten the election of officials to run the party.
He did not indicate whether he will offer himself up for election. The term of the interim officials ends in March 2020.
“We want to do it earlier (than March 2020). The only thing that people should understand is that we must have elections, but also that it must follow the constitution and the law... I cannot just wake up one day and say that some members have demanded an election, let’s do it next month. There must be some processes.”
He described what he said were “conditions precedent” to the elections, and which includes the opening of the 47 branches, the recruitment of members and the induction of all elected officials to believe in the Jubilee vision.
He said already, the party has formed a taskforce to come up with recommendations about the party’s academy, as well as developing a draft curriculum that will be used to train its officials and members.
“There are people who just came to Jubilee because it was the only way to get elected. We want to change that by doing an induction of all our members,” he said.
When Mr Tuju called a press conference two weeks ago, he sidestepped all questions on complaints by some members over development in Mt Kenya, as well as the implosion about what Dr Ruto’s allies feel is an attempt to use the March 9 truce between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga to block his State House bid — two most critical issues in the Jubilee Party now.
In the interview, Mr Tuju described the handshake in glowing terms, saying it had brought peace and calm which was lacking before March 9, 2018, and which has now helped build the economy.
“When you talk about the handshake, the normal person will look at the politics of it. But from a very serious leadership standpoint, we should look at it from an economic lens.
"What was the impact of the handshake on the economy? Huge, I will say. Have we created an atmosphere in which foreign investment can come or not? Is this calm good for the young people looking for jobs or not?” he posed.
Jubilee hopes to learn from China, Cuba, South Africa, and Tanzania — countries that have age-old ruling parties so powerful they can recall a sitting president in some cases — in its bid to create a humongous national party.
“We are looking at their structures, their organising principles beyond tribe and their financing structures beyond State allocations, as well as their accountability to their members and the country and their succession planning.
"When the party is strong, it is then able to manage the political competition within the party, sparing the rest of Kenyans the trauma that politics invariably brings,” Mr Tuju said.
“If we have a strong Jubilee, and through a process, we agree on our nominee and all those that competed back the winner, then there’ll be less chances of having political instability because the contest is confined within a political construct, and so it does not overflow to the general population.”
He defended his being chosen to sit in the Cabinet, but disputed the notion that he was now a Cabinet secretary.
“It is kind of a misuse of the term to call me a Cabinet secretary just because I sit in the Cabinet. In the strictest legal term, I am just the Jubilee Party secretary-general who sits in the Cabinet.
"I am not vetted by Parliament, I do not have a budget or a specific ministry,” he said.
“What being in the Cabinet gives me is the ability to know what the entire government is doing. And as the custodian of the party manifesto, I am then able to give input to any minister on issues that the party has a position, or made promises. I am then monitoring and asking: Are we doing the things we promised?”
In his job, Mr Tuju said, he has learnt to grow a thick skin, since “the most unfortunate thing is as secretary-general, I cannot have my own opinions.”