Jubilee Party’s cohesion is under test as the apparent vacuum in leadership positions at the county level sparks a scramble to fill it.
There is a sense of unease as aspirants sweat out on who will be on the officials’ list at the national and county levels.
Only President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have their positions intact so far, with interim officials at the national level carried over from the defunct Jubilee Alliance Party.
The President and Deputy President were set to name a 77-member National Executive Committee after the party was launched in a bid to absorb representatives of 11 political outfits which merged. This has not happened and now some counties have moved to fill positions.
What is clear from many leaders is that there is a vacuum which is not good for the party.
Sources indicated that the party leaders, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, are not keen to have party elections as this may cause unnecessary upheavals so close to the General Election and, therefore, the party’s substantive officials can only be elected in 2018.
But Mr Emmanuel Talam, a communications director in the office of the Deputy President, denied there is a vacuum.
“There can only be a vacuum if party activities have stalled. As of now, there are no party activities and, therefore, nothing has stalled.
There are no ongoing elections, no registration and such like matters that are associated with political parties. As of now, the President and the Deputy President are in control. There is no deadline for appointing party officials and the party will take its time,” he said.
Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka said the party needs “quick guidance”.
“This vacuum is not good at all. The party needs structures so as to start registration of members. I have asked my people to hold their horses as we wait for word from Nairobi,” he said.
Mr Lusaka said Jubilee is facing pressure especially in regions where it does not enjoy universal support and lack of officials is not helping matters.
Recently, Bungoma MCAs protested at the composition of Jubilee national officials. They said the list does not reflect the face of Kenya.
The interim officials are chairman Nelson Dzuya while the vice-chairman is former Gatanga MP David Murathe. Ms Veronica Nduati is secretary-general deputised by Mr Caleb Kositany and Ms Fatuma Mohamud. The treasurer is Mr Alfred Kipkorir, while Mr Abdul Hajji, son of Senator Yusuf Hajji, is organising secretary.
Kirinyaga county leadership led by Governor Joseph Ndathi has already come up with interim officials, with the governor defending the move, saying power hates a vacuum.
“All delegates of the 12 parties that dissolved from Kirinyaga met and made a decision to have interim officials. Each party had 20 delegates from Kirinyaga and they came and elected officials. For now we have officials as we wait for directions from party headquarters,” he said.
Ms Wangui Ngirici, who is running for Woman Representative in the county, reads ill-motive in the governor’s camp.
“The so-called interim officials can only be viewed in the context of rigging party nominations next year. Whereas there is a vacuum that the party needs to fill with speed, if there are officials who do not enjoy the confidence of all, then some aspirants may be forced to run as independents,” she said.
But the governor said the party constitution was clear that only a county elections board and IEBC can conduct nominations and not the interim officials.
On Saturday, Gichugu MP Njogu Barua, while presenting Sh52 million worth of water pipes to 32 self-help groups in his constituency, criticised Mr Ndathi concerning the matter.
He accused Mr Ndathi of imposing party grassroots leaders on the people and dismissed the polls, which saw a director of Tana Water Services Board, Mr Mureithi Kang’ara, and the chairman of the local liquor licensing committee, Mr Nyamu Mwara, elected chairman and secretary respectively.
“The governor imposed the leaders on us and opened the county Jubilee Party office in Kutus town. This is unacceptable,” he told residents in Kianyaga town.
Mr Barua said the elections were illegal and vowed to fight until they were nullified.
“The elections, which were held without the knowledge of local leaders and a majority of voters, had not been authorised by the Jubilee Party Steering Committee under the chairmanship of Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and, as such, they were illegal,” said Mr Barua.
Mr Barua also said he did not recognise the governor as the patron of the local party branch.
The elections were held last month despite protests by MPs and several aspirants for various political seats.
Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, who will be taking on Mr Ndathi for the governor’s seat, was the first to protest, accusing Mr Ndathi of panicking.
RIG PARTY PRIMARIES
She claimed that there was a plot to rig the party primaries.
“As far as we are concerned, there are no Kirinyaga interim officials yet. The process of getting county party officials has not commenced yet as the Jubilee Party leadership has not appointed the National Executive Committee. This fact was confirmed by Mr Noah Wekesa in his recent visit to Kirinyaga.
We expect the process of appointing the said officials to be transparent, democratic and non-partisan and certainly not driven or directed by an interested individual or a candidate for any elective office,” said Ms Waiguru.
In Kisii, there is also another form of jostling as serving and former MPs coalesce around two camps.
Kisii is earmarked to get a national position when the list of interim officials is released.
“It will be important to name a person who will command the respect of both camps,” said a source.
In Nakuru, Jubilee Party leaders and aspirants issued a warning against party members imposing themselves as county party officials.
More than 100 party aspirants and elected leaders converged at the former National Alliance party county headquarters to dismiss what they referred to as “imposter officials”
Nakuru County Aspirants’ caucus chairman Abdul Noor, accused some of conspiring to make themselves the interim officials.
“There are some members who are walking around and holding meetings in the town while purporting to be the leaders of the Jubilee Party that is yet to roll out its offices in the county,” said Mr Noor.
Among those who were present were County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika, MPs David Gikaria, Nelson Gaichuhia and several members of the county assembly.
His sentiments were echoed by county assembly Majority Leader Mwaura Njenga, who disowned the self-proclaimed officials.
The Nakuru Businessmen’s Association chairman, Mr Simon ole Nasieku, accused Governor Kinuthia, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama and his Bahati counterpart Kimani Ngunjiri of causing confusion. He said the three were trying to seize the party leadership through the back door.
The launch of a united Jubilee Party has laid the ground for hotly contested party nominations particularly in JP’s strongholds, which has stirred anxiety among contenders.
Additional reporting by George Munene and Joseph Openda