Opposition leader Raila Odinga handed Suna East MP Junet Mohamed the Minority Whip seat in the National Assembly as a reward for his steadfast loyalty to the National Super Alliance.
The decision sparked a row in the opposition coalition pitting Coast MPs — who believe the seat belongs to the region — and Amani National Congress legislators who threatened to sever links with ODM.
Insiders in the alliance said Mr Mohamed was rewarded for his firm support for the coalition headed by Mr Odinga and his abrasive nature which makes it suitable for the job of marshalling Nasa MPs against Jubilee.
Mr Odinga appears determined to deter opposition MPs from engaging in any action suggesting that President Kenyatta was properly elected.
Already, the coalition has opted out of the committee that will vet Cabinet Secretaries. Mr Odinga has stated that he believes he and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka won the August 8 election.
On Thursday, Mr Mohamed said he would aggressively push the Opposition’s agenda in the House.
“Now you can be sure that the party will regain its traction. Though many say that I was favoured, this is not the case because I lobbied just like any other MP and the coalition believed in me,” he said, adding that he needs the support of Nasa leadership and its MPs to succeed.
“It is not a Junet affair, the party believes that I have the wherewithal to push its agenda in the 12th Parliament,” he said.
The former Migori mayor is understood to have been among those who were quietly unhappy when the Opposition announced its leadership list during the MPs’ induction workshop in September.
That list had Suba South MP John Mbadi as Minority Leader, Lugari MP Ayub Savula (ANC) as his Deputy, Kathiani MP Robert Mbui (Wiper) as Minority Whip and Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini, Ford-Kenya) as Deputy Whip.
In the new line-up, Mr Mbui is Deputy Minority Leader while Mr Wamalwa retained his position.
The expectation by MPs from the Coast was that the position of Whip was reserved for them given that two MPs from the region, former Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu and former Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, held the post in the last Parliament.
In the absence of a strong contender from the Coast, the natural choice would have been Mr Wamalwa, who is a vocal second-timer who can mobilise MPs as well as handle the technical side of matters in Parliament.
But Mr Wamalwa’s party, Ford-Kenya, did not have a strong showing in the elections.
The Kiminini MP is a moderate when it comes to politics and tends to keep away when the Opposition employs rough tactics in and out of Parliament.
ANC MPs on Thursday claimed they had been shortchanged.
Lugari MP Ayub Savula led nine MPs from ANC, a wing of Nasa, in criticising the coalition’s leadership, saying the party does not agree with the list presented to the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi by Mr Mbadi.
“We have a coalition agreement in Nasa that treats all the parties as equals. What we want as Nasa members is that this position should be the guiding principle in the allocation of seats even in committees,” he said.
Mr Savula was accompanied by MPs Alfred Agoi (Sabatia), Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), Ms Beatrice Adagala (Vihiga county woman representative), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Tindi Mwale (Butere) and Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya).
At the Coast, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff said the region’s leaders had reached an agreement with Mr Odinga to give the position to them.
“Coast MPs have unanimously agreed to give the Minority Whip position to Suleiman Dori (Msambweni MP),” he said.
ODM MPs have in the past complained of having to sacrifice their ambitions just to keep the coalition partners happy.
The Minority Whip has the responsibility of mobilising members to push the coalition’s agenda in the House and also attend parliamentary group meetings.
Under the Standing Orders, the Minority Whip in the National Assembly is required to communicate to the Speaker in writing the decision of the party regarding the appointment of the coalition’s House leadership.