President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have enlisted the services of “reliable and effective” individuals to spearhead the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) campaigns and rollout in various regions across the country, the Sunday Nation has learnt.
The line-up excludes Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and those allied to him.
The team is led by Mr Odinga, the ODM chief, whose March 2018 “handshake” with President Kenyatta led to the BBI.
Three Cabinet Secretaries (CSs): Dr Fred Matiang’i (Interior), Peter Munya (Agriculture) and Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) are lead drivers for Nyanza, Mt Kenya and Western regions.
The list also features Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (Eastern), Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho (Coast) and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi for the expansive Rift Valley region.
Mr Wamalwa confirmed knowledge of the development. As the CS in charge of Devolution, Mr Wamalwa conceded he is at the centre of the push for implementation of the BBI report and that he is not in total darkness over some of the happenings.
“As a member of the Luhya community, I will not shy away from this assignment and will — alongside other leaders from the western Kenya region — lead this process, which I believe is good for the country,” the CS told the Sunday Nation.
GOVERNORS TAKE CHARGE
The latest move comes in the wake of the President’s resolve last Tuesday at State House, Mombasa, to push for the support and eventual implementation of the BBI report.
During his address to the nation, the President warned against politicking over the document and gave an assurance that the exercise will be an all-inclusive process.
The selection of the lead campaigners also coincides with heightened consultative forums and rallies across the country.
Saturday’s meeting in Kakamega County is the second after an initial one in Kisii County a fortnight ago.
Rallies to be spearheaded by governors in coordination with the team leaders have been mapped out in every region.
According to a source in the Presidency, Northern Kenya’s slot is yet to be filled after Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji reportedly expressed reluctance to take up the position, owing to conflict of interest.
Mr Haji is the chairman of the BBI task force, whose extension of mandate was gazetted on Monday.
According to multiple sources privy to the selection of the regional drivers, the other options for the Northern Kenya slot are DP’s perceived allies, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok.
It is hoped, however, that the two, “who have immense respect for the President”, will be swayed to fully change allegiance to the President.
Reached for comment, Mr Duale said he had not been contacted over such appointment.
“I am nonetheless in support of the BBI and even consulted the Head of State on Friday on other matters, although he never mentioned this one to me.”
According to our source at the Presidency, who spoke in confidence, the list of key drivers of the BBI in the regions was crafted by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga alongside close allies and senior officials in the Presidency in Mombasa, early last week.
The consultations coincided with Mr Odinga’s presence at the coastal city for the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) conference, where he chaired the first ministerial meeting of LAPSSET countries, co-hosted by Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.
The President has since December 29, 2019, been based at the coastal city of Mombasa, from where he has been conducting official activities from his official residence, including doing a Cabinet reshuffle and holding high-profile consultative meetings.
State House spokesperson and Head of the President’s Strategic Communications Unit Kanze Dena was unavailable, though, to confirm the meeting between the President and former PM on the crafting of the BBI regional drivers.
On his part, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango, told the Sunday Nation that he had not held any discussions with his boss over the said meeting with the President.
“Nonetheless, the idea has been on the cards for some time and the rollout was agreed upon way back last year and I think the governors are driving it,” he observed.
Indeed, besides the selected regional drivers, Mr Wamalwa conceded that governors are crucial players in the BBI launch.
“Remember the governors have been fronting their Ugatuzi Initiative, and I have worked closely with them and succeeded to get their support for the BBI. I believe the two initiatives can be merged to save on time and for the overall good of mwananchi,” he said.
Besides their roles as governors, Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos) have, according to our sources, the additional task of boosting Mr Musyoka’s efforts in whipping up support for BBI in Eastern region.
Other crucial players include Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who is important in the matrix as an emerging female leader in Central Kenya.
According to our sources, Ms Waiguru would well have been named among the key BBI drivers, but that slot is firmly in the hands of Mr Kenyatta himself, who hails from Kiambu County.
Nairobi County, according to the President’s handlers, will be managed jointly by the two BBI co-principals, with support from MPs Maina Kamanda (Nominated), Simba Arati (Dagoretti North), Tim Wanyonyi (Westlands) and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru.
But former Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe says the list is not exhaustive. “Ideally, as the President has mentioned, this is an all-inclusive process, and everyone’s input will be appreciated and recognised accordingly,” he said.
The listed regional BBI drivers are bound to invite suspicion and envy among rivals and other political players.
Drumming up support for ODM’s candidate in last November’s Kibra constituency by-election, Ms Waiguru mentioned that the leadership of the country’s next government would come from the BBI supporters.
The pro-BBI caucus has laid down elaborate plans for countrywide rallies to drum up support for the report.
With the President taking a back seat because of the need to appear neutral and not to politick, Mr Odinga is practically charged with the role of spearheading the field campaigns with logistical support from Dr Matiang’i.
“But first, we had to ensure the ground — especially Mt Kenya region — was calm and receptive to our teams,” explains one of our sources, with clear reference to the President’s executive order last Monday aimed at boosting coffee, tea and potato farming in the region as well as milk production.
Indeed it is not accidental that the high-profile Agriculture docket was assigned to Mr Munya, who hails from the region.
Instructively, the ministry’s mandate has been expanded to include Livestock, Co-operatives and Fisheries.
In the meantime, not all are in support of drumming up support for BBI through public rallies.
On Friday, for instance, the DP warned rivals against misusing the initiative to “revive their political fortunes”.
Speaking in Taita-Taveta County, Dr Ruto asked the Haji-led team to work in a structured way and “ignore the brokers and busy bodies trying to hijack the process.”
Noting that he fully supports BBI, Mr Mudavadi similarly questions the lack of transparency and inclusivity of the process.
“Initially it was the question of who was organising and footing the bills of these meetings in the vacuum created by the expiry of the BBI task force mandate.
''How come some of us were excluded and targeted as anti-BBI yet we publicly supported the report at Bomas?” asked Mr Mudavadi in reference to the Kakamega rally.
Stating that the BBI Steering Committee was only gazetted last Monday, Mr Mudavadi was surprised the national government forked out Sh5 million out of a budget of Sh23 million to Kakamega rally’s ''opaque'' organisers.
“What and whose agenda is being pursued in this clandestine operation?”