The shifting focus to the 2022 election even before the planned swearing-in and setting up of the Peoples Assemblies could prove to be an expensive distraction to the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
Despite current engagements to come up with a foolproof plan to install the People’s Assemblies across the country and swear-in its leaders — Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka — affiliate parties appear to have started strategising for the next elections.
Nasa is made up of Mr Odinga’s ODM, Mr Musyoka’s Wiper Party, Mr Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC and Mr Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya.
With the former Prime Minister expected not to vie for presidency in 2022, as per a 2017 pre-election pact with fellow Nasa co-principals, each of the principals appears keen to position themselves for the top seat.
Nasa’s main headache is, therefore, how to tame these individual political ambitions by encouraging players to focus on the quest for electoral justice through putting pressure on the Jubilee government.
However, this has not been easy with some coalition partners attacking each other.
Terming them “petty party interests”, one member of Nasa’s technical team, who spoke in confidence, expressed his displeasure at instances where officials of member parties were making an individual ambitions in house committees “a major coalition issue” thereby frustrating Nasa’s main agenda and unity of purpose.
Mr Odinga aptly captured these concerns on Friday in Machakos, when he told the coalition’s supporters to stop putting pressure on Mr Musyoka over 2022 elections.
“Let us first focus on the animal we hunted down in 2017 and thereafter help Mr Musyoka in the 2022 hunt,” he said.
He was responding to pleas by Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana to hand over Nasa flag-bearer’s baton to Mr Musyoka, Mr Odinga’s running mate in 2013 and 2017.
Of the three possible successors of Mr Odinga in Nasa, the two former vice presidents — Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi — appear to have upped their game in a quiet scramble for the ticket with their parties holding meetings that had 2022 on the agenda.
Observers within Nasa point out that the two are steadily courting the ODM party leader and are guarded in openly contradicting him.
Mr Odinga, who has vied for presidency four times, enjoys solid political support from his Nyanza region rural backyard and across the country in coast, western, and Nairobi. Parts of the Rift Valley and North Eastern regions have also remained loyal to him, summing up an impressive vote basket.
The opposition has also been preoccupied with remaining intact amid fears of Jubilee luring some members. The most recent move involves asking legislators to sign an affidavit in support of the swearing-in.
Dubbing “Tangaza Msimamo” (Declare your stand), Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala (ANC), Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi (ANC), Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo (Wiper) and Opiyo Wandayi (ODM) of Ugunja, say they are targeting Nasa lawmakers to commit their support for the January 30 swearing-in.
“Some Nasa leaders and politicians are seemingly not willing to sign our affidavit but it is coming and they must sign so that we can be able to separate the chaff from wheat,” says Mr Malala.
Apparently, Mr Wetangula’s Ford-Kenya is not too enthusiastic about the Kalonzo-Mudavadi moves for endorsement by the Odinga party. In fact, deputy party leader Boni Khalwale hints at a possible disengagement from Nasa altogether “sometime before 2022.”
“First and foremost, the history of political coalitions in our country is such that they keep reinventing themselves by joining new partnerships ahead of the next polls. Similarly I do not see the possibility of Nasa participating in the 2022 elections in its current formation and with the same name,” Dr Khalwale told the Nation.
The former Kakamega senator further maintains that contrary to public pronouncements by some Nasa principals, the issues of dialogue with Jubilee Party and the swearing-in of Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka have not been conclusively addressed and unanimously agreed upon.
“My position is that dialogue is better than the swearing-in option. And remember the Jubilee administration has not said ‘no’ to dialogue but rather there are those among us (Nasa) who are saying they do not want dialogue,” says Dr Khalwale.
The sentiments by Dr Khalwale come at the end of a week of multiple meetings by Nasa principals and denials of divisions in the coalition. Indeed, some Ford Kenya politicians have in recent weeks attracted scrutiny.
“Look, who is dilly-dallying on the swearing-in issue and which MPs from our coalition have openly declared their allegiance to Jubilee?” said a second-term MP from Nyanza region, who did wish to be named for fear of being accused of fuelling animosity within.
The MP was referring to Ford-Kenya allied legislators from Gusii region, Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South) and Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango), who have said they will work with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.
However, ODM’s Sylvanus Osoro (South Mugirango) and Wiper’s Ben Momanyi (Borabu) are similarly opposed to the idea of swearing-in Mr Odinga on grounds that it could destabilise the country.
Mr Odinga’s ODM party has also come under sharp criticism from Nasa member parties for claiming the lion’s share in Parliamentary house committees.
While the National Assembly’s Leader of Minority, John Mbadi tried to justify this action by stating that the Orange party accounts for over two-thirds of the Nasa-allied MPs, there are still murmurs — even within ODM.
During a recent interview with the Voice of America, Mr Odinga likened the complaints over sharing positions to the scramble for space in a large family.
But the place of the giant ODM party in the wider Nasa family – with or without Mr Odinga – is something that will remain contentious in Nasa.
As long as it continues to enjoy popular support and draw more legislators, the Orange party will demand to enjoy a relatively bigger say and share of power.
The 2017 pre-election pact among Nasa parties indicates that other party members, except ODM, will produce the coalition’s flag bearer in 2022.
In the meantime, the coalition partners hope to keep the political fire burning by sticking together using strategies like the “loyalty test” of signing an affidavit, which partly reads: “I recognise …Raila and Kalonzo as the President of the People’s Republic of Kenya having been duly elected by the people of Kenya in exercise of their sovereign power granted under the Constitution of Kenya (2010)”.
Nasa strategist, Dr David Ndii, is similarly hopeful that the planned swearing-in of the coalition’s leaders will help reclaim “Nasa’s presidential election victory of August 8, 2017, which he claimed the Supreme Court validated by annulling Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory.
However, Dr Khalwale’s prayer is that a middle ground shall be arrived at: “When some of us express our reservations over the swearing-in idea, it is not that we are traitors but rather we are seeking a middle ground that is good for us as Nasa and our country.”