The Wiper party is often considered an exasperating team-mate by its larger coalition partner, ODM. Its suspension of the so-called People’s Assembly scheduled for Machakos on Sunday will not change that perception. The complaint this time is that it was short-changed during the recent election of parliamentary committees.
When he returned from Germany recently, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka arranged an interview with a local daily where he put out some very subtle conditionalities. One, the effort by Nasa to seek dialogue with President Uhuru Kenyatta should supersede any rush to the “swearing-in” of Raila Odinga and himself. Second, he fronted himself as the best facilitator for any such dialogue. Some rough language against Jubilee was to be expected though, in fact, his message seemed intended more for his Opposition colleagues.
A Wiper NEC meeting held on Monday basically echoed those sentiments. However, Kalonzo was careful not to address the press himself.
He left it to Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who said they wanted Nasa to call a retreat for all its elected leaders so as to iron out issues. It was all put very politely.
Kibwana talked of “disquiet” within Wiper rather than of an actual rebellion. As it were, another coalition partner, Amani, has also complained about the parliamentary committee appointments, but has chosen not to escalate matters.
The dialogue issue is clearly Kalonzo’s big beef. The ODM has previously fronted the proposal, but its leaders have made it plain their “swearing-in” plans are not necessarily tied to it. Furthermore, they don’t seem to think Jubilee is enthusiastic about holding a dialogue. Kalonzo believes he can break the impasse. Or could he be using the issue to slow down ODM’s ‘’swearing-in’’ push?
Nobody knows if Kalonzo has contacted Uhuru. If he has, it is by no means certain he will stick to Raila’s own stated conditionalities. These are a fairly long list that hinges on what the ODM leader calls “electoral justice”. When Uhuru spoke about dialogue, he said he would only engage on the “four pillars” of development he set out for his second term.
Nor is it a guarantee that Raila would be wholly impressed with a dialogue midwifed so publicly by Kalonzo. Going by his utterances, the ODM leader would love nothing better than a one-on-one initiated by Uhuru. With this possibility looking increasingly remote, it is anybody’s guess whether Kalonzo’s gamble would have the wholesome consent of his partners. To start with, the old question of trust – or the lack of it – would come up. It is a problem that dogged the original ODM with Kalonzo at the receiving end.
Both Kalonzo and his Nasa colleagues understand very well what is at play. Whoever succeeds to bring Uhuru to the negotiating table automatically grabs the limelight in Nasa. Certainly, Jubilee finds Kalonzo more palatable than Raila. Whether they regard him as anything more than a lightweight is another matter.
Inside Wiper’s ranks, there is a deep-seated grievance that they are dragged to sanction major decisions already made by ODM in the name of Nasa.
Initiating the dialogue would be Kalonzo’s way of demonstrating he is taking the driving seat. Kalonzo had been away with a sick wife, and now obviously wants to get back into the game.
Remarkably, the Wiper leader is about the only presidential aspirant who openly pegs his ambition on the reciprocity of others, and loudly demands it to the point of begging. Kibwana has lately become the mouthpiece of this storyline with his reminders that Wiper expects the Nasa principals to back his boss in 2022. Predictably, the governor’s promptings have been met with telling silence.
During his newspaper interview, Kalonzo was categorical that the much-publicised “swearing-in” must be the last resort. He was relaxing at his Karen compound under the gazebo where he famously described in his political memoir he was played by Uhuru in 2013.
Warigi is a socio-political commentator [email protected]