Details have emerged of how Jubilee functionaries frantically tried to stop Cord leader Raila Odinga and his Amani National Congress counterpart Musalia Mudavadi from jointly attending a public rally in Laikipia on Tuesday.
The Sunday Nation established through interviews with the meeting’s organisers that two elected leaders from Kiambu County and a nominated senator, all with close ties to State House, were detailed to approach Mr Mudavadi and dissuade him from accompanying Mr Odinga to the homecoming party of Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel (ODM).
“They particularly wanted to scuttle a public appearance between Musalia and Raila. Of course their overtures were disregarded,” an aide to Mr Mudavadi told the Sunday Nation.
The three had been asked by senior functionaries in the Jubilee government to arrange a meeting with the ANC leader at a location in the upmarket Lavington neighbourhood and prevail upon him not to attend the Laikipia event.
But the meeting did not materialise as Mr Mudavadi had already set off for the ceremony.
It is instructive to note that prior to the 2013 election, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto had entered a pact with Mr Mudavadi to run on the Jubilee ticket, only for them to backtrack at the last minute, forcing the ANC leader to go it alone.
The experience created mistrust between the two in the event of any discussion about forging an alliance.
Carefully avoiding to comment on the incident, Mr Mudavadi said he would not have entertained such a meeting. “We are clear on what we want to achieve. We will not be distracted,” he said.
While none of the three politicians named as taking part in the effort was available for comment, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale accused Mr Mudavadi of making up the story to boost his profile in the opposition.
“We never sent anybody to him. As far as we are concerned, our line-up is full. We already have a deputy president. Let him concentrate on building the so called Nasa (National Super Alliance) so we meet at the ballot next year,” Mr Duale said.
It further turned out that among those who were seeking audience with Mr Mudavadi is a Cabinet Secretary who has been an MP in the past and a former MP from Busia County who lost in the last elections but was an influential minister in his heyday.
We gather that also lined up as part of Jubilee’s charm offensive to win over the politician is a prominent businessman from Coast known to finance campaigns of leading politicians in the past.
Those privy to the thinking in government circles say to appeal to broader constituencies, the government side may start dangling positions that are not currently in the Constitution like that of Prime minister, a route already favoured by the opposition.
From Laikipia, Mr Odinga and Mr Mudavadi headed to Tharaka Nithi County to popularise their new outfit.
Senior handlers of President Kenyatta are concerned that an alliance of all leading opposition politicians could see him suffer the same fate as Ghana’s President John Mahama, a close friend of Mr Kenyatta’s who lost to opposition chief Nana Akufo-Addo.
The same formula was used by the country’s opposition figures coalescing around retired President Mwai Kibaki to end Kanu’s four-decade hold on power in December 2002. Mr Kenyatta was Kanu’s presidential candidate that year.
UNITE AHEAD OF POLLS
The Jubilee Party is understood to be working on a counter-strategy to ensure President Kenyatta does not become the country’s first one-term Head of State.
Insiders say the move is to either win over some of the politicians being roped into the alliance or sponsor them to separately run for president, thereby splitting the opposition vote, in what could relive the 1992 elections when Ford crumbled at the last minute, handing President Daniel arap Moi another term in office.
The looming possibility that the main opposition players may unite ahead of the General Election has taken the nation by storm these past days with President Kenyatta said to be following every bit of it with immense interest.
Last Friday, Mr Odinga and his Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka held a private meeting at the former Prime Minister’s residence in Karen where they discussed the formation of Nasa.
Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka had held a brief meeting at Mr Odinga’s Capitol Hill offices a day earlier on the same subject.
During the Friday meeting, described by allies of the two leaders as lengthy, Mr Odinga briefed Mr Musyoka on developments towards the formation of Nasa.
He reportedly updated Mr Musyoka on the progress on discussions with Mr Mudavadi.
The meeting had not been pre-planned, since Mr Odinga had been scheduled to attend the ANC delegates meeting which was taking place in Lavington on the same day and time. He instead dispatched Siaya Senator James Orengo to represent him.
CAST NET WIDER
During the meeting, the two politicians are said to have agreed on the need to cast the net wider and allow as many people as possible to join. They also agreed on a February date as the best possible period to unveil the opposition line-up.
Mr Odinga reported that a number of Jubilee governors and senators, especially in the Rift Valley, had expressed willingness to join the opposition alliance towards the tail end to nominations. He said such requests should be considered.
Mr Musyoka also reported that he, too, had received similar overtures. The two Cord leaders agreed on the need to constitute a team to manage the integration process and institutionalise it, the most challenging part of such a big coalition.
There had been initial indications that Mr Musyoka was infuriated by the Laikipia and Tharaka Nithi meetings, with his handlers saying he had not been briefed, and that the Friday meeting was meant to reassure him of his place in the new arrangement.
Jubilee strategists are betting big on Kisii, Ukambani, Coast and Western support to force victory in the first round of elections.
It explains President Kenyatta’s frequent trips to these regions. In Ukambani, where he was early last week, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua has come out as the main pointman.
Jubilee has also opted to reach out to respected community leaders in the region to spearhead their campaign, including prominent businessman Peter Muthoka and former military chief General (rtd) Jeremiah Kianga.
Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro is leading the Jubilee charge at the Coast.
But with the imminent defection of Kenya’s ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Chirau Ali Mwakwere, from Jubilee to ODM and by extension Cord, the ruling coalition’s fortunes at the Coast are likely to suffer.
The ruling coalition has also been ruffled by the recent declaration by one of its pointsmen in Gusii region, former minister Sam Ongeri, to throw his weight behind current Kisii Governor James Ongwae, ODM’s main pointsman in the region.
Prof Ongeri spoke of his disillusionment with the manner he was left out of the team of President Kenyatta’s re-election campaigners in Gusii region.
But Senate Majority leader Kithure Kindiki argues that Jubilee only needs to retain support in its traditional strongholds of Mt Kenya region and Rift Valley to romp to victory next year.
WILL NOT STRUGGLE
“Our strongholds when we went to elections in 2013 are intact. It means we will not struggle to win in the first round, since we have made inroads in areas that were initially controlled by the opposition,” he said.
Another ally of the President, Mr David Murathe, who is Jubilee Party’s vice chairman, says nothing much has changed, even with Mr Mudavadi joining forces with Cord.
“If you add the votes that Musalia and Raila got in the last elections, it does not surpass what UhuRuto received. Their union is thus inconsequential as far as we are concerned,” he said.
The same day the former Prime Minister and his Deputy met in Laikipia, panic calls were made by senior figures in government to “friendly” politicians in the opposition seeking to know details on the proposed alliance.
Mr Mudavadi explained that the guiding principal in Nasa is to remove Jubilee from power, whether he is the presidential candidate or not. “Those will be secondary decisions on the basis of comparative advantage the person brings on the table in a team effort to achieve the goal.”
He said Cord principals, including Senate Minority leader Moses Wetang’ula, were involved in the ongoing consultations.
“We are holding discussions across the opposition divide all the time. Mr Musyoka has said he would rather be a sweeper in the opposition than join Jubilee. Mr Wetang’ula, on the other hand, had a bite at the unity cherry in an earlier meeting we had with Cyrus Jirongo. It’s only that the flurry of Nasa activities picked momentum when he was abroad,” he said.
Mr Wetang’ula, according to his aide Chris Mandu Mandu, is on an official visit to Australia.
“There is a three-pronged approach; boardroom meetings where leaders update each other, sharing ideas on how to make Nasa formidable; having joint public appearances to strengthen the resolve of our supporters and attract the undecided ones, and letting technical teams to burn the midnight oil to clean up negotiation instruments and mechanisms,” the ANC leader said.
Central Organisation of Trade Union Secretary General Francis Atwoli is said to have played a key role in uniting Luhyas in readiness for the polls.
“Once I unveil the Luhya spokesman, my role will end there. Of course, Raila is my brother in law and that’s a well-known fact,” he said on Saturday.
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