The NASA co-principals this weekend retreat back to their separate home grounds after weeks of intense infighting that has left the Opposition coalition thoroughly split.
Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC Leader Musalia Mudavadi, and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula all repaired back to their localities for different activities with a common purpose and dilemma.
Their mission: To report back and seek the concurrence of their supporters over their disillusionment with Raila’s newfound friendship with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kalonzo will this weekend attend a thanksgiving in Masii for Machakos Woman Rep Joyce Kamene before proceeding to Kitui West on Sunday to join Wiper candidate Edith Nyeze for another church service and campaign final touches ahead of the by-election set for Monday.
Raila is expected to attend the burial of Justice Joseph Onguto in Ugenya on Saturday. Last weekend he attended a series of activities in his Nyanza backyard, where he was warmly received by his supporters, as he explained his change of heart.
But that did not heal the rift in NASA, which is still reeling from by Raila’s solitary decision to work with Uhuru without consulting his co-principals.
Although the three have accused Raila of betrayal, all the co-principals have been struggling to seal the cracks and put on an appearance of unity.
Their tongues are expected to loosen this weekend, when they address their home supporters.
Musalia is expected to attend some activities in Nandi before moving on to his Vihiga County, where he is scheduled to address several meetings.
It was not immediately clear whether he would be joined by Wetang’ula, who is due to attend a church service at Christ the King Catholic Church in Bungoma town on Sunday.
A rally earlier planned for Bungoma to be attended by the three principals to underscore their unity following Wetang’ula’s ouster as Senate Minority leader was called off.
Wetang’ula, the sole Ford Kenya senator, was dethroned from the Minority leadership in a move orchestrated by ODM senators last week over a multiplicity of accusations.
He was replaced by Siaya Senator James Orengo, who is poised to be deputized by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala.
Efforts by the co-principals to reverse the decision were thwarted on Thursday, when the senators stuck to their guns.
Mudavadi boycotted the meeting, with his aide Kibisu Kabatesi saying it was futile.
The move further worsened the tension between ODM and the coalition partners, soon after Raila struck a deal to work with Uhuru, and whipped his party to support the pact.
The other principals have been insisting on meeting Uhuru on their own but there is no indication whether he will accede.
On Tuesday, Raila’s confidant Orengo however appeared to pour cold water on the possibility of the other principals holding talks with Uhuru.
“For now I think many people being at the table for talks will confuse the project, let the two leaders meet then the rest will come later,” said Orengo.
Ford Kenya secretary general Eseli Simiyu, a key ally of Wetang’ula’s, warned that the NASA marriage was not working because of “ODM instigated wars” which he said aim at wrecking NASA.
“It is better ODM leaves NASA than wrecking our parties. This NASA thing is not working. Some of us are wondering if this was part of the handshake,” said the Tongaren MP, who is also the NASA steering committee co-chair, referring to Wetang’ula’s removal.
Lugari MP Ayub Savula said Raila’s actions showed that he has no respect for the Luyha community, adding that his popularity had dipped drastically.
“Raila’s has destroyed his support in the Luyha community completely after undermining the leadership of the community. The Luyha vote bloc was important in propelling Raila. Without the Luyha in NASA there is no NASA,” he told the Star.
ANC secretary general Barrack Muluka said the three co-principals would soon seek a Summit meeting to formally ask ODM to disengage from the NASA coalition.
“The time the three principals will ask the fourth one to leave and move on is not far,” said Muluka, warning ODM against what he termed “ the Big Brother syndrome.”
Should the co-principals push on with the agenda of isolating him, Raila would have to deal with a potential backlash from the Western region.
The three principals had planned the rally to express solidarity with Wetang’ula and rally the community around their alliance. But sources said they had decided to go slow on the agitation.
“They can meet as many times as they want. They will not shake Raila and ODM support in this region,” said Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparaya, who has declared his own presidential ambitions.
Yesterday Senator Malala warned that rallies could whip up tribal tensions and derail the agenda of healing, reconciliation and reforms.
“I want to urge Wetang’ula and Musalia to support the handshake between President Uhuru and Raila. That should be our focus for now,” said the vocal ANC lawmaker.
Asked if a Musalia-Wetang’ula unity could threaten Raila’s fortunes in Western, Malala termed Raila “an institution that cannot be brought down.”
He went on: “They have tried that before and failed. We can’t be derailed by any political activity in pushing for reforms.”
Sirisia MP John Walukhe (Jubilee) dismissed the initiative as moribund, saying both Wetang’ula and Musalia have already lost their popularity significantly.
“They cannot have any impact. Whatever popularity they had has been lost because they seem not to be having any political network,” Waluke told the Star on the phone from Bungoma.
He challenged the two to instead jump ship and join Jubilee to resuscitate their careers.
Matayos MP Godfrey Odanga admitted that should Musalia and Wetang’ula forge their own path out of NASA, they could walk away with their supporters but added that would not whittle down Raila’s popularity.
“I would urge them to remain together and support Raila’s pact with Uhuru, because by that we will take the country forward. They should remain patient, strong and stay put. They won’t benefit either if they pulled out and went their own way,” said the ODM lawmaker.
“NASA was Musalia’s idea, if he leaves who will he leave NASA to?” he added.
Political analyst Martin Andati was apprehensive about Raila’s support in Western Kenya remaining intact once Wetang’ula and Musalia launch joint vigorous rallies to galvanise support in their backyards.
“With Musalia and Wetang’ula working together, that would weaken Raila significantly,” he told the Star in a phone interview yesterday.
Andati said Raila had caught Wetang’ula and Musalia flatfooted and doubted the duo’s financial muscle to sustain an anti-Raila drive.
“The rallies by Wetang’ula and Musalia would also require resources that could be a bit of a challenge,” he said.
Supremacy turf wars between Musalia and Wetang’ula are also likely to be renewed as each seeks to navigate their own political future without Raila.
“Who will be the boss of the other, who will report to who?” said Andati.
Fate has united Wetang’ula and Mudavadi, who have waged bitter wars in the past.
Only last month, Wetang’ula dismissed Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli’s endorsement of Musalia as the Mulembe community spokesman.
In the 2013 presidential election, the Western region overwhelmingly voted for Raila, despite Musalia being in the race for State House on the UDF ticket.
Musalia had acrimoniously parted ways with Raila, citing a lack of internal democracy in ODM, before making a comeback as his chief campaigner in 2017.
It seems like history is being repeated.
“Atwoli’s cheap gimmicks with a handful of imposters and masqueraders will not solve the Mulembe unity issues. He is a turncoat we should ignore,” Wetang’ula had said.
“We want to go back to our people and give them information on the recent developments in NASA. Wetang’ula, Musalia and Kalonzo will attend the Bungoma rally,” Ford Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khalwale told the Star on the phone.