National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed on Saturday dragged Deputy President William Ruto into the chaos witnessed in the House 10 days ago during the vote on the Finance Bill.
Mr Mohamed, a close ally of ODM leader Raila Odinga, told Sunday Nation information in their possession showed that Mr Ruto met a group of about 30 MPs drawn from both Jubilee and ODM for a session where strategies of scuttling the bill were extensively discussed.
“He hosted them in Karen with a view to not only show he has the numbers in parliament but also to use it as a weapon against the handshake.
“Some of those who attended the meeting say the aim was to make Raila look insincere and unreliable given he had given his commitment to Uhuru that he would support the bill,” he said adding, “the DP has brewed rebellion in both Jubilee and ODM.”
Mr Mohamed maintained they had names of ODM MPs who were part of the delegation that went o Mr Ruto’s official residence in Karen during the week the bill was brought before the House.
ODM, he said, was considering disciplinary action against them.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, however, denied any attempt to influence Nasa leaders to vote against the president’s memorandum.
“The people who opposed the president’s memorandum on VAT from the sitting arrangement were mainly from Nasa with only pockets from Jubilee side.
“Unless you are saying William Ruto is the new leader of Nasa/ODM then your argument has no basis. The last time I checked, he was the Jubilee Party leader and has never defied his boss, the president. I read malice in these assertions that are meant to create a wedge between the President and his deputy.”
While Mr Ruto has said he supports the political truce (handshake) between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, his lieutenants like Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen have blamed it for the ‘strained relationship’ between the DP and his boss.
“These night meetings where nasty political plots are hatched must stop if the country must heal and move forward,” Mr Mohamed said.
Those opposed to President Kenyatta’s memorandum to the Assembly were unable to marshal the required 233 members to block the bill.
Observers reckon this was a rare display by lawmakers allied to the ruling party who have in the past religiously ratified all legislative decisions by the president.
“Members of the Jubilee cannot just take on the president for the sake of it. This was the doing of DP in a well-orchestrated move to send political signal,” Mr Mohamed stated.
But on Saturday, Mr Ruto through his Press Secretary Emmanuel Talam, fired back, asking Mr Odinga to come clean on reports he may have given his troops the leeway to vote as they pleased.
“It is the ODM MPs who have gone on record saying their leader allowed them to reject the Bill.
“ODM leader Raila Odinga should be sincere with his dealing especially on the handshake matter. He played games with the President. The DP made frantic efforts to support the bill. Raila should say what he did beyond that pronouncement that he supported the bill,” he said.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and his Othaya counterpart Gichuki Mugambi, on the other hand, accused some elected Jubilee leaders from central Kenya of disrespecting President Kenyatta over the increased tax and high cost of living.
“We are finding it very strange both from leaders and the social media where people are openly disrespecting and insulting the President. The President is a symbol of unity in this country,” Mr Kuria said.
“I am not saying you must vote for the President. That is your right to vote the way you want. If you were elected on Jubilee ticket and you decide to disobey the party and to go your own way, that is your right,” he said in Othaya, Nyeri County.
Mr Kuria threatened to move around the counties naming and shaming such leaders.
Asked to account for the fact that Mr Duale, who is a Ruto ally but was at the forefront in rooting for the law, Mr Mohamed said Mr Ruto’s camp did not want it to look so obvious that it was opposed to the law.
The matter which has refused to die off may be a make or break either for the ruling party, the handshake or both depending on how Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga handle it.
At the same time, Jubilee and ODM are planning separate parliamentary group meetings (PG) to forestall what is emerging as an open party defiance following the recent events in the National Assembly.
Though the National Assembly would later pass the bill, which was subsequently assented to by the President, State House and Orange House are not happy with the behaviour of the MPs.
The MPs had been lobbied by President Kenyatta at State House and Mr Odinga at Orange house to adopt it.
A day before the respective PGs, the duo met at the State House and agreed on a common script.
Minority Leader John Mbadi said the MPs violated their party positions and chose to play to the gallery.
“They wanted to appease both the party leadership and the public. This is playing to the public. It is not how legislation is conducted. The era of populist politics is over,” Mr Mbadi said.
“But we are going to engage with our MPs to see how best in future party position needs to be respected, especially on issues that have serious economic impact on the country,” he added.
Mr Mbadi also noted the meeting will be a learning session to make the MPs understand the importance of party whipping, whose good history is not really ingrained in “our politics”.
But a section of ODM and Jubilee MPs have threatened to have Mr Mbadi and Mr Duale stripped off their positions.
“My removal is a party matter and as far as I am concerned, I am proud of how I have conducted the affairs of my party in the House,” Mr Duale said with Mr Mbadi dismissing the threat as not warranting any response.
“Give it to Duale. You may like him or hate him but he has given a new meaning to that office having started from scratch under the new constitution. At least when his successor comes in, they will be able to start from somewhere unlike when he (Duale) came in,” Barasa Nyukuri, a governance expert, said.
Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali said there is no fallout in Jubilee but noted a party meeting is crucial.
“Our party meeting will not be pegged on the events in the House during the consideration of the President’s memorandum but as a normal practice on how we conduct parliamentary businesses,” Mr Washiali said.
Mr Mbadi’s position could be interpreted as trying to reach out to a coterie of ODM rebel MPs including Suleiman Dori (Msambweni), Badi Twalib (Jomvu), Benjamin Tayari (Kinango), Owen Baya (Kilifi North) among others.
The party has already written to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi over its intention to have Ms Jumwa removed from the powerful Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
Ms Jumwa and other party rebels, who also face the axe from House committees over their dalliance with Mr Ruto, have not been attending ODM meetings.
But even as Jubilee prepares to hold its PG, it is understood its members no longer fear President Kenyatta or take him as serious as they did during his first term in office.
Less than a year into his second term, the MPs already view the president as lame duck by virtue of him serving his last term.
Could it be the reason why even MPs from his backyard like Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru and her Kiambu colleague Gathoni Wamuchomba openly contradicted the president’s memorandum?
“It is a mixed bag of things — the early signs of a lame duck president are here and the MPs are alive to this fact,” University of Nairobi don Herman Manyora said.
“The fact that he will be out of office in 2022, those with a whole political career ahead of them do not want carry his baggage because he will not be there for them when the people will be asking them the hard questions,” he added.