Divide and conquer?
Entry of Charity Ngilu and Cyrus Jirongo into the State House race sparks talk of ODM machinations in response to earlier national plan by G7 rivals to tame the Prime Minister
By Standard on Saturday Team
|PM Raila Odinga (centre) and Peter ole Mositet (right) arrive in Kitengela in Kajiado North. [Photo: Peterson Githaiga/Standard]|
ODM leader Raila Odinga is working to turn back the tide after a series of setbacks against rivals offering “generation change” and “clean politics”.
Political observers see several recent developments working in his favour amid claims the Prime Minister is deliberately keeping his rivals busy fending off grassroots challenges. The moves come as he acts to quell dissent in his party over nominations in his Nyanza stronghold and unfulfilled resettlement promises in the South Rift.
The formal entry of Water Minister Charity Ngilu and Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo into the presidential race is among the developments seen to help Raila press the advantage in perceived hostile zones. While some rivals see ODM machinations in the announcements, the PM’s camp says these and other favourable events are not of their making. They, nonetheless, are happy to milk whatever political capital there is to gain from them.
“We did not create the advantages that ODM is likely to get from areas with many candidates,” says Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo. “But we will be more than willing to seize the opportunities when they come along.”
Rivals say ODM is encouraging political competition in Western, Eastern, and Central regions, where the party faces opposition, in the hope of picking up the spoils in the ensuing duels. Interestingly, this echoes Jirongo’s claims that State House had sponsored parties and candidates to influence the 2013 poll – a claim denied by President Kibaki and others around him.
Education minister Mutula Kilonzo sees the problem developing across the political divide, warning that the regime of party discipline envisaged under the Constitution was being undermined.
“What we see are parties popping out of the pockets of political mandarins purely to undermine regions and individuals,” Mutula says. “And I dare say you have not seen anything yet. Wait until you go to a run-off.”
Less than a week after declaring she would run for president on a Narc ticket, Ngilu has had to deny she is working for ODM as a “spoiler” intended to stem VP Kalonzo Musyoka’s influence. The accusation came from former minister Francis Nyenze who quit Narc for Kalonzo’s Wiper Democratic Movement. Ngilu, who had expressed support for Raila earlier, kept a low profile for a while before her surprise and belated entry into the race to State House, two weeks ago.
Ngilu has not indicated any reason she would have a rift with Raila. In 2007, ODM was counting on Kilome MP Harun Mwau to rally support in Ukambani. The Kitui Central MP decided to lend her support in October that year, thus getting herself kicked out of Cabinet, and went on to describe Raila as “Kenya’s Nelson Mandela”.
Last week also saw Jirongo launch a presidential bid under the Federal Party of Kenya. This followed months of railing against the G7 Alliance and what he said were six State House-sponsored ‘project parties’ ganging up to block others from the presidency. Jirongo’s attacks, also aimed at the United Democratic Forum’s Musalia Mudavadi, led to speculation he was carrying water for Raila. When he reported death threats over his campaign in July, ODM Young Democrats from Western Kenya leapt to his aid. Speculation was heightened further when several ODM MPs, including Ababu Namwamba, Manson Nyamweya, Chris Okemo, Millie Odhiambo, and Sospeter Ojaamong appeared at the FPK event.
Namwamba, who was at the FPK event with four other ODM MPs, says the moves by Ngilu and Jirongo had nothing to do with Raila.