Nasa principals must unite or perish in 2022 State House race

POLITICS |

Nasa leaders from left: Moses Wetangula, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga during a past meeting at Stone Athi Hotel in Machakos. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]

With barely a year to the General Election, it is dawning on Opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, that they can neither agree on a presidential flag bearer nor viability of National Super Alliance (Nasa) as their political vehicle.

Yet against this unyielding backdrop is a quietly shared reality among the ODM, Wiper party, Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya party leaders that if they do not work together they will be hanged together, politically.  

“To hide behind Dr Martin Luther King Jr (US renowned human rights crusader), we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. If we do not retrace our steps then our participation in next year’s polls will be in vain,” reacted Wetang’ula, with reference to Deputy President William Ruto, increasingly emerging as a solid competitor, even after falling apart with President Uhuru Kenyatta, in the ruling Jubilee Party.   

Last Saturday, Raila intimated to The Sunday Standard that Opposition chiefs were toying with the idea of forming a Government of National Unity “of sorts”: “A winner-takes-it-all approach will not augur well in the event the BBI (Building Bridges Initiative) proposals do not come through, meaning an all inclusive government of unity is the way out,” he said, pointing out that his partners agree with him “although they differ on who should lead it”.

And on Friday, Raila reiterated that he was talking to Kalonzo and other Nasa partners.

“We shall work together again, I can assure you,” Raila told Uhuru in Ukambani. Indeed, there have been behind-the-scenes efforts to reunite NASA leaders, with the President reportedly involved.

We could not, however, independently establish Uhuru’s hand in the latest overtures, much as he is on record calling for calm among political competitors.

The Sunday Standard has reliably established that Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula, met early last week and dispatched the Wiper leader to meet Raila over “a set of grievances”. The Kalonzo-Raila meeting took place on Thursday night, and according to the Ford-Kenya leader, the meeting centred on issues of accountability within Nasa and not revival of the coalition.

“We are aware ODM has lately received cash from State coffers and we accordingly want our rightful share. We expect feedback from Kalonzo on Monday, on what transpired,” Wetang’ula said. 

The political difference between Raila and his counterparts over his support for one of them in next year’s presidential race has been further poisoned by disagreements over funding of political parties. ODM has been accused of denying her partners a share of the funds, while the Orange party maintains they have not received a cent as Nasa.

Question of funds

Either way, ironing out the funding question could calm political tempers and open up avenues for renewed cooperation. It is an opportunity pundits believe Raila should give a chance. While the Nasa brigade, as well as new allies in Kanu, are in agreement that DP Ruto could stand in the way of their quest to succeed President Kenyatta, they disagree bitterly on how to stop him and who to pick as flag bearer. 

With a giant party to his credit and support bases across the country, Raila could opt to vie for the top seat without the support of colleagues and perform impressively, or play the kingmaker by supporting a candidate of choice and negotiate his share in the incoming government.

Nasa leaders from left: Moses Wetangula, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga during a past meeting at Stone Athi Hotel in Machakos. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]

Still, the 76-year old politician can retire from high-voltage poll exercise and enjoy good tidings.

Musalia can similarly decide to solely run for the presidency, if an understanding with colleagues fails. Even if he does not win, he hopes to win over support of members of his entire Luhya community. This would be a good starting point for bigger things in future. The ANC leader can also support another candidate, and inherit power years later. Luckily, age is on his side.

Having been a running mate twice, Kalonzo is probably under more pressure to go for the top seat. He will most probably do it, even if he does not get the backing of his partners, and hope to enter into a post-poll power-sharing arrangement similar to 2007. Wetang’ula is likely to play the support role for Musalia, who has relatively more political clout in the Western region. Alternatively, and at the right time, he could enter into a pre or post-poll working arrangement with any of the presidential candidates.

“Individually, Raila, Musalia, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula are fairly strong politically, but they are stronger as one. And if we don’t put our act together, Ruto will emerge victorious with ease,” says Ayub Savula, ANC deputy party leader. 

Comparatively, the Lugari MP says the DP is more prepared and has wider networks across the country. Pointing out that the August 9th 2022 battle will be won in Mt Kenya region, allegedly because they have no “serious” presidential aspirant, Savula roots for Musalia as the best bet.

“Because Raila is feared by voters in that region and Kalonzo attracts lesser backing than Musalia, we are better off with a Musalia candidature. He is the only one who can stop Ruto from becoming president,” argues Savula. 

Returning the favour

But Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, believes the right man is his party boss, Kalonzo: “Our party leader has shelved his ambition twice and somebody else must make a sacrifice this time. If Raila wants us to project him as a statesman, he must pass over the baton to Kalonzo – that way the Opposition shall form government,” says Wambua.

He says there is only one-way traffic into this matter: “He (Raila) either honours the deal he signed with his co-principals, a copy of which was deposited in the office of Registrar of Political Parties, or there is no deal.”

Noting the DP has “an obvious headstart”, Wambua calls on the Opposition to unite “if they ever hoped to have a chance of forming the next government.”

However, the ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, maintains Raila is the strongest candidate among his peers as demonstrated by the size of his political constituency and number of legislators in the two houses of Parliament, “which are far beyond the combined numbers of our partners”. 

The laughable thing about the ping-pong of Raila, Musalia and Kalonzo backers is that they are all chest-thumping on the assumption of enjoying support of the rival camps.

Nasa leaders from left: Musalia Mudavadi, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula. [Pius Cheruiyot, Standard]

In other words, their dependence on each other notwithstanding, the Raila, Musalia and Kalonzo camps just won’t stop the threats of “going it alone”.      

Stating that politics is the art of the possible, Wetang’ula does not rule out the possibility of Nasa principals teaming up to face off Ruto: “Only that when there is an underlying streak of lies and a deficit of trust and faith, it complicates a reunion.”

In reference to Raila, the Ford-Kenya party boss protests at the behaviour of one of the partners “who operates with a misguided degree of entitlement and misguided notion that others do not matter”.

“In politics every player is important and those you think are weak could turn out to be the strongest link to catapult one to the next level,” said Wetang’ula.

The Senator accuses Raila’s party of making political life in Nasa unbearable, claiming politicians allied to the former Premier have exhibited irritable behaviours, hence the need to cobble the One Kenya Alliance (OKA).

A possible reunion of Nasa principals, alongside Kanu party leader, Gideon Moi, is likely to send major shivers on the political scene, with the DP as the biggest victim.

The DP has already poured cold water on the emerging combined political onslaught against him, describing it as driven by an ethnic agenda, “and not considerations for the national good.”

Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, concurs: “They plan to team up for purely wrong reasons, which is to politically stop the DP, and not because of any positive agenda for Kenyans. Let them gang up, we shall call them out for who they exactly are.” 

Terming the possible teaming up of Nasa principals as “a natural reaction and appreciation of Ruto as a stronger opponent”, the vocal Senator claims a unity pact of anti-DP forces will not necessarily deliver victory to the Raila-Mudavadi-Kalonzo axis.  

This pressure notwithstanding, as Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu has observed, the leaders have no choice but unite or risk being vanquished.

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