Panic gripped Opposition coalition National Super Alliance (NASA) Thursday evening after co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka fired the first salvo of his determination to clinch the coalition’s presidential ticket.
In a bold move, Kalonzo presented his presidential nomination papers to his Wiper Democratic Movement party, triggering a wave of anxiety that saw co-principal Raila Odinga’s henchman James Orengo publicly discuss the 2013 pre-election's Memorandum of Understanding and its implication.
The events in Wiper happened as The Standard learnt that Raila is braving internal pressure from his ODM loyalists to pull a similar move - give every indication that he will be on the ballot.
What was billed a symbolic exercise to beat a regulatory deadline by Kalonzo transformed, in political circles, into a formal and ominous signal that the ex-Vice President is dead-set to take on President Uhuru Kenyatta, with or without NASA support.
Despite assurances from Kalonzo and Wiper luminaries, NASA insiders remained skeptical that all can be well after yesterday's events. Underlying speculation on Kalonzo's next move is the fact that he backed Raila in 2013 and has been insisting it was time the Orange leader endorsed him to take on Uhuru.
Coming in the backdrop of relentless campaign to consolidate his political base, sustained operation to poach strong NASA candidates to Wiper and a hard-line talk from party leadership, the significance of Musyoka's move was not lost.
"The fact of the matter is that the drumbeats of war have been sounded. Essentially, this is what it is, a signal for war but we will take it in our stride. We believe in the end, all will be well," a senior NASA figure and official of one of the affiliate parties told The Standard last evening.
By last evening, a section of ODM MPs were planning to impress on the former PM - once he comes back from the US - to "run on the party's ticket and leave NASA and CORD to his co-principals," another source told The Standard.
An Orange meeting held among the MPs on Wednesday resolved to petition Raila to pick a running mate from among themselves, convene a National Delegates Conference to formally endorse Raila and to rally deputy party leader Hassan Joho to restart massive countrywide rallies ahead of the NDC.
"The feeling in this group of ODM MPs is that Raila's co-principals are blackmailing him, that the co-principals are hardening their positions despite all concessions ODM has made and that it has reached a point of disrespect," the source told The Standard.
They cite a number of public utterances by the Wiper leadership which indicate "bad faith and an attempt to arm-twist Raila, ODM's suspension of "ODM at Ten" celebrations and unbecoming behaviour that suggests that "removing Jubilee from power is only a Raila problem".
Yesterday, Wiper's representative at the Coalition Committee Johnstone Muthama was at pains to explain that the presentation of nomination papers had "nothing sinister" in it. He pleaded for sobriety within the coalition, saying all the other three principals will take a similar route: "If he doesn't do this he will be time-barred. And that's more or less the case for other principals. People should learn to take what Kalonzo says for its truth and not listen to rumours."
"He has said this before and he said it today, that he is in NASA to stay. Why should it matter what others say?" he asked.
He added: "Trust me, Kalonzo is not a child. He is a grown-up and a respected lawyer. You can accuse him of so many things but I can assure one thing. Kalonzo does not know how to lie. If he says he is in NASA the whole hog he is in NASA."
ODM's director of elections Junet Mohamed also downplayed the import of yesterday's events: "The rider he gave in today's ceremony that he is NASA to stay gave us the necessary comfort. We firmly believe he is in and that today's event is a normal process," he said.
But some of Kalonzo's foot soldiers think differently and are not shy to express it. Mr Enock Wambua, a Kitui Senate seat aspirant and close ally of the former VP told The Standard that Wiper was readying itself for all options, "including ensuring that Kalonzo is on the ballot" if NASA's processes are not free and fair."
On Sunday, Mr Wambua penned an opinion in which he complained of lack urgency in crafting and signing the NASA accord, reluctance and delay in naming the NASA candidate and attempt to lock in all four principals within the coalition until the last minute when "the grand schemer" will be declared the flag bearer.
The article, believed to have the blessings of top party leadership, did not flinch: "If our NASA co-principal Raila Odinga is declared the coalition presidential candidate, Kenyans should prepare for another five years of UhuRuto presidency."
Wambua remained adamant that it represented the feeling in Wiper. He said although Wiper is determined to make NASA work, it would not settle for a predetermined ticket.
"We are upping our game. Trust me, we will negotiate hard. We will not sit back and wait to be allocated the ticket. We will fight for our space and earn it on merit. Kalonzo is the first to present his papers of the four and will be the first and the last to receive the coalition ticket," he said.