Time will tell whether Azimio holds together following recent changes

ODM leader Raila Odinga with NARC Kenya's Martha Karua during a past meeting. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

The Azimio la Umoja coalition is rebooting and has acquired new political players to give it a moral boost. It reactivated Raphael Tuju, former Jubilee secretary-general, as the Azimio secretariat executive. It also assimilated Wiper’s Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka and Narc-Kenya’s Martha Wangari Karua.

Previously, Kalonzo and Martha led an alternative called One Kenya Alliance (OKA) to compete with Azimio and the Kenya Kwanza movements. OKA, despite attracting leaders from different parties, remained divided, suspicious, and seemingly available to be lured. It disintegrated as party leaders chose different times to jump into, and reinforce, Azimio.

Azimio portrayed itself as the movement of the establishment and was attractive to those middle-class people who appeared stuck in the middle. Its leader and presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, had on its side government big hitters including President Uhuru Kenyatta. He dazzled people with such clever advertisements and promotions as ‘Inawezekana’ slogan in an effort to assure voters that despite past misgivings, he was better and more reliable than his 2007 Pentagon comrade and current main political rival, Deputy President William Ruto.

Since Raila seemed to lack the verve that translates beliefs into a movement, his Azimio mounted efforts to persuade big names to support his bid for State House. He eventually got Kalonzo and Martha to energise rallies in different parts of the country and sing ‘baba’ praises. Each had a reason for joining Azimio. Besides replacing Sabina Chege in publicising Raila, Karua has a gubernatorial battle in Kirinyaga against Governor Anne Waiguru Kamatho and Women MP Wangui Ngirichi.

As a result of her ‘unconditional’ involvement in the national politics of electing ‘Comrade’ Raila president, the implication is that becoming Kirinyaga governor is secondary to the mission of actualising Raila’s presidency. Kalonzo’s situation is different and he appears to have scored big in the deal to join the Azimio movement. For him to change tune about supporting Raila as being the height of foolishness, he probably got more than something.

It is clear that Kalonzo might have received serious promises, like clinching the number two position in Azimio as Raila’s running mate. Such a move would enable Kalonzo to regain the upper hand in Ukambani against Kitui’s Charity Ngilu, Alfred Mutua in Machakos and Kibwana himself. Even if he does not clinch the number two slot, containing and probably politically smothering the three governors is worth appearing like the most foolish man on earth. Kalonzo, however, is not foolish even when he endorses Sonko as an Azimio ‘governor’.

Reactivating Tuju as the executive of Azimio secretariat is the latest in a series of high-sounding campaign appointments. Some committees are called ‘think tanks’, coordinating groups, or councils of elders. The main components in Azimio are ODM and Jubilee, and they are in stiff competition for credit and delivering. They agree on the presidential candidate, Raila, and little else.

To add to the confusion are nearly 30 small parties that joined Azimio in an elaborate ceremony without necessarily knowing what they had signed into. Before Tuju, there was Nderitu Muriithi as chair of a coordinating committee that hardly took off and Prof Makau Mutua leading a ‘think tank’. Given that Tuju tends to be ‘bullish’, there might be msukusuko within the Azimio power structure that has many layers and segments, and each thinks it is important.

Tuju’s task is to harmonise conflicting interests. Muriithi no longer has to scratch his head figuring out how to manage Azimio fallouts because that is now Tuju’s problem. While Prof Makau struggles to assert himself in the Azimio secretariat, governors Mutua and Kibwana grumble about Kalonzo’s new pre-eminence. Azimio appears to be now rebooted but its sustainability remains to be seen.