Belling the cat: What is OKA's plan for polls?

OKA principals Gideon Moi (Kanu), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya). [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Exactly 10 months away from the presidential poll, political forces are steadily uniting against Deputy President William Ruto, with Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi emerging as one of the key players willing to bell the cat.

“Mimi nikishika kichwa, je mtakuwa tayari kuvumilia mateke (If I hold him by his head, can the rest of you withstand his kicks?),” posed the Baringo senator on Thursday.

He was addressing congregants at a luncheon hosted by Mt Kenya Forum (MKF) for One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals to share their vision for the region.

The challenge posed by the Kanu boss is proverbial and loaded in meaning. It also points at the campaign plan by Gideon, former vice presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula as well as ODM leader, Raila Odinga, who could team up with the OKA principals.

The Kanu boss has particularly been active on the unity front by consistently pushing for an all-inclusive exercise. This could be underpinned by the fact that unlike his co-principals in OKA who shared a political platform with Raila in the form of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) and have a not-so-rosy history together, Gideon comes in with a fresh pair of eyes.

Some more fresh breath is being injected by one-time Cabinet Minister Cyrus Jirongo. Introduced to the MKF as the chairman of the United Democratic Party (UDP), the former Lugari MP appealed to the forum members to treat all aspirants equally.

According to an OKA insider, Jirongo, an aggressive politician, was introduced to confront tough political issues. And it seems that his rabble-rousing role in the grouping is well cut out.

The DP himself has repeatedly accused the State and a section of leaders of ganging up against him because “of the success of the ‘hustler’ narrative among ordinary Kenyans”.

This stand is supported by most legislators backing Ruto’s presidential bid, including Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. The vocal politician views what he considers ganging up against the DP as a pointer to Ruto’s popularity among the electorate.

According to Nyoro, those fronting the ‘hustler’ nation narrative value issue-oriented politics as opposed to mobilising for votes out of hate or fear for individual politicians. This, he says, is precisely “what differentiates them from us”.

Henry Wabwire, a commentator on political affairs, opines that the choice of Jirongo to play the rabble-rouser role affords the OKA chiefs an opportunity to share uncomfortable issues and even express displeasure through someone else.

During last Thursday’s luncheon at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Michael Mugo, the vice-chairman of Kiama kia Ma, the elders’ wing from Mt Kenya, likened the region to a beautiful bride being wooed by many men.

The choice of Cyrus Jirongo (R) to play the rabble-rouser role affords the OKA chiefs an opportunity to share uncomfortable issues. [File, Standard]

“You want a girl and as Mt Kenya region, we have a beautiful one. Her description is eight million votes, meaning she is really valuable. But here we are seeing five men and we will not give our girl to five men,” said Mugo in a clear parable to the effect that the region was not ready to split its votes.

While unity is the desired achievement for virtually all the aspirants challenging Ruto’s bid, accomplishing this goal does not seem to be a walk in the park. Already the politicians are unleashing attacks on each other, elbowing and labelling one another – a move that Dr Wabwire warns will impede a negotiated agreement.

Gideon has already been endorsed by party delegates to run for the country’s top post in next year’s elections.

Conceding they are alive to the cut-throat competition within OKA, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala maintains that this is a challenge they must overcome irrespective of hardball and sometimes unorthodox tactics employed by opponents.

“Musalia merits to be our flag-bearer and if he will be denied this opportunity unfairly, sisi tutaenda mpaka kwa debe (we will go all the way to the ballot). And this is not for the ANC leader to oblige or not, but rather a demand from his electorate in western Kenya,” says Malala.

The stand by Malala is countered by an equally hard position by Wiper party’s senator for Kitui, Enoch Wambua: “I have also made it very clear that the position of Wiper is that Kalonzo Musyoka will be on the ballot as a presidential candidate on August 9, 2022. This is my personal position as well as that of the Kamba nation. The challenge for those of us who strongly hold this view is to ensure that OKA takes the same position.”

From the onset, observes Wambua, OKA was going to agree on a single presidential candidate. The senator points out that what the leaders from Mt Kenya said on Thursday is what they have been saying since the outfit’s formation. He, however, maintains ODM is not part of the current arrangement of identifying a presidential candidate.

Reached for comment, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna concurred with Wambua that their approach was totally different. “We have one groom who is wooing the Mt Kenya region, and indeed the rest of the country. So the challenge posed by the speakers at Safari Park on Thursday does not apply to us. All we want is partnerships from those willing to get on board.”

Separately, Malala adds that ANC and Mudavadi, in particular, are not keen on being helped to piece together a coalition for the mere sake of acquisition of power. According to the vocal senator, they are not waiting for anybody’s endorsement and are busy doing their thing with vigour as long as the State can guarantee a level playing field.