It's defections galore as leaders bet on parties for 2022 contest

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left),  Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguruand DP Wiliam Ruto. [File, Standard]

A wave of defections is sweeping over the political landscape, and as it gets nearer to the official party hopping window in February, the whirlwind will get stormier and eye-popping. 

In a country where the party of the moment decides who will make it into office and who doesn’t, politicians are hedging their bets by reaching out across the aisle to parties that have given an early indication of carrying the day during next August’s General Election

Where politics is local, ‘listening to the ground’ is crucial. Call it making a strong political statement or seizing a window of opportunism, politics is opportunistic.

Kenya’s politics is notoriously deceitful and political parties are tools of convenience to be used and dumped as one pleases.

Survival is the name of the game. In a political scene that lacks, almost completely, in ideology, a candidate having good ideas is not enough, it is a plus to have the right party.

The latest string of defections served up more numbers to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM party, which can now count among its ranks an old face - Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka.

Marsabit County Woman Rep Safia Sheikh Adan on Tuesday defected from the ruling Jubilee party to ODM. Raila has also received defectors from Narok, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu and Mandera.

Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru, after flirting with the idea of working with Deputy President William Ruto, took the plunge and wore the UDA hat.

The move has been criticised as desperate and futile but Waiguru believes a change of colours from the red of Jubilee to the yellow of UDA, is standing between her and a second term in office.

Yet for Waiguru’s defection to UDA, Ruto could face his own loss in the form of Kirinyaga Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici who, after Waiguru’s entry into the UDA fray, finds her position untenable.

Waiguru’s joining UDA has led to cracks in the party with Ngirici already taking a step back.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru welcomed to UDA by Deputy President Wiliam Ruto at his Karen residence. [DPPS]

This shuffling of the decks has affected big parties such as ODM and Jubilee, as well as UDA and others such as former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri’s The Service Party.

In Mt Kenya, UDA has led to a wave of defections from Jubilee. The split was made worse by the campaigns for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which forced politicians to declare their stand. Jubilee in particular is bleeding numbers, almost all of whom are opting for DP Ruto’s UDA.

Some of those who have switched camps are Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East), Githunguri MP Daniel Kago, Nakuru East MP David Gikaria, Thika Town MP Patrick Wainaina, Ali Amin Deddy (Laikipia East) and Wario Qalicha (Moyale). 

Others are County MPs Gathoni Wa Muchomba and Cate Waruguru.

Kabuchai MP Joseph Majimbo Kalasinga has also left Ford Kenya for UDA. It has barely been nine months since March 4 when he took office in a by-election. 

UDA will also add to its list political debutant Nelson Havi who had initially aligned with Amani National Congress (ANC) as well as Wilson Sossion, who is an ODM Nominated MP and former Gichugu MP Njogu Barua.

Apart from Onyonka, others who joined the Orange party were former legislators Simon Ogari and Dr Robert Monda.

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) receives Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka at Chungwa House, Nairobi. Onyoka defected from Ford Kenya to ODM. [ Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

It was a return to his former party for Onyonka who was an ODM party member until leaving for the Moses Wetangula-led Ford Kenya through which he won the Kitutu Chache seat. 

Onyonka said he was driven out of ODM due to chaotic nominations.

“We have had talks among ourselves and decided to take this route. We left because of nomination chaos but now we are back,” the MP said. 

Yet there are other factors that drive members out of parties, notorious among them is the fallout from disputed nomination exercises.

While receiving Onyonka back to ODM on Thursday, Raila conceded that the reason the party did not do so well in counties such as Kisii, was due to a flawed nomination process.

He, however, assured the new members that the skewed nomination was history.

Raila said the party had identified mechanisms it would use to make sure that the process is above board this time round.

These include consensus, nomination by delegates or party members or direct nomination. 

But with next year’s election already shaping up to be a bipartisan contest between ODM and UDA, more fall-outs from nominations are expected which could also serve up another series of defections.