Leaders pile pressure on Kalonzo to team up with Raila in Azimio

ODM leader Raila Odinga chats with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka during Wiper Party National Delegates Congress at Kasarani Indoor Arena on November 25, 2021. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is under immense pressure to back ODM leader Raila Odinga’s State House bid. The former Vice-President faces direct pressure from within his Eastern backyard where Ukambani governors, Charity Ngilu, Kivutha Kibwana and Alfred Mutua have sustained pro-Raila campaigns.

The three governors insist Kalonzo should join Azimio, failure to which they will mobilise the region to back Raila without the Wiper leader’s input. The governors have been throwing jabs at Kalonzo in what appears to politically threaten the Wiper leader’s grip of the Kamba vote.

“The house race has started but there is another one lagging behind waiting to be convinced, we will not do that but as a community we are soldering forward without that person,” Ngilu told a rally in Makueni on Thursday.

Away from his backyard, Kalonzo also faces indirect pressure from allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta who say the former VP is better off in Raila’s camp than Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza camp.  

Kalonzo has seemed inclined to the proposition. Speaking in Kisii on Thursday, he confirmed he was in talks with President Kenyatta. The Wiper chief, however, insisted that deal will have to factor in their being equal partners on the negotiating table.  At yesterday’s joint national delegates convention (NDC) of Ngilu’s Narc and Kibwana’s Muungano party at the Bomas of Kenya, the leaders urged Kalonzo to join Azimio.

“”Azimio is a good place and Kalonzo will be respected in the coalition,” Kibwana said yesterday. He added: “We have never belittled Kalonzo and we will never do so. Inviting him to join us to transform this nation shows that we value his contribution.” 

Ngilu urged the Wiper leader to act fast and support Raila’s bid, warning against becoming a “Johnie come lately.”

“Those who have joined Azimio early have a stronger bargaining power on the table. Late comers will only get leftovers,” Ngilu told the Muungano delegates at the multipurpose hall.

They would repeat the message at the joint NDC, with other leaders taking cue. Suna East Junet Mohamed asked Kalonzo to “come back home”, as he made a case for why he should join Azimio. “Those still outside, we urge you to come inside. We have been through a lot together and we should stick together as we march into the next government,” Junet said. Samburu Women Rep Naisula Lesuuda, a member of Kanu, said the One Kenya Alliance would soon move into Azimio. “Baba’s Azimio boat fits all of us and we will all climb on board to build it together,” she said.

When Raila got his chance to speak, he chronicled his history with the three Ukambani governors supporting his presidential bid (Ngilu, Kibwana and Machakos boss Alfred Mutua), tying them to the alliances that brought them together.

“Azimio is an inclusive coalition of the willing, which will transform this country. Your move to join Azimio is welcome,” Raila told the delegates, who had resolved to be his foot soldiers in next year’s election.  

Yesterday’s joint NDC offered a curtain raiser to similar events that ODM and Jubilee plan to hold next week, which will coronate Raila as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor. 

Cheer greeted Raila’s entry into the Bomas of Kenya’s Baraza hall by delegates, sporting white and green, who fluttered their miniature party flags.

Ngilu was met with an all-women welcoming party, got a confetti introduction to the stage and was crowned Raila’s ‘general’. But it was Raila’s name that was on everyone’s lips.

The ODM leader had just landed from Dubai, his last stop in a week-long tour abroad. There was applause when the former prime minister was adorned with a green Muungano cap and a blue Narc scarf.

The garnish was the praise that respective speakers showered on Raila as they pitched for his presidency.

Prof Kibwana had his 10 reasons why Raila was the best fit to take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta, which revolved around his history in the fight for reforms. “It is Raila who suits Kenya at this juncture. Since 1963, there has been consensus on who is best placed to lead the nation,” the Makueni boss said, before enumerating reasons that made Uhuru and former presidents elected.

“Raila fought for the second liberation and his persistence earned us the 2010 Constitution,” Kibwana went on.

Ngilu lauded Raila’s credentials of uniting disputing factions. “It was Raila who brought us together in 2002 when we all stuck to our parties. He told us that Kenya was bigger than all of us and that we should form a coalition with the intention of reviving the economy,” the Kitui governor said.

Deputy President William Ruto’s name featured almost as prominently. Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa termed his Kenya Kwanza Alliance a “retrogressive force”.

“This election is between progressive and retrogressive forces,” he said.

Mutua pointed at Uhuru’s mistrust of his deputy, warning Kenyans against ignoring him. “It was the president that introduced us to Ruto. He knows him better than we all do. That he can’t trust Ruto to succeed him indicates something that we shouldn’t ignore,” Mutua said.