Details of complex and insidious political intrigues that propelled President Uhuru Kenyatta to the presidency in 2013 can finally be revealed today, courtesy of two of his henchmen.
It is a tale of an unwilling candidate coerced into a race through convergence of interests, betrayal most foul of Amani coalition leader Musalia Mudavadi and a daring admission of blatant electoral theft that padded the numbers for Jubilee.
The two men at the pinnacle of Uhuru’s The National Alliance party (TNA) party at the time — Onyango Oloo (Secretary General) and Johnson Sakaja (Chairman) — revealed to The Standard on Sunday the schemes they devised to force Uhuru back onto the race after committing to step down for Mudavadi.
Oloo has since fallen out with Jubilee and defected to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) while Sakaja is struggling to clinch Jubilee’s Nairobi gubernatorial ticket amid fears of a “preferred” candidate in one of his rivals.
“It is not a secret that the election was stolen. Figures were blown here and there, but I do not want to divulge much on this because it is not necessary at this point. I was the Secretary General of a party and my mandate then was to help secure the presidency for my party,” Oloo said.
To back up the claims, Oloo cited the fabled case of Tiaty constituency where the Returning Officer announced that President Kenyatta had garnered over 51,000 votes yet the number of registered voters was less than 18,000.
He revealed that the entire Jubilee juggernaut was sitting on its edge the moment CORD leader Raila Odinga moved to the Supreme Court with glaring evidence pointing to electoral fraud.
“We were lucky that the Supreme Court declined evidence from the opposition during the presidential election petition. We were holding our breath because what we feared most was going for a re-run with a person of Raila’s calibre and energy,” said Oloo.
Both Oloo and Sakaja admitted that they worked discreetly with Uhuru’s close relatives, friends and Deputy President William Ruto to block off Mudavadi from becoming the Jubilee ticket candidate.
Against intelligence briefs advising against Uhuru’s candidature and behind his own back, the pair rallied TNA delegates and prominent and influential elites from Central Kenya to restore the Uhuru ticket. Uhuru and his running mate, Ruto, were facing crimes against inhumanity charges at the International Criminal Court, over their alleged roles in the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
“We spent sleepless nights plotting how to frustrate Uhuru’s plans to step down,” Sakaja owned up while terming keeping Kenyatta on the 2013 race as “one of the most difficult tasks for the party’s top leadership.”
He said the party machinery had convinced the youth to embrace Kenyatta and built a national brand out of him. A different candidate would have become a hard sell.
Oloo said on the eve of the day Kenyatta backed down for Mudavadi, the party machinery went on an overdrive against his wish.
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He recalled how he and Sakaja withdrew money from the party’s account without consulting anybody and convened a National Delegates Conference (NDC) on a day’s notice to undo what Uhuru had done.
“Not even Uhuru was aware that there would be a meeting. He was called from his house to attend the meeting where we insisted that he had to be on the ballot,” said Oloo.
Sakaja corroborated Oloo’s claims and added that there was a tinge of intimidation involved: “I remember calling Kenyatta and telling him he had to attend the NDC at Multimedia University because the delegates would burn the institution,” said Sakaja. He singled out Oloo, Njee Muturi, Alfred Gitonga, William Kabogo for being among the “host of like-minded party members” who piled pressure on Uhuru alongside the delegates. As the Secretary General, Oloo had the previous day dithered on signing the new pact which would have brought Mudavadi’s Amani coalition into Jubilee. He’d feigned the need to study it overnight only to rally the NDC into trashing it altogether.
It is after the Multimedia University NDC meeting that Kenyatta held a fiery press conference during which he rebuked the devils (madimoni) for coming his way. This marked the beginning of an extensive vote hunt which would later propel Kenyatta to the presidency with the ICC indictment hanging over his head.
“These were tense moments. We were racing against time, because the deadline for nominations was only hours away. We had to make quick and daring decisions to ensure Uhuru was in the race,” Oloo said.
Sakaja said many TNA diehards had been drawn to Uhuru by a conviction that he was being framed by the ICC. He said the prosecution’s claim that Uhuru organised a meeting with mungiki leaders at State House on November 26, 2007 drew him to Uhuru.
“I had been in President Mwai Kibaki’s campaign team and I attended the said meeting. It was purely a campaign strategy meeting and youths from across the country attended. So when the prosecution claimed that it was a Mungiki meeting, we were surprised since more than half of the people who attended were non-Kikuyus, and it dawned on us that the entire ICC case was cooked to prevent Kenyatta from running,” he said.
Sakaja said Ruto was also against handing the ticket to Mudavadi.
“He joined us in putting pressure on Uhuru to soldier on. The argument was that the ICC cases would greatly affect them if they were not in power,” said Sakaja.
With Uhuru ticket confirmed Jubilee launched an aggressive campaign for the presidency. However, the secretariat was always wary of the threat posed by CORD.
“Our campaigns were organised and we invested massive resources,” Oloo said, adding that CORD put too much focus on the spectacle.”
He said Jubilee edge’s over opposition CORD was in turning popularity into tangible votes. He said the opposition lost it on campaign management, nomination management and defence of their vote.
“I will be available to help address these,” Oloo said in reference to his new-found dalliance with the opposition. Both Oloo and Sakaja tell of palpable tension at the Jubilee camp as they waited for the final results.
“We kept assuring Uhuru that we were winning. There were celebrations when Uhuru was declared the winner. But this was short-lived after CORD rushed to the Supreme Court,” say Oloo. He accuses Ruto of destroying the election machinery behind Uhuru’s 2013 win.
“When URP joined us, we had all our systems up and running, and they relied on our campaign manifestos, strategies and resources,” he said.
He, however, said he worked well with President Kenyatta until Ruto’s team came in. “TNA became like a good man who marries a prostitute. It morphed into an animal which not even the President could tether,” he added.