The charge for a constitutional referendum peaked with 4.6 million signatures by yesterday, as coordinators scoffed at Deputy President William Ruto’s fresh demand to postpone the vote.
The figures released by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) secretariat show that ODM leader Raila Odinga’s political bedrock of Nyanza was leading with 780,427 signatures, followed closely by Eastern with 761,776.
Eastern political supremacy is split between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. Rift Valley was third with 667,731 signatures while Central had 643,880, Coast 608,578, Nairobi 461,934 and North Eastern at 135,091.
“We have so far hit 4.6 million signatures. Tomorrow morning, we are closing the collection of signatures because we have reached our target,” secretariat co-chair Junet Mohamed said.
His co-chair Dennis Waweru said the message across the country is loud and clear. “What more convincing do we need to do? The record numbers in record time speaks volumes. We are about to close our case,” Waweru said.
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The signature-collection process was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday last week, when they also unveiled 16 regional coordinators for the ambitious drive.
Raila is this morning expected to receive all the collected signatures from the 47 counties at the secretariat headquarters in Nairobi.
At various collection events across the country, leaders castigated Ruto for belatedly issuing demands, with many suggesting that he needs to take a stance.
In Eastern, Kalonzo declared that the “ship has just left the harbour”. He unveiled the tally of signatures, which indicated that Machakos had led the region with 220,000, followed by Makueni with 130,000 and Kitui with 100,000.
“The moment of change is here. Kenyans want this progressive change. BBI has already left the hands of the president and the former prime minister. It is now in the hands of the people,” Kalonzo said.
Releasing the 667,700 signatures for Rift Valley region, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the team concentrated the drive in South Rift counties of Bomet, Baringo, Narok, Nakuru and Kericho.
In the run-up to the 2017 General Election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) indicated that the region accounted for 4,644,812 registered voters.
Kinyanjui was accompanied by former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, Rift Valley Regional commissioner George Natembeya, Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama and other local leaders.
The leaders unanimously agreed that there is no time to add more views to the BBI report, as already a Bill has been prepared. Ruto, the Chama Cha Mashinani party leader, told off the deputy president on his proposal to push the referendum to 2022.
“Demands by Kenyans in the counties should not be delayed. Infact, it is long overdue and no leader who means good can propose the delay. This is a document that prioritised the needs of Kenyans and those who do not support it should stay away,” he said.
Kenta said the people of Narok are fully in support of the BBI. He said the DP and his people are cunning and issuing stubborn messages.
“Stop flogging a dead horse, be a man enough, take the mantle and let’s meet at the ballot,” he said.
In Western, Kakamega County alone collected 322,600 signatures, close to double the targeted 151,773.
Bungoma had 210,400 though their target was 114,773. Vihiga managed 125,648 signatures and surpassed their target of 55,390 while Busia collected 101,352 against a target of 71,538.
Western Regional commissioner Esther Maina, Kakamega County commissioner Pauline Dola, Ochillo Oyugi (Vihiga) and Joseph Kanyiri (Busia) also witnessed the handing over of the collected signatures to the Western Region BBI Secretariat, led by Nabii Nabwera.
Again, the proponents of BBI faulted Ruto’s lukewarm support, asking that he takes a stance. Vihiga Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi hit out at Ruto for giving his boss (President Kenyatta) ultimatums on what should be included in the BBI report and what should not.
“We were at the Bomas of Kenya and everyone agreed to support this initiative and yesterday (Wednesday) when I saw Ruto and his allies giving fresh demands, I was shocked. You cannot contradict your boss the way he has been doing, that is being disrespectful,” Saisi said.
Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima said there was no room for consensus in amending the Constitution.
“Constitutions worldwide were not formed through consensus but through the ballot. We cannot have a Constitution that someone wants even the price of the chicken to be included. If you (Ruto) thinks the amendments being pushed for are in bad taste, just go and make your own Constitution,” Prof Kutima said
Bungoma Deputy Governor Charles Ngome said it was not proper for Ruto and his allies to blow hot and cold over the BBI, saying such an approach could only create divisions in the country.
“Politicians have started politicising the BBI referendum drive and creating divisions among Kenyan communities and such a trend is worrying. What they say in public is not what is in their hearts,” Prof Ngome said.
In Mount Kenya, Central Region Economic Bloc chair Francis Kimemia led leaders in unveiling 643,887 signatures from the region. He was accompanied by governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata and MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu and Jeremiah Kioni.
“From the numbers that we have managed within very few days, the voice of the region is crystal clear,” Kimemia said.
Nairobi bagged half a million signatures, in what Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang said was an indication of where the city stands with regard to BBI. Leaders also castigated Ruto’s list of demands.
“Nairobi has spoken and we all know that once Nairobi coughs, the whole nation catches the cough. Wherever you are, you are in no capacity to give us terms. Join us if you must. There is nothing like an uncontested referendum,” said Kajwang.
Makadara MP George Aladwa said the huge turn up was a sign that the document was accepted by Kenyans, as they are in need of change.