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Uhuru party plans membership drive amid calls for polls

By Stephen Makabila                             

The National Alliance (TNA) is preparing for a countrywide member recruitment drive, even as leaders in its Central Kenya stronghold push for  party elections.

The party placed advertisements in local dailies on Tuesday inviting tenders for the supply of 36 items, among them various campaign and promotional materials.

Some of the campaign materials include T-Shirts, posters and provision of helicopter and fixed wing aircraft services.

They also want to procure service for supply and installation of street billboards, provision of branding services, printing and delivery of banners, other display materials, and printing a delivery of embroidered cloth caps.

Party Secretary General Onyango   Oloo told The Standard on Sunday: “We are rolling out our national member recruitment drive soon to boost our numbers and support countrywide.”

The agenda of the party is to recruit many members to boost membership before the 2017 presidential elections in which President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to run for a second term.

Party insiders say the planned recruitment will be targeting areas TNA performed dismally in the last General Election.

The revamping of the party has received support from majority of TNA leaders, among them Kiambu Senator Paul Wamatangi who agreed that developing party structures at the grassroots was long overdue.

“The party was formed just months to the election and therefore there is an urgent need for it to develop leadership structures at the grassroots,” Wamatangi told The Standard on Sunday.

Wamatangi, however, added the first step should be the recruitment of members before polls are held.

“You cannot hold elections without members. The first thing should be for us to recruit members across the country,” added Wamatangi.

Thika Town MP Alice Ng’ang’a said the party should hold elections first, then recruitment later.

“I have said before that the only way is to have party elections and I still maintain that.  Whenever people fight for positions, real members will be known. Those elected can then launch recruitment activities in their areas,” added Ng’ang’a.

Oloo told The Standard on Sunday that the party’s strategy is to have significant presence in all corners of the country through aggressive recruitment of members.

TNA has now lined-up rallies, road shows and training for youth and women as part of building up adequate awareness towards wooing members to cross over to the party.

 “We put this advertisements not only for now, but also for the future. The political parties law requires that we have to pre-qualify our suppliers and what we are doing is to prepare a list of them,” said Oloo in a telephone interview.

Public entities

He said that political parties are public entities and have therefore to source their supplies competitively to avoid violation of procurement laws.

TNA, whose party leader is President Kenyatta, has not held any election since its formation in late 2012, and members of the Kikuyu Council of Elders  (KCE) from the party’s Central Kenya strongholds also want elections held to give it grassroots strength.

“We do not want a political party that only exists at the headquarters in Nairobi with no structures at the grassroots. We want those in charge to start building the party for Uhuru’s use as his political vehicle in 2017,” said Wachira Kiago, KCE chairman.

Kiago said TNA is not effectively present at the grassroots, even in Central Kenya where it enjoys massive support.

“We as elders have to tell them the truth. The plain truth is that TNA has no presence at the grassroots because there are no party leadership structures. Unless action is taken, it will end up being the way Narc and PNU died out,” added Kiago.

The party with 89 MPs is stronger in parliamentary representation than its Jubilee coalition partner, United Republican Party (URP), which has 75 MPs. It’s also among the only three political parties that qualified for state funding in the current financial year, having shared the Sh205 million from the Political Parties Fund with URP and ODM which has 96 MPs, the highest number in Parliament.

Opinion polls released showed TNA was popular than ODM, which came second while URP, was third. It was the first time TNA had overtaken ODM in popularity after the March 4, 2013 General Election.

Kiago argued that all these impressive records about the party couldn’t be sustained if its leadership cannot be entrusted to oversee democratic election of officials right from the grassroots to the national office.

“We do not want a scenario former President Kibaki found himself when he was forced to conjure up PNU as his vehicle in 2007 after failing to turn Narc to a strong party after the 2002 election,” added Kiago.

Oloo said the party’s National Oversight Board had not met to decide when the grassroots elections should start.

“The board chaired by party chairman, nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, will have to meet and deliberate on the matter first. We want to get it right by first registering people and then starting the election process right from the grassroots all the way to the top,” added Oloo.

Kajiado West MP Moses Ole Sakuda, Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Alice Ng’ang’a (Thika) early this year called on TNA to hold elections then.

Sakaja had earlier indicated the party would first concentrate on by-elections before launching its recruitment drive.