Deputy President William Ruto’s plan for a political face-off with ODM leader Raila Odinga in the Msambweni by-election — through a Jubilee candidate — was shattered in a 30-minute phone call.
The Standard has learnt of the intrigues at the Jubilee Party headquarters moments after Ruto drove to the offices to protest the decision by the ruling party not to field a candidate in the December 15 mini-poll.
Ruto had arrived at the offices barely an hour after party Secretary General Raphael Tuju made the announcement, citing the ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. It has since emerged that Tuju placed a phone call to Uhuru, where the DP was reportedly cornered and told to stand with the party position.
Ruto then emerged from the meeting to announce he would stand by the party’s decision while at the same time he didn't rule out the possibility of sponsoring a private candidate.
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“We have agreed as a party that we will not field a candidate in Msambweni. This is unfortunate for me and since the decision had been communicated earlier, we will all stand by it,” he said.
However, barely a day after this commitment, Ruto, in a sign of defiance, met an independent candidate for the seat – Feisal Abdallah Bader – yesterday morning.
The meeting confirmed the DP’s determination to face off with Raila in the campaigns, which he is likely to use to gauge his support base in Kwale County.
He met Bader in the presence of his allies from the Coast region.
“Met an aspirant for Msambweni parliamentary seat Feisal Abdallah Bader in the company of Coast MPs Athman Shariff (Lamu East), Mohammed Ali (Nyali), Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga) and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) at Karen, Nairobi County,” tweeted Ruto.
On Wednesday Mariam Sharlete was at the party headquarters where Ruto sympathised with her for missing the opportunity to contest the Msambweni seat on a Jubilee ticket and jokingly promised to support her if she" talked to him nicely."
Ruto and Tuju are said to have proceeded to the party’s boardroom on Wednesday for a meeting before the secretary-general placed a phone call to the president, who was in Mombasa.
The call was put on loudspeaker for the three officials to discuss the reason for not fielding a candidate. It lasted 30 minutes, according to officials at the party.
Tuju is said to have taken Ruto through an internal document prepared by the party, with Uhuru listening in.
“We were all told to leave the boardroom for the two immediately the phone call was made,” said an official, who sought anonymity.
Another source said the decision to place a call to the president was after Ruto protested that he was not consulted in arriving at the decision.
“He was told it was a party decides not to field a candidate. It was on this basis that the party leader was called to tell him as much,” said the source.
It was not immediately clear what Uhuru told Ruto after the grounds cited by the party officials. When he emerged from the meeting to address the press, Ruto said, “Going forward, we will ensure that the party participates, as it should, in all elections across the country.”
A top party official said the decision was made to stop Ruto from engaging in a political confrontation with Raila, who is enjoying a close working relationship with the ruling party.
An analysis conducted by the party concluded that participating in the by-election would strain Jubilee-ODM relationship in Parliament.
An analysis of the scenario also suggested that Jubilee was unlikely to beat the Orange party going by the figures in the 2017 poll where the late Suleiman Dori garnered 22,564 votes against Jubilee’s Kilalo Bashir (5,656 votes). Boga Omari, who now seeks to run on ODM ticket, came second with 10,275 votes. He was independent.
The document further suggested that some of the candidates who were seeking to run on Jubilee ticket had also approached ODM.
“The numbers above and the behaviour of the candidates on the ground show it is unlikely that we can increase the Jubilee votes from 5,656 to overcome the 22,564 votes that ODM got,” states the document.
“The Jubilee Party sponsoring a candidate may only be premised on other political considerations. The experience in Kibra Constituency by-election is an important backdrop.”
National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, in his submission to the party, indicated that sponsoring a candidate would also provide a battleground for warring Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga factions.
“It would undermine the cordial working relationship between ODM and Jubilee. ODM has in the recent past supported government motions with close to 70 MPs,” said Kimunya in the document addressed to President Kenyatta and copied to Ruto.
“It will form another rallying point to create further division within the Jubilee Party where we already have to deal with the challenge of the so-called Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga wings.”