The season of political endorsements and payment of old debts has finally dawned.
Top leaders are now busy preparing their ‘invoices’ while others have already dismissed such payback demands.
A day after ODM leader Raila Odinga said he would not endorse any of former National Super Alliance (NASA) co-principals for presidency, those targeted hit back yesterday, further widening the rift between the former partners-turned-rivals ahead of 2022 General Election.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Wiper counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka separately termed Raila’s 2018 controversial swearing-in as the People’s President at Uhuru Park as illegal, and accused him of reneging on their agreement to work together. “I don’t need your endorsement. I refused to participate in your illegal swearing-in as People’s President because I am a senior lawyer who believes in the rule of law,” Kalonzo said.
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Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, however, said he did not want to be dragged into a war of words with Raila.
And speaking in Western, Deputy President William Ruto said his competitors should brace for a bruising battle in 2022 and stop waiting to be endorsed or handed the baton.
Raila reopened the debate on Saturday in Homa Bay when he said he will not endorse any of his former NASA colleagues for failing to attend his swearing-in at Uhuru Park.
A month ago, he had reminded Central Kenya voters that they owed him huge debts dating from 1960s when his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga backed Jomo Kenyatta but was repaid by betrayal.
At the time, he was responding to an ongoing debate where some supporters of Ruto had insisted that Mt Kenya owed their man a debt because he had supported Uhuru Kenyatta in two presidential elections on the understanding that he, too, would return the favour.
Addressing faithful at AIC Kyemutheke in Machakos yesterday, Kalonzo said he deliberately stayed away from Raila’s swearing-in in the interest of the country’s peace and to safeguard his future political career.
“I don’t believe in these political debts... As a senior counsel, how would I have participated in a mock, illegal and unconstitutional oath? I would have disqualified myself,” he said.
Kalonzo went on to reveal that he made it clear to Raila that he would not participate in the oath and instead recommended that Raila opens dialogue with President Kenyatta to explore modalities of ending the political turmoil that was sweeping across the country at the time.
Kalonzo warned Raila to stop using his political attack dogs to fight him politically.
“If he continues, we’ll expose him. I am telling Kenyans that I don’t need anybody’s endorsement. I only need God to endorse me,” he said. And Mudavadi, through his spokesman Kibisu Kabatesi, said Raila’s statement was unfortunate “and reeks of indefensible deceit”.
The ANC boss said Raila had indicated he faked a swearing-in to accelerate his yearning for a handshake with Uhuru, “which he got”.
“And now he is ensconced in the realm of power at the top of the pyramid, he dares scold those who made it possible for him to gain traction at that top,” Mudavadi said. He said Raila had no right to deny others their right to demand a political debt from him.
“Raila knows he duped colleagues into backing him in NASA in 2017 under the false pretense that, win or lose, he wouldn’t offer himself as a candidate,” Mudavadi said.
He also termed as cowardice Raila’s move to pull out of repeat 2017 presidential election in the disguise of protesting pre-rigged outcome yet it was a pre-arranged settlement for himself.
Wetang’ula said he, together with Kalonzo and Mudavadi, had only sought for teamwork with the ODM leader, and not an endorsement.
“I don’t want to be drawn into an argument. History will absolve us. We are not asking for endorsement but teamwork as a good turn deserves another,” Wetang’ula said.
Speaking to The Standard from Kabuchai where he was campaigning for his party candidate for the parliamentary by-election, Wetang’ula said his new political camp involving Kalonzo and Mudavadi had respect for Raila, but “facts will remain facts that we supported him”.
He said the trio were legally still NASA members until next polls but had since moved on and were charting a new political team to work for the betterment of the country.
He said his team was still working with Raila, including in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), and that “we have no issues with him (Raila).”
Wetang’ula said the group could still work with Raila in efforts to ensure a better Kenya. There have been calls by Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula for Raila to rally behind one of them for the presidency.
The trio have teamed up with Kanu chairman Gideon Moi in a new political grouping ahead of next year’s polls.
Yesterday, ODM’s deputy party leader Hassan Joho joined the fray saying Raila should settle political debt to Coast by supporting his 2022 presidential bid.
By backing him, the Mombasa governor said Raila will be returning a favour for the years he had supported him.
Joho, who took his presidential bid and push for BBI campaign to Lamu County at the weekend, said it was time Raila gave him a chance to contest for the presidency.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said Kalonzo, Wetang’ula and Mudavadi had little political stamina and that ODM had moved on and was forging new political partnerships.
“These are gentlemen who cannot operate without a sponsor. They are dependent on the other people and cannot stand on their own. We wish them well as ODM. For us, we have moved on as a party. We are looking for mutually beneficial agreements and partnerships,” Sifuna said.
On Saturday, Raila ruled out supporting any of his NASA colleagues for the presidency even as he hinted at a new coalition ahead of next year’s General Election.
Raila, who together with President Kenyatta are the architects of BBI, said they were currently preoccupied with constitutional review agenda and that presidential politics should be shelved until 2022.
[Additional reporting by Erastus Mulwa and Patrick Beja]