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Can One Kenya Alliance turn tables, beat front runners in 2022 poll?

By Brian Owino | July 22nd 2021
One Kenya Alliance lead by the 4 principals Senator Baringo Gideon Moi, Kalonzo Musyoka Wiper Party leader, Moses Watengula Senator Bungoma and Amani Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi meeting at Hermosa Gardens Hotel, Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The One Kenya Alliance (OKA) is gradually positioning itself into a third alternative in next year’s election, a contest billed as a duel between Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

And while OKA principals – Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Senator Gideon Moi (Kanu), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Senator Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) are open to a partnership with Raila, they are reportedly prepared to go the whole hog without the former PM.

By facing off against Ruto and Raila’s parties, OKA would be walking a beaten path for those touted as the third force. In Kenya’s recent history, the incumbent has benefited the most from such an outfit.

It was the case in 2013, when Mudavadi – then a presidential candidate under the United Democratic Forum Party and a third horse in the Raila versus Uhuru Kenyatta contest – ate into what would have ordinarily been Raila’s base had the two not fallen out in the run-up to the polls.

Mudavadi secured over 500,000 votes, but these would not have counted in the overall tally.

The dent was larger and more significant in 2007 when Kalonzo chipped in more than 800,000 votes that would have fed into his joint basket with Raila, who lost to retired President Mwai Kibaki in the officially announced results by slightly over 200,000 votes.

History is awash with similar instances that saw a third outfit split the opposition vote, securing victory for the incumbent. But never has an outlier candidate, packaging themselves as the alternative voice, beaten the two candidates considered front-runners of a presidential election in Kenya.

Such are the odds that may face OKA if they square it out against Ruto and Raila, who are considered to have a head start. And to cement this thought, the two politicos seemingly embraced the idea that next year’s polls will be a contest between themselves, overlooking any other probable challengers.

The principals now have until next week to convene and brief the eight-member technical team on the resolutions of their individual Parliamentary Group meetings.

The leaders and their allies met on Tuesday to brainstorm on the preliminary report by the technical team drafting the pact, which is dealing with, among others, the matrix of settling on the flag bearer, the numbers nightmare and how to map the country.

“Each party has two representatives to the committee. They presented their preliminary report, which was criticised by the MPs present. The ultimate objective is to settle on the suitable presidential candidate, cover the counties and the parliamentary slots,” disclosed a legislator aware of the deliberations.

He continued, “Although voting patterns don’t change much going by past elections, the presentations touched on possible scenarios and outcomes. We don’t want to end up with a presidency that has no control of the Legislature as was the case in 2007, where Party of National Unity had fewer seats compared to ODM.”

The Standard had also learnt that the four leaders have up to next week to convene another meeting with the approval of members. “We were criticising the report by the technical team and improving it,” said an MP.

But even as OKA leaders inch closer to hammering a deal, quick reflection on the 2007 and 2013 contests saw the emergence of other units, which Raila dismissed as donkeys in a race of horses.

“This is a two-horse race,” he said, dismissing Kalonzo and Mudavadi, respectively.

“A third force is a no-force,” says former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale. He was among Mudavadi’s team – the then alternative to Raila and Uhuru – staunchest campaigners in the 2013 race.

Other politicians in the team include Senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Enoch Wambua (Kitui), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), MPs Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache), Abdikarim Osman (Fafi), and William Kamket (Tiaty).

Sakaja said OKA has no intention of playing third-best. “One Kenya Alliance intends to be the first force,” he said, adding that the election was too far off to write off the new alliance. “The alliance brings together leaders under one agenda of reviving the economy. Kenyans cannot be fit into one box of this versus that,” he added.

Francis Owakah, a lecturer of philosophy at the University of Nairobi, said the make-up of alternative voices almost guarantees them failure in presidential elections.

“Third forces never do well because they only present threats,” said Dr Owakah, who believes OKA “could be bidding for a bargain because they cannot win a presidential election as they are”.

Philip Nying’uro, a lecturer of political science at the University of Nairobi, concurred with him. “One Kenya Alliance may be plotting for a possible run-off. They probably only want to support the likely winner of a second round so that they may gain politically,” said Prof Nying’uro.

He said the fate of such political vehicles is sealed by the reason for their formation. “Third political forces do not have independent thoughts. They only seek to reap from what they perceive to be the weaknesses of the two protagonists,” he added.

And such pitfalls are what OKA seeks to avoid, according to Sakaja.

“Formations have been based on individuals and not ideas. We want to establish trust among ourselves and define our alliance’s identity with a solid agenda. Once we achieve that, we will gain traction,” Sakaja said.

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