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ELECTION 2022

Game plan: Have OKA principals finally struck the right chord?

POLITICS
By Oscar Obonyo | Nov 7th 2021 | 5 min read

OKA principals Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper party, Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), and Cyrus Jirongo of UDP in Mukuyuni, Kaiti constituency on October 11, 2021. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Heightened political activities by One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals have become of major interest to supporters and opponents alike. This begs the question: Has OKA finally struck the right chord or are its architects playing into the hands of Deputy President William Ruto or former Prime Minister Raila Odinga?

Ruto and Raila have launched back-to-back campaigns, but OKA chiefs–former vice-presidents Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), and senators Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-Kenya)–appear to be a bit slower in getting off the blocks.

OKA’s recent rallies in Thika town and Githurai, Nairobi, which attracted huge crowds, seem to have changed that perception overnight. On his first trip to the Rift Valley region following Kanu’s endorsment as its presidential candidate, Gideon was warmly received by a large crowd in Kericho. OKA also gave a good account of itself in Kakamega County when the Wiper party, Amani National Congress (ANC), Kanu, and Ford-Kenya party leaders led their supporters in the official launch of the group’s national campaigns.

Heated speeches from those in attendance at the Kakamega meeting, mainly hitting out at Raila, warning unnamed individuals against summoning of OKA principals or directing them on whom to associate with or support, got OKA cheerleaders from a most unlikely direction–diehard supporters of the DP. Now tongues are wagging.

Former Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen immediately lauded Mudavadi’s stand in a tweet saying that leaders should not be compelled to support a particular candidate. This view was shared by Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, who suggested “we know you are on your way to joining our team and you are most welcome”. 

Presidential bid

Despite the common understanding of forging ahead as a team, the OKA principals remain generally divided on whether or not to team up with Raila and rally behind his presidential bid as allegedly requested by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

While Mudavadi and Wetang’ula remain rigid on the Raila factor, with parliamentarians allied to their parties leading attacks on the former premier, Kalonzo and Gideon seem to be more accommodating. Alongside new OKA member, former Cabinet Minister Cyrus Jirongo, the duo dissuaded their colleagues against antagonising a possible ally. And speaking on Friday, the Kanu boss even hinted that Raila, as well as Uhuru, were friends of OKA.

ODM national chairman John Mbadi decries the targeting of his party boss for attacks. The National Assembly’s Minority Leader attributes the “unwarranted attacks” to what he claims as Raila being “evidently the front runner”.  

“Nonetheless Kenyans know that this country is safer in Raila’s hands based on his maturity and political history. He is more experienced and has inclusivity agenda, aimed at accommodating all Kenyans and not just individual leaders,” says Mbadi.

But pointing out that neither Raila nor Ruto is their marking scheme, Kalonzo maintains that OKA is independent of the persuasions of the two leaders and would run its affairs its own way: “OKA will soon set the pace and the tone of the 2022 presidential contest. Watch this space.”

His view is supported by Mudavadi, who attributes the apparent confusion to vested interests from rivals and internal competition: “First, it must be understood that each OKA principal is a declared aspirant with the backing of their parties and must sell themselves. We are moving at our own pace gathering more converts along the way”.

Flag-bearer

When OKA kicked off campaigns in Kakamega, some pundits interpreted the choice of the venue as a pointer to the outfit’s flag-bearer. But noting that Gideon was the only party leader who had officially been endorsed by his party as a presidential contender at the time, John Osogo, member of the Kanu Executive Committee in charge of government liaison, argues that his party boss was invited with the understanding that he is ready and best-placed to lead the coalition.

“There is nothing much to read from the fact that Kakamega, which happens to be Musalia’s political backyard, played host to the launch of our campaigns. We had to start from somewhere, anyway. Otherwise, all OKA principals have an equal chance of leading this team,” Osogo told The Sunday Standard.

The entry of Jirongo in the OKA Summit, which now pushes the number of political leaders from the populous Luhya community to three, is also viewed by some as a plus for Mudavadi, who towers politically over his other two kinsmen. 

Allies of Kalonzo are particularly uncomfortable with this arrangement, which they argue tilts the scales in favour of Mudavadi, in the event that the decision on the OKA flagbearer has to be decided by the five principals in a boardroom.

“We are in this thing because we believe our man will fly the OKA flag. Anything else is unacceptable to us because our party leader is the most senior in politics, experience and age,” said a politician allied to Kalonzo, who declined to be named for fear of ruffling feathers within OKA. 

Mudavadi has been separately testing the ground: “I have been consulting with a number of leaders and I would be very happy to have some of them, including (Narc-Kenya leader Martha) Karua, (National Assembly Speaker, Justin) Muturi, on board. Aspirants continue talking with each other as the elections near.”

Instructively, Kalonzo maintains the door is not yet shut for anyone: “We have stated before and I restate that OKA is a coalition of the willing. We are open to other like-minded leaders joining our union to pursue the clear agenda we have for Kenya.”

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