The Azimio deal Kalonzo Musyoka could not resist

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (center). He accepted his nomination as chief minister in Azimio One Kenya. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

After 18 days as a political hermit, isolating in his in Yatta farm for a week then going to Europe followed by a short interlude in his Karen home, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has swallowed his words and is back in the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya camp. 

Before his back and forth, Kalonzo had presented his papers seeking to contest the presidency and even collected 66,000 signatures of supporters from 33 counties, picked a running mate in Andrew Sunkuli, who had to drop his bid for the Narok Senate seat.

The man from Tseikuru was to present his papers on Saturday to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and officially start his presidential campaigns.

But yesterday, he completed a remarkable about-turn. The former vice-president had started off by gunning for the One Kenya Alliance’s presidential ticket, bagged the Wiper ticket and even challenged Raila for the Azimio la Umoja ticket.  

Kalonzo has insisted he was the best suited to be the Azimio running mate owing to his seniority, longevity in politics and experience as running alongside Raila twice. This never came to be since Raila opted for Martha Karua as running mate. Kalonzo then bolted out.

His change of heart was preceded by a series of intrigues. There were meetings night and day that preceded Kalonzo’s climb-down and there are indications his perceived loss was a victory for him and his former One Kenya coalition.

Yesterday’s developments now mean the One Kenya Alliance that brought together Kalonzo, Karua and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi has won the running mate post, the Chief Minister’s position and a number of Cabinet slots.

The final talks before Kalonzo caved in indicate Kalonzo bargained for four plum ministerial positions alongside the Chief Minister’s role. “The deal is sweet. Our party leader is a tough negotiator. His supporters will be happy. In coming days, we will be telling Wiper followers what we got,” said an MP close to Kalonzo.

According to the MP, the deal to be unveiled before Kalonzo’s support base will be a game-changer that will convince them that in the long drawn political drama, their party leader was pushing for their interests. 

Meeting with aspirants

Insiders say Gideon, who was present on May 16 when Kalonzo declared his presidential candidature, was tasked to open fresh talks with the former VP. Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana also organised a meeting of hundreds of aspirants from Ukambani to urge them to remain under Azimio.

Yesterday, Kalonzo thanked Gideon for remaining a true friend in his journey and that they would be working together. “You have redefined the meaning of true friendship. You stood with me in the darkest hours. You are gentleman per excellence,” said Kalonzo. Gideon expressed his gratitude saying: “I am proud to call you my friend. I am proud to call you my brother, I will always stand by you in your political journey.”

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. [File, Standard]

Immediately after unveiling his running mate on the day Raila unveiled Karua as running mate, Kalonzo left for Europe for seven days where he was joined by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr. Interestingly, within the same period, President Kenyatta was in Europe. It is not clear if the two leaders met.

But it was an evening meeting on Wednesday night that convinced Kalonzo to return to Azimio. Those privy to the talks say that apart from the Chief Minister and four ministries anchored in a signed document, Ukambani region will have many goodies, including completion of projects initiated by Uhuru’s administration.

Kitui Rural MP Makali Mulu said the deal had been enhanced to include a number of ministerial positions, Principal Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries to the Wiper party. “The details will be communicated at an opportune time. I believe this will also deposited at the Registrar of Political parties,” said Mulu.

Other goodies agreed upon include construction of 1,500km of roads, cleaning of Athi and Thwake rivers, 500km of feeder roads, and a new water pipeline from Masinga Dam to serve Yatta, Masinga and Mwala. The Northern Collector that was supposed to end in Nairobi, will extend to Mavoko, Matungulu and Kangundo. There will be an extension of Mombasa Road, a dual carriageway to Konza Technopolis and a dual carriageway from Kyumbi - Machakos Town and another one from Ruai to Tala town.

Notably, although Kalonzo had put up his presidential race, his allies hinted that all was not lost in Azimio and that there was room for bargain.

“As leaders, we have agreed our country is greater than Wiper itself and because we had already agreed to work with Azimio-One Kenya Alliance, maybe it is time that we exhaust all the options available under the alliance,” Kathiani MP Robert Mbui, Wiper’s Organising Secretary had said at the height of the dilemma. 

 Yesterday, Kalonzo said he consulted widely in the last two weeks. He also accepted the position of Chief Minister saying: “I have decided to accept with utmost humility my nomination as Chief Minister in Azimio.”

Speaking at a press conference at the SKM centre in Nairobi, Kalonzo said he had deferred his bid to run for president, since the nation was bigger than his personal ambition.