Azimio leader Raila Odinga’s chief agent at last year’s presidential election has finally opened up on the intrigues that cost him the victory, chief among being the ‘tower of babel’ situation obtaining at the Azimio top brass.
In his new book - Why Baba is not the 5th - lawyer Saitabao Ole Kanchory says the electoral fraud that Raila is fronting in the ongoing bipartisan process, would have been stopped had the Command Centre worked as expected and the main candidate paid attention to details.
He paints the picture of a centre flying blind with zero resources, lacking situational awareness, dysfunctional to the core, soaked in clash of ambitions and utterly disunited. Their candidate did not take particular interest in their activities, he claims.
“You would be shocked to learn that not once did Baba or Martha personally join our deliberations, whether as the national chief agent’s team, at the command centre or even called to inquire on progress. The only time I sat down with Baba and Martha together was during the Supreme Court proceedings,” he says in the book.
Kanchory says there is little doubt the shambolic and deeply compromised Azimio Command Centre is what cost Raila his victory in the 2022 Presidential race, and complains those who oversaw this mess have yet to own up.
“Instead of taking responsibility and publicly apologising to Mr Odinga and his supporters, some of them are still milling around Baba and acting as if nothing happened,” he writes in the book published by Reach Publishers, South Africa.
He pens about power squabbles at the centre pitting former Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and former Information and ICT CS Joe Mucheru. The contest was settled when former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother Muhoho Kenyatta, who also hosted the command centre, overruled both, he writes.
MK, as he’s popularly known, named Raila’s spokesman Prof Makau Mutua as the new in charge of the centre. He says this essentially brought Mucheru back as Mutua had a penchant for working with Mucheru as opposed to Kibicho.
The Internal Security PS then took to playing a nominal role while his boss- Fred Matiang’i - was, in the words of Kanchory, “totally aloof to Baba’s presidential prospects”.
“Like many other top officials in Kenyatta’s government, Matiang’i cared little whether Baba won or lost. It had become clear to most of Uhuru Kenyatta’s outgoing government officials knew that Baba’s inner circle was a hard nut to crack,” he says.
He describes Muhoho as “one of the most intelligent and focused people” he has ever met. He writes that MK chaired all strategy meetings, carried the big purse and appeared genuine in his support for Raila.
“I shall never understand how such a brilliant person could be so easily fooled. To this day, I am unable to fully figure out this guy,” he writes.
He says although he was the Chief Agent with no resources, the technical team provided by Mucheru’s wing did not answer to him. He claims the dysfunction at the centre was so much so that in the run up to the election he threatened to quit altogether.
He claims he was surprised that the head of the centre - Makau Mutua - had no burning desire to win the election and seemed personally uncommitted to the outcome of the election.
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“Prof. Mutua is possibly the most pleasant and affable guy with whom you can ever hope to hang out. He is a man with whom you will never quarrel. However, for the difficult job of heading a command centre, there could never be a more unsuited man,” he writes of Muhoho’s choice.
Kanchory says another big mistake in the run up to the election was for Baba to name his partial cabinet. He says this did nothing to allay fears that the ‘pampered princes’ of Kenyatta’s government would have no place in his government.
On the eve of the election, Kanchory offers, Baba was taken through a glittering façade of the command centre. He says his team was conveniently left out of the tour, which gave their candidate a false sense of security. Kanchory says the false belief in “deep state” made many in Raila’s inner circle to assume many things. He says while Ruto had entrenched himself in government circles for the last 10 years, Raila’s handshake experience gave him only a smattering of the system.
“He was still a total outsider in Uhuru Kenyatta’s government and had to depend almost entirely on Uhuru’s government and had to depend entirely on Uhuru’s goodwill and that of his people, including the intelligence community,” he says.
In the book, Kanchory describes President William Ruto as “methodical schemer” whom Kenyatta still feared: “I am talking about real fear- the kind that causes one to freeze, or flee or fight. Uhuru froze.”
He says Uhuru controlled a “shallow state” not the “deep state” which was in the hands of Ruto. He claims Raila had a false sense of belief that former IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati would deliver victory to him on a silver platter. He says on July 10, together with former Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, they sat Raila down and warned him against trusting the Commission. He says in the meeting, Junet Mohamed kept dismissing their concerns as baseless.
“In those days, if Junet told Baba someone was a barber when he was a butcher, Mr Odinga would unquestioningly stick out his neck for a shave,” he says.
Kanchory complains that Raila took too long to embrace the issues affecting Kenyans, was inept at playing the religious card and was weighed down by the handshake, the latter which he says was purely intended to allow Kenyatta have an easy second term. The entry of Martha as a running mate had an exciting effect, he reveals. He, however, says the Martha ticket was opposed by Kenyatta and some of Raila’s inner circle, and that her greatest handicap was her strength.
“It was clear to Martha Karua from the beginning that she would have to greatly ton down her naturally aggressive demeanour if she was going to be acceptable to Raila’s inner circle. In her attempt at meekness, Ms Karua was in totally unfamiliar territory and could not operate optimally,” he writes.
Kanchory writes that Raila’s obsession with legitimacy, a know-it-all attitude, obsession with abstracts of power and his predictability added swell to their collective burden as Azimio. In the book, he says Raila’s enigma has long been decoded, comparing him to an Eneke bird in Chinua Achebe’s works, which perches on the same twig over and over again, making himself an easy prey.
“It is now fairly easy for Baba’s friends and foes alike to predict his next move or reaction with near certainty. In quasi-war game of power, this is a great disadvantage.”
He writes that because of his predisposition to clean politics, Raila ended up avoiding taking the simplest of proactive measures which would have protected his vote.
On the Bomas debacle, Kanchory says it all began with a delay in receiving results from Returning Officers. He claims at this time IEBC was taking time to assess and gauge the situation, including Azimio’s preparedness.
“By the time I grabbed the microphone on the night of August 13 and announced to the nation that Bomas of Kenya was a scene of crime, we had received numerous reports concerning suspicious activities at Bomas,” he says.
He claims later Chebukati changed the flow of verification in a manner that did not favour their candidate. He protested and lawyers James Orengo and Otiende Amollo joined him at the behest of Raila. However, by the time they came, the changes had already been effected. Still, he writes, Raila believed he was winning the election and no amount of telling him the opposite could convince him. He says at Bomas, Raila was always ahead of Ruto even in the unverified results.
“Although the beleaguered commissioners have not had the courage to say this, it was clear that prior to the last minute split in IEBC, the prevailing consensus was that Raila had won the election,” he writes.
He says Raila’s inner coterie vanished from Bomas at the most critical moment. He writes that it was all left to him and Senator Ledama Ole Kina to fight for Raila’s victory. After the acrimony at Bomas during which Ledama was injured, Kanchory says he went to meet his boss: “I was shocked to find Baba, Martha, Makau Mutua, Francis Atwoli and others watching the Bomas circus on television.”
In the book, Kanchory reveals that he and President Ruto have come a long way, from 2010 referendum when they were introduced by Martin Ole Kamwaro. He says they proceeded to work together on political and legal matters until 2012 when Ruto suggested he formally takes up an advisory role but he turned it down.
He describes Ruto as a man always obsessed with the endgame, and who works backwards. He does not care about processes and how he attains desired results is neither here or there.
“He is a master of appearances and he knows that perceptions can be more compelling than reality. He knows that the masses are, by and large, effeminate and impressionable and are prepared to believe anything that is convincingly told,” Kanchory writes.
He, however, still believes Raila won the election and his victory was stolen.