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Uhuru, Raila square off in decisive Nairobi vote

By - | October 7th 2012

By Amos Kareithi and Protus Onyango

Nairobi will be the crucial county in the next elections, and it is with this in mind that the two key political formations are preparing for a no-holds-barred battle for the capital city’s votes.

The National Alliance (TNA) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) are burning the midnight oil as they work out their strategies.

Commentators and observers are unanimous that whoever between TNA’s Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM’s Raila Odinga successfully seduces the more than 1 million voters in Nairobi stands a good chance of cruising into State House and bagging the highest number of elective posts.

Although the election is still more than 150 days away, political temperatures in Nairobi have been dramatically rising as the two opponents size each other up in pre election mind games in a bid to win the psychological battle for votes and seats.

Besides the usual exchange of brickbats sprinkled with liberal doses of allegations ranging from buying of politicians to unsubstantiated rigging claims, the two parties are burning the midnight oil to formulate strategies which will deliver all or majority of the 17 parliamentary seats in Nairobi.

TNA Secretary General, Onyango Oloo believes his side has already come up with a winning formula, which will deliver the city and is buoyed by recent developments, which has seen the party attract some big names.

A few weeks ago, TNA drew the first blood after wooing 40 civic leaders from different parties, which Mr Oloo interpreted as the first of a series of inroads the party is planning to, make in ODM territory.

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The party was further boosted by the return of some old guard including former cabinet ministers, GG Kariuki, Joseph Kamotho, Ngenye Kariuki and Maina Kamanda who are all backing the TNA.

“TNA will combine new innovative and creative ways with time tested techniques to reach out to all segments of the population. In TNA, the old and the young are all welcome. We want people from all communities and age groups as long as they ascribe to our ideologies of one united country. This is how we will deliver Nairobi,” Mr Oloo added.

The Secretary General  said TNA has successfully wooed a number of  prominent ODM leaders, among them nominated Member of Parliament  Rachael Shebesh and former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo while the spouse of another city MP has also decamped.

Assistant minister Margaret Wanjiru has also hinted that she was on her way out of ODM, the party she has been supporting since joining politics.

To ensure that ambitious but moneyless leaders are accommodated, the party was planning to waive nomination fees so that leadership was not tied to money.

The waiver, Mr Oloo explained, will largely benefit the youth and women who have in the past been marginalised from elective politics because the exorbitant fees charged.

While TNA is celebrating the big catch, the leader of ODM’s Reloaded team, Ababu Namwamba, described the defections as inconsequential, saying the party was not worried and neither would it be shaken by the shifting alliances.

 “If ODM did not die when William Ruto, Najib Balala and Musalia Mudavadi quit, it cannot die now. ODM is not about parties and that is why even after the Pentagon members quit, we are still strong. Let those who want to leave go,” said Mr Namwamba.

He dismissed those moving from ODM as political migrants whose departure can only strengthen ODM as they wanted to be favoured against other aspirants who were also eyeing their seats.

Both parties have been forced to hold intensive meetings to address concerns by aspirants over the manner the party nominations will be held.

Nairobi county ODM’s chairman, Mayor George Aladwa told the County Weekly that during a recent meeting attended by more than 1,000 aspirants, it was agreed that there will be no direct nominations. Each candidate will have to fight for their tickets.

He explained that politicians leaving ODM had held Raila Odinga hostage in 2007 as they expected direct nominations.

 “This time round, no such demands will be entertained. Each candidate will have to campaign and win their nominations. Those going are afraid of competition and we have advised the Prime Minister not to be dragged into these issues so as to give the ODM members a chance to pick the most popular candidates,” Mayor Aladwa explained.

In the TNA camp, similar strategies have been employed as candidates from even parties perceived to be friendly flock to the Uhuru Kenyatta led outfit where competition is expected to be extremely stiff.

Already TNA , Oloo explained had held a meeting to map out strategies to carry out  peaceful nominations  to ensure only the strongest candidates win the nominations.

“We have learnt bitter lessons from 2007. The Party of National Unity (PNU) lost the city to ODM because there was too much competition among friendly parties whose candidates split the votes and gave their collective rival an advantage,” a TNA strategist told the County Weekly.

Although the party is unwilling to discuss its strategies , the County Weekly has established that TNA hopes to use tactics employed in 1992 by the Kenneth Matiba led Ford Asili which delivered all the city parliamentary and civic seats to the party.

A similar tactic was employed by Democratic Party in 1997 when the Mwai Kibaki led party scooped nearly all the seats in Nairobi, sealing it off from the Kanu onslaught.

TNA, we have established, is planning to replicate the 2002 strategy where NARC scooped all the seats in Nairobi by sponsoring only the strongest of candidates.

Mr Kenyatta has declared that he will not have any favourite candidates but would support those who win his party’s tickets. He stressed that even if a close friend failed to secure a TNA ticket and vied using another party’s ticket, he be treated like a “political enemy”.

This explains why PNU members who have joined TNA have been made to renounce their party membership as a precondition to be allowed to participate in TNA party nominations.

There have been proposals that Nairobi, like other metropolitan centers, be zoned so that only candidates from the most popular parties are nominated but Mr Oloo said his party will field candidates in all the constituencies.

Back to ODM, even as the party heads to Naivasha to fine tune its strategies of stemming the haemorrhage, Mayor Aladwa said the party had launched ‘Raila Na Mtaani’ group, which is tasked with the responsibility of popularising the PM in the city.

“We will hold a series of meetings in Kibera, Kasarani, Kariobangi and Dandora to re-energize our party. We plan to invite our presidential candidate to these rallies. We are going to take over Nairobi by storm,” the Mayor promised.

Although he had publicly complained that some ODM members had been bought by TNA, Mayor Aladwa gave scant details when prodded. He said all he heard were reports that some prominent individuals had been promised money if they decamped.


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