Jubilee members allied to Deputy President William Ruto on Monday threw their weight behind an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) senator to defeat his party’s choice for a key position of a Senate committee.
Narok Senator, Ledama ole Kina trounced his Kisii counterpart Sam Ongeri as the chair of Senate County Public and Accounts Investment Committee (CPAIC). Prof Ongeri had been favoured by ODM leader Raila Odinga to succeed Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang.
But Jubilee senators Mithika Linturi (Meru), Millicent Omanga (Nominated), Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu), Hargura Godana (Marsabit) and Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) tilted the balance in Ole Kina’s favour.
Last week, Raila is said to have instructed his ODM MPs to back Prof Ongeri for the seat reserved for the minority party, going as far as convincing Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko to step down for the Kisii senator.
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The committee oversees the expenditure of billions of shillings given to counties under the Division of Revenue and other conditional grants. Monday’s ‘coup’ rekindled memories of another bitter ODM loss in the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee in 2015.
Then, former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo was elected as chair after he received the backing of Jubilee MPs, flooring party favourite John Mbadi, ODM chair and Suba MP.
Monday’s events have sent ODM back to the drawing board, with Senate Minority Leader James Orengo threatening a mass walkout by the party from the powerful committee. Orengo (Siaya) on Monday evening wrote to Speaker Kenneth Lusaka saying the party intends to withdraw its membership from the committee until an appropriate resolution is made.
“I express and register dissatisfaction with the conduct and outcome of the elections of the leadership of the County Public Accounts and Investment Committee which were purportedly done today (Monday). We intend to withdraw our membership from the said committee until an appropriate resolution can be made,” reads Orengo’s letter to Lusaka.
The Minority side comprises Ole Kina, Prof Ongeri, Ayacko (Migori) and Johannes Mwaruma (Taita Taveta). The Standard has established that on Sunday, Raila met with ODM members in the committee and agreed on the Kisii Senator as the sole candidate for the position.
Sources who confided in The Standard revealed that in attendance were Kina, Ongeri, Ayacko, Mwaruma, Orengo and National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed (Suna East).
The source further alleged that Raila prevailed upon Ayacko who was “the preferred candidate for the seat” to drop his candidature in favour of Ongeri. Linturi said that majority of Jubilee senators had thrown their weight behind Ayacko owing to his sobriety and intellectual acumen.
However, Ole Kina is said to have reached out to Linturi, Godana, Wamatangi and Omanga in a scheme that if the four voted for him plus his vote, he was going to beat his opponent in the nine-member committee.
Of the four senators, three are close allies of DP Ruto and were part of the team that had been selected to sit on the Senate Committee of the trial of former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu during his impeachment motion.
In the deal, the DP allies were to vote for Ole Kina as chair, and in turn vote for Wamatangi as his deputy, after Linturi stepped down as a contestant for the position, a word they all kept and carried the day.
Kangata, however, is said to have voted for Ongeri as chair alongside ODM senators.
Monday’s events opened a can of worms that some sources in ODM claimed is directly linked to Ole Kina’s gubernatorial ambitions in Narok County and DP Ruto’s desire to consolidate the Maa vote ahead of the 2022 polls.
Eyes on 2022 polls
In recent days, the senator has emerged as a powerful voice of Maasai land rights, in the process alienating significant voting blocs in the region.
“The reason Ole Kina ran is that he is interested in being governor. Having lost ground among a section of voters, it makes more sense for him to appeal to people he thinks can help him recover ground,” said the source.
When contacted, Ole Kina said that he is still a senator and come 2022, he will announce his intentions. He, however, remained categorical that there will be no repeat elections since he is the duly elected chair of the watchdog committee.
“I think ODM is uncomfortable with me because of Uhuru’s fight with Ruto. The way forward depends on two things. What Raila wants and the rule of law,” said Ole Kina.
Asked whether he will step down for Ongeri or any other senator, Ole Kina was categorical that he will not.
“I am a Raila diehard. Raila knows that. What complicates things is his deal with Uhuru. I support Raila fully and me being the CPAIC chair, they know I will not allow any stupidity to thrive,” said Ole Kina.
On Twitter, however, Ruto’a allies did not hide their joy on the success of the committee ‘coup.’
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) claimed that the ODM opposition to Ole Kina’s election, “is a case of a revolution eating its own children”.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa appeared to suggest that ODM wanted a committee chair that would launder corrupt governors.
“First qualification for chairman is to railroad customers (governors) to the laundry wawe weupe kama pamba (so that they are as clean as cotton) at the right price,” said Ichung’wa.
By virtue of its mandate, CPAIC is a visible and powerful committee whose questions often sends the county bosses cowering.
By outfoxing ODM political machine, the Jubilee brigade indicate that ‘internal committee interests’ were at play in Ongeri’s loss.
The Kisii senator is seen as ‘too diplomatic,’ and not likely to ‘intimidate’ governors enough, sentiments alluded to by a section of those who backed Ole Kina.