Is Kibra election final straw for troubled Nasa?
The scramble for the Kibra seat in the next month’s by-election has exposed deep differences in the National Super Alliance (Nasa), which seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse, to Deputy President William Ruto’s advantage.
Many functionaries of affiliate parties are confessing that the outfit is as good as dead and only exists on paper.
Insiders point to sharp differences in opinion and strategy between leadership of the four parties that form Nasa ahead of the 2022 election, in which each of the parties leaders is eyeing the presidency.
Nasa comprises of ODM of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Amani National Congress (ANC) of former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper Democratic Movement led by former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya of Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula.
Observers say the spats between ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna and his ANC counterpart Barrack Muluka over the fielding of candidates in the Kibra by-election is only a tip of the iceberg insofar as the intra-Nasa frictions are concerned.
“The rivalry you are witnessing in Kibra is simply a summary of the divisions that have been simmering in Nasa long before the August 2017 election,” a senator from Western Kenya told People Daily.
Save for Kalonzo’s Wiper which does not have candidate in Kibra, ODM is fronting the late MP Ken Okoth’s brother, Imran Okoth, ANC’s candidate is former Raila’s aide Eliud Owalo while Ford Kenya has nominated Khamisi Butichi.
Ruling Jubilee is fielding former international footballer McDonald Mariga.
While campaigning in Kibra a fortnight ago, the ODM brigade led by Sifuna and chairman John Mbadi told off Mudavadi and Wetang’ula over their decision to field candidates in the poll and threatened to pull out of Nasa.
“If there was any hope that Mudavadi would be our 2022 compromise candidate, that dream has ended in Kibra. We are going to walk out of Nasa unless they withdraw their candidate from this by-election,” said Sifuna.
But Muluka dismissed ODM’s threats as inconsequential, saying its leadership had long quit Nasa when it joined the government via the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila.
“Nasa exists only on paper. The decision of ODM to pull out of Nasa is neither here nor there. It left Nasa a long time ago,” said Muluka.
Insiders have told People Daily that the bitter exchange between ODM and ANC is a culmination of long-drawn differences which erupted soon after the September 1, 2017, Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Uhuru’s election in the August 8, 2017 election.
We have established that save for the agreement on the nullification of Uhuru’s election, the Nasa principals differed almost on everything else.
Sources told People Daily that no sooner had Uhuru’s victory been cancelled than two factions emerged within the coalition, with moderates composed of Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula on one side and the other led by Raila and backed a group of firebrand party strategists including lawyer Miguna Miguna, economist David Ndii and businessman Jimi Wanjigi.
According to a source, one of the issues on which the two sides differed on were the boycott of October 26, 2017 repeat election. While Raila’s group was all for the withdrawal, the moderates argued that doing so would amount to a snub of the Judiciary which had ruled in their favour.
Others issues that caused sharp differences in Nasa was the formation of the National resistance Movement (NRM) and the January 30, 2018, swearing-in of Raila as the “People’s President”.
The secretive reach-out between Raila and Uhuru which led to the Handshake served to drive the coalition leaders further apart, with Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula accusing the ODM leader of keeping them in the dark.
And so was the elbowing out of coalition partners from the leadership of parliamentary committees, with the ouster of Wetang’ula as Senate Leader of Minority and his replacement by Siaya Senator James being the last straw.
Wiper, ANC and Ford Kenya have also been accusing ODM of hogging Nasa’s finances.
The source disclosed that even before the 2017 election, Nasa parties had a disjointed approach to the poll such as lack of unanimity the decision to skip certain Jubilee-leaning zones in their campaigns.
There were also concerns among coalition partners that a radical clique of financiers, lawyers, economists and political scientists had hijacked the Nasa candidate and the coalition’s agenda.
“The other three principals were of the view that Raila had been hijacked by the radicals. They controlled him as they wished and he himself acted as if he was at their mercy. He no longer consulted his co-principals,” said the source.
The radicals are understood to have had their way in Raila’s eventual withdrawal from the repeat presidential election, the formation of NRM and Raila’s mock swearing-in ceremony.
“The radicals took advantage of Kalonzo’s absence when he was with his ailing wife in Germany for three months to wrest the leadership of Nasa from Raila and take over its agenda. That is when the rain started beating us,” said a Nasa-affiliated governor.
Wiper believes that ODM is deliberately wrecking Nasa to give Raila room to vie for the presidency again in 2022.
“The formation of NRM and the swearing-in of Raila were a calculated ploy to somersault out of the 2017 Nasa pre-election pact. Raila’s advisers are charting a new path that is free of Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula. In a way, they have succeeded,” said the Governor.
Analysts say the split in Nasa can only boost Ruto’s chances of winning the 2022 election, especially if the four Nasa principals run for the presidency separately.