President Uhuru allies in bid to reunite Raila and OKA
Eric Wainaina @Ewainaina
Efforts by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies to re-unite former principals of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to form a new coalition have run into headwinds after the two factions took hard-line positions.
The President’s allies have been racing against time to bring together Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) amid concerns that the split is likely to hand Deputy President William Ruto an easy win.
Political activities have heightened in the past few days in the wake of the fold up of Nasa, as behind the scenes efforts were made to bring the leaders under one alliance to face Ruto in next year’s General Election.
Emissaries, including some unnamed State House officials, and prominent businessmen, Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe, trade unionist Francis Atwoli and governors Charity Ngilu and Alfred Mutua, are reported to have reached out to Raila, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani National Congress boss Musalia Mudavadi and Senators Gideon Moi (Baringo, Kanu) and Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma, Ford Kenya) with a view to bridging the divisions.
People Daily has established that emissaries have approached Kalonzo, Musalia and Wetang’ula, who are unhappy with Raila’s refusal to honour their 2017 Nasa agreement, seeking to persuade them to cobble together an alliance with ODM and Kanu, and make the ODM leader the joint candidate.
But the proposal to make Raila the presidential candidate has been rebuffed by OKA leaders who are insisting on nominating one among themselves.
The four are demanding that Raila should “humble himself and agree to join OKA on our terms and conditions”.
Sources familiar with the talks said some of the OKA leaders are insisting that Raila should be prevailed upon not to vie for the presidency next year and instead support their candidate.
Confirming the ongoing efforts to bring together the political heavyweights, Ngilu acknowledges that both sides had taken hardline positions.
“There are many hurdles on the way, but it is a mission we are determined to accomplish, otherwise it will be an easy run for the Deputy President. But time is on our side to cobble up a strong coalition,” Ngilu told People Daily by phone.
Yesterday, allies of Kalonzo and Musalia led by Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, Makueni MP Dan Maanzo and Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala confirmed that emissaries had been sent to OKA to persuade them to back a Raila candidature.
However, OKA leaders argue that while their side is willing to accommodate Raila, he must abide by their terms and conditions which include him joining as an equal partner and agreeing to step down in favour of the candidate nominated by the alliance, failing which they are ready to go it alone.
“Some people have been sending fillers to them (Kalonzo, Musalia, Wetang’ula and Moi), telling them the advantages of working together (with Raila).
But at the moment, OKA is working on a formula to win in the next general election. Anyone wishing to join us, should come as an equal partner and be ready to abide by our terms and conditions,” Wambua said.
There has been concern among some of Uhuru’s backers that if the leaders who have been supportive of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will approach the election divided, they are likely to lose to the DP who has been aggressively campaigning for the last four years.
The President is also reported to have told the former Nasa leaders during a meeting at State House last month that they must work together.
ODM, on the other hand, feels it has a wider national support that increases Raila’s chances of winning compared with OKA. ODM deputy leader Wycliffe Oparanya said the party would not give in to intimidation by parties he said were “junior” to it.
“They can’t compare themselves to ODM which has a national outlook. These are regional ethnic-based parties that have no authority to dictate to us on what to do,” Oparanya said.
The Kakamega governor said ODM had exited from Nasa in order to have room to negotiate with like-minded entities for a better coalition.
“We are talking to some of them as individual parties and very soon we shall tell you,” Oparanya said.
The Orange party secretary general Edwin Sifuna added that it is OKA that needs ODM and not the other way round.
“Essentially, it is a stream that is supposed to join a river and not the other way round. Theirs is a journey to nowhere. Let them stop the bravado and join us to form a formidable alliance. But they should remember that Raila’s journey to State House is unstoppable,” Sifuna said.
According to sources, those supportive of the OKA-ODM alliance argue that, if Raila, Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula were to work as a team as they did in 2017 when they garnered about 44 per cent of the vote, with the backing of Uhuru and his allies, the ODM leader would triumph over Ruto.
Murathe did not respond to our calls and messages.
But nominated Jubilee MP Maina Kamanda, who supports the Uhuru-Raila Handshake, said the journey to reward the former premier with the top seat because of his fight for democracy was unstoppable.
“The problem is that some of the leaders are insisting on being on the ballot out of selfishness.
Do to they have the political muscle and network, financial power and political history to fight to the end like Raila?” Kamanda posed.
Atwoli has written to the six leaders advising them to unite as early as possible to avoid regret.
“I have been compelled to advise you to come together for the sake of next year’s General Election and for Kenya’s sake lest you live to regret,” he writes in a letter dated July 20, 2021.
“Kindly swallow your pride and come together,” he adds.
But the OKA team is adamant, saying if Raila has to work with them, he must agree to respect their 2017 coalition terms.
They insist they are ready to support another presidential candidate under OKA.
According to Malalah, who is Raila’s political friend-turned-foe, though they have not kept ODM out of the table in the possible alliance under the Handshake team, the former Nasa leaders must build on their past.
He said that as Raila seeks a coalition deal, he and his backers must also reciprocate their past support.
“Uhuru has made it clear that he does not want to leave the country in the hands of William Ruto and wants us to be united as a coalition.
But even as those emissaries are sent to us, they should be cognizant of the fact that as OKA, we have some historical injustices which must be dealt with and that includes not having Raila as the presidential candidate,” Malala said.
He added that OKA was ready to have a stab at the presidency without Raila.
However, Raila has faulted his former Nasa colleagues for making demands based on the former coalition.
“Nasa was not a political party, the parties are Wiper, ANC, ODM, Jubilee and the rest. And these parties can form coalitions under a different name. We had Cord, we had Nasa but those are campaign coalitions to boost chances in the presidential election, and if you win, you share the government and run it until the term is over. But if that does not happen, you go to the opposition as different parties” Raila said.
And speaking yesterday in Vihiga County during the burial of Vihiga Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi’s wife, Raila was optimistic he would still work together with his former Nasa partners in the near future.
The ODM leader said the exit from Nasa by all the affiliate parties did not signal the end of the road for them, as there is still room for negotiations.
“Mumeona watu wakitoka kwa Nasa na hiyo siyo shida kubwa kwa sababu kazi ya Nasa ilikiwisha,” (you have seen leaders living Nasa but that should not worry you because the reason why Nasa was formed has been overtaken by events,” Raila said.
The former premier said the exit of his former co-principals had not yet closed doors for fresh negotiations.
“It does not mean that we cannot work together in future just because they have left Nasa. There is still room for that and we can still work together,” the former premier stated.
Wiper MP Maanzo said that while they had not refused to work with Raila, the ODM leader must join OKA under their terms and conditions especially now that Nasa is dead, adding that the push by Uhuru’s allies to have them support the ODM leader would fail.
“There is someone who called me, trying to convince me over the matter. But we are not sure if these people are actually Uhuru’s emissaries or they are self-seekers advancing their individual interests,” Maanzo said.