Raila in a tight corner over revenue standoff

Monday, July 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Anthony Mwangi and Hillary Mageka

 The revenue sharing formula standoff has thrust Opposition chief Raila Odinga in a tight corner, bearing the unenviable task of persuading senators from his strongholds whose counties stand to lose cash to throw their weight behind the new method ahead of tomorrow’s vote.

The controversial formula also puts Raila in an awkward situation, having fashioned himself as the champion of devolution, at the centre of which is dispersal of more cash to counties, especially those traditionally seen as marginalised.

Besides, Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta have been the key drivers of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which places fair and equitable sharing of resources as one of its central pillars.

There is also fear that losing the Northern Frontier districts could give Deputy President William Ruto ammunition against Raila who is perceived to be his main opponent in the 2022 elections.

And any support from the Rift counties for the formula could attract support for the DP in Uhuru’s Central Kenya backyard.

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata yesterday said the vote will go on without further delay.

“If Raila supports the formula, he risks losing Coast region where most counties are on the losing side.

If his troops in Senate cause the new proposed formula to collapse, BBI being his baby may lose support in Mt Kenya,” said Kanga’ta yesterday.

 “There will be no more adjournment, we shall bite the bullet,” Kang’ata said, adding that the Jubilee side shall reconsider support for the BBI if they lose the vote.

The statement by the Murang’a Senator triggered all major political players to focus on Mt Kenya as the Senate plans to vote on tomorrow.

“It’s an open secret if government loses the formula vote on Tuesday. Mt Kenya support for BBI will collapse,” Kang’ata told People Daily on Sunday.

But Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior hit back saying:  “Kang’ata has been a big mistake, he should have said other things, and whatever he is eating I don’t understand.” 

Senator Kilonzo said the formula was mooted to “finish” Raila outside his Nyanza stronghold. 

“While Nyanza region is gaining, the Coast region is losing, all these are political bedrocks of the ODM Odinga.

If these regions lose in the proposed formula, Raila also loses his political clout,” said Kilonzo who has opposed the formula.

Concerted efforts

“Essentially, his support outside Nyanza is finished, but it cannot be the end of BBI, for politicians to be specific ODM and Nasa, if this formula passes, they lose Coast region, entire Ukambani and Maasai region, Kajiado and Narok,” he added.

There have been concerted efforts by the Jubilee leadership to secure Raila’s endorsement for the formula even as some senators from his party have vowed to vote against it regardless of the Opposition chief’s position.

Raila’s stronghold counties to be affected if the formula is passed include Mombasa, Kilifi, Vihiga, Nyamira, Kitui, Makueni, Narok, Turkana and Kwale.

Kilonzo, who is also the Minority Whip in the Senate, said the Tuesday vote will determine the 2022 elections and called for caution by the big political players.

“On Tuesday, it’s going to be a full-blown war, the strength of ODM outside Nyanza will diminish, and someone is purporting to threaten Raila that if it is not passed BBI will die. He won’t accept it at all,” warned Kilonzo.

He said the position of his Wiper Party was that the formula cannot be used to disadvantage other counties. “You cannot take away from Makueni to give to Machakos. It cannot work.”

Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri also described Kang’ata’s statement as “ill-advised”, saying there were better ways of handling the matter rather than issuing threats.

Power politics

Ongeri said that being the Majority Whip, Kang’ata should be looking for harmony.

“We want to maintain the unity of the nation in the spirit of the Serena talks which were hitched on unity, power politics and resource sharing,” he told People Daily,  making reference to the 2008 mediated talks after the post-election violence. 

The sharing of resources was cited as among the causes of the conflict that led to the loss of at least 1,333 deaths and displacement of thousands. Ongeri was one of the negotiators.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said  Kang’ata’s argument was logical.

“The point is this: BBI is equivalent to the proposed formula. Failure to pass the formula as proposed renders BBI meaningless,” said Murkomen who is opposed to the formula though his county stands to benefit. 

To end the stalemate, Murkomen asked the National Treasury to look for cash to finance the third generation formula.

According to Kilonzo, though some counties stood to benefit, their senators have decided to rally against it in solidarity with their colleagues whose region could lose if approved by Parliament.

“For instance, Kisii is gaining but its neighbour Nyamira is losing. Kisii is supporting Nyamira because a lot of politicians in Kisii live in Nyamira,” argued Kilonzo.  

The new formula, which has divided the Senate down the middle, has attracted the attention of the President who is keen to have it passed but its implementation suspended until next year.

He warned that any attempts by Jubilee to blackmail senators will make the vote fail.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the “one–man-one-shilling” concept should not be used to punish counties because they are populous, adding that money is allocated to people and not land mass.

Former Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow rejected claims that Mt Kenya counties will be short-changed if the formula will not be approved.

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