Supremacy wars at play in drive for signatures
The week-long collection of signatures in support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) amendment bill has presented politicians at various levels, a platform to flex their muscles ahead of today’s deadline.
Yesterday, reports from various parts of the country showed competing interests had come to the fore as politicians engaged in a cock fight and a battle for supremacy as attention steadily shifts to the 2022 General Election.
For instance, governors who are serving second and final term, have grabbed the opportunity with both hands in a bid to raise profile ahead of the referendum, which might give them a soft landing.
Leading politicians are now using the BBI platform to curve a political niche for themselves in their respective home turfs ahead of 2022.
“Just like any other political contest, BBI has been turned into a power game,” says Richard Bosire, a political scientist at the University of Nairobi.
Bosire opines that at the end of the referendum, there are going to be political casualties and winners, with the latter going into 2022, more bold with the victory tag.
The BBI bill has proposed reintroduction of the position of Prime Minister and two deputies, office of the official opposition leader and a shadow cabinet as well as a return of assistant ministers
The bill also gives the president the leeway to appoint MPs to his Cabinet, something which is music to the ears of many second term governors who might now be forced to switch to constituencies.
The government has also marshalled its machinery to ensure that the exercise is successful.
At the grassroots, chiefs have been tasked with collection of signatures under the supervision of regional commissioners and county commissioners.
A preliminary tally from the BBI secretariat indicated that by Wednesday, 4,628,172 people had appended their signatures on the document, with Nyanza region leading with 780,427.
Despite Deputy President William Ruto’s opposition to the exercise, his Rift Valley turf came third with 667,731 after Eastern with 761,776.
Other regions were Central 643,880, Coast 608,578; Western 525, 323; Nairobi 461,934 and North Eastern 135, 091. Online registration attracted a paltry 43,423.
In Kiambu for instance, elected leaders have kept off the exercise leaving Governor James Nyoro, his advisor David Ngari (Gakuyo) and a few opinion shapers to lead the exercise leading to claims of sabotage.
A section of politicians and businesspeople from Thika, Ruiru and Juja constituencies who are spearheading the drive, through door-to-door campaigns accused area MPs and MCAs of boycotting the exercise.
None of the 14 elected MPs from the county, including Senator Kimani Wamatangi, have taken any initiative to mobilise residents to participate in the signature collection exercise.
In Nyanza, the contest is pitting sitting governors Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), James Ongwae (Kisii) and John Nyagarama (Nyamira) against vocal voices in Parliament such as James Orengo, John Mbadi, Opiyo Wandayi, Millie Odhiambo and Gladys Wanga.
In Rift Valley, Gideon Moi has been holding spirited public barazas to spearhead collection of signatures to buttress his political supremacy.
In Mt Kenya region, the battle seems to be pitting sitting governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) and Francis Kimemia, against a combined team of senior civil servants such as Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries and sitting MPs.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Peter Munya is putting up a spirited show against Murungi in Meru.
“Politicians are using BBI as a preparation for 2020 and that is why it has become a cut-throat competition.
No politician worth his salt would leave anything to chance,” says Oscar Otele of the University of Nairobi’s Political Science and Public Administration Department.
This situation is replicated in Western Kenya where confrontations have been witnessed in the recent past with the hallmark being the ugly scenes witnessed in Saboti where area MP Caleb Amisi was attacked by rowdy youth.
A battle for political supremacy was panning out between Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also the ODM deputy party leader.
Oparanya, who is in his final term, has in the past declared that he is going to vie for presidency in 2022 while Mudavadi is already oiling his campaign machinery.
Mudavadi announced on Tuesday that he is going to spearhead a parallel collection of signatures in the region.
Oparanya and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa are separately collecting signatures in the region.
Wamalwa, Oparanya and Governor Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) who launched the exercise at Bukalama Resort said the proposed constitutional changes will unite Kenyans.
Wamalwa is said to be eyeing Trans Nzoia governorship in the next General Election.
Noting that BBI is going to open more opportunities in the executive for the region, Ojaamong asked locals to support the bill.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua who is trying to curve out his own path in Ukambani politics where Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu hold sway.
Musyoka has already launched a signature collection exercise. And, the fact that Mutua took his “signature campaign” to Kisumu on Wednesday lays credence to the argument that politicians are using it to raise their profile ahead of the election.
Mutua lashed out at (BBI) critics, accusing them of propagating rumours to defeat the roadmap to the referendum.
In Uasin Gishu, MPs Silas Tiren (Moiben), William Chepkut (Ainabkoi) and Senator Margret Kamar urged the Kalenjin community to support the BBI referendum saying that it is going to address the plight of farmers.
Speaking after leading the BBI signature collection in Eldoret, the three leaders dismissed claims that the government was forcing the BBI document down the throats of Kenyans saying nobody was being forced to sign it.
In Nyamira county, residents complained that they were being forced by county commissioners, chiefs and county government officials to sign the document.
The provincial administration led by the county commissioner Amos Mariba had directed all the administrators to move from one village to another making sure that their subjects sign the document.
Governor John Nyagarama also convened a Cabinet meeting and gave orders that all the staff working in the county must sign the BBI report.
Drama unfolded in Bomet after a visibly inebriated man grabbed a signature book and tore a few pages before throwing it into the river.
The suspect who was said to be a police officer based in Bungoma was yesterday charged in court.
Area sub-county police commander Francis Gikeri said the matter was reported by an assistant chief.
When he was arraigned in a Bomet court, the accused pleaded not guilty for a charge of malicious damage to property. He was released on a cash bail of Sh20,000 or a bond of a similar amount.
Reporting by Oliver Musembi, Munira Mandano, Douglas Dindi, Noven Owiti, Felix Yegon, Robert Ochoro and Evans Nyakundi