Azimio loading as Uhuru meets MPs

State House Luncheon

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his remarks during a new year luncheon hosted for Members of Parliament at State House, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Courtesy | PSCU

When President Uhuru Kenyatta invited Azimio-backing MPs for a State House luncheon on Thursday, the expectation was that he would give specifics about the crafting of the new coalition and, equally important, present a timetable on the revamping of his Jubilee Party as a key partner in that coalition.

It all turned out to be an anti-climax. He barely touched on those issues. He instead dwelt on thanking the MPs for the passage in the National Assembly of the coalition-enabling Political Parties (Amendment) Bill and other crucial pieces of legislation such as the Anti-Money Laundering Bill.

He made a snide mention of Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi and a trip he and colleagues took to Turkey. It sounded like the senator was being 'whipped' to ensure the Political Parties Bill passes the Senate stage speedily. After all, Wamatangi is the Senate majority whip.

The closest Mr Kenyatta came to mentioning Azimio was when he told his guests that he was happy "we are all moving together across political parties". On Jubilee, he said he remained a proud party member (a hint that he would not abscond his duty as party leader?) but also added that he was "an even prouder member of the wider Kenyan society reflected here today".

The President urged that they remain united through the coming elections and the "new administration". Talk of this "new administration" carried special resonance for the invited MPs given the presence of Raila Odinga at the President's side.

Reportedly, at a separate and more candid meeting with parliamentary leaders, he told them Mr Odinga would be the Azimio "captain" – meaning presidential candidate – while the President said he would be the team "coach".

Abruptly cancelled

The failure to confront the Jubilee problem could have been because the forum, being a multi-party setting, was not the appropriate place to do so. The remaining Jubilee members have been understandably very anxious on what plans, if any, the leadership has regarding the revival of the troubled party. The frustration is palpable. Jubilee's first ever delegates conference had been planned for November, but it was abruptly cancelled on the excuse that the approaching presidential State of the Nation address to Parliament be given priority. No word has been forthcoming since on when it will be held.

Uhuru has all along been insistent that he won't disengage from his development focus to start campaign politics "prematurely". This attitude has its pros and cons. There needs to be a balance somewhere in between. Clearly President Kenyatta has taken what used to be the approach of his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, regarding party politics. However, we all remember the trouble this hands-off approach got Kibaki into in his 2007 re-election.

Mr Kenyatta and his foot soldiers like Adan Keynan, the Jubilee parliamentary group secretary, have been saying that "the time for politics will come".

This is a line many Jubilee MPs don't necessarily agree with. They fear the dilly-dallying is killing not just the party, but their own political careers.

The truth of the matter is that everywhere except in Jubilee, campaigns are in full swing. Raila too does not appear to be in agreement with Uhuru on this either. That's why he has embarked on his formal campaign, and indeed, did so from last year with his Azimio outings. Yesterday he was making a major campaign foray in Thika.

The problem of inertia can be seen with what is besetting the One Kenya Alliance (OKA), whose poll ratings remain low compared to ODM or UDA. In fact, one of OKA's constituent parties, ANC, has suffered a serious haemorrhage of its MPs, including its deputy leader Ayub Savula, to Raila's Azimio movement. Jubilee has shrunk at an even more frightening pace as most of its MPs are now in UDA.

Truth be told, Kalonzo Musyoka's Wiper has not witnessed that sort of turbulence in its ranks. That is remarkable. For that reason, it is emerging as the most resilient party in OKA, and the most desirable partner for the bigger formations, especially for Azimio, which is courting Kalonzo assiduously.

Actually OKA have not been entirely idle. They've been talking to other formations. But you won't find the principals making direct moves themselves – for now. They're using intermediaries. Musalia Mudavadi's is believed to be Kakamega Senator Cleo Malala, who has appeared with DP William Ruto at a couple of very public functions. Another of Mudavadi's go-betweens is understood to be a senator who is aspiring to become Nairobi governor.

Ruto has made no secret that he's very keen on a deal with Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang'ula. He has publicly dangled a special coalition arrangement with the two, which the DP has denied other parties. Mudavadi and Wetang'ula have been coy about Ruto's proposal.

Talking to Azimio

Kalonzo has been much more circumspect. There are suggestions he's been talking to the Azimio side, using a female gubernatorial candidate from Ukambani as the intermediary. It's not clear whether any of the overtures have borne tangible fruit.

A Wiper leaders' meeting Kalonzo had called at his Yatta rural home yesterday was being awaited eagerly for any signal.

The question everybody is asking is whether Mudavadi can deliver the Western region bloc vote to UDA.

The persistent answer coming from Luhyaland is No. Pundits argue he doesn't command the kind of regional influence Kalonzo enjoys in Ukambani.

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Thank you, Senator Mithika Linturi, for reminding the country of "madoadoa". You have brought them back to life at the right time. Have you seen the #ProudToBeAMadoadoa hashtags that have suddenly sprouted? You are a Godsend, man. You've guaranteed the central messaging in this political season is now in place. I've even bought one of the "madoadoa" caps that are circulating. The Devil can work miracles!


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