Co-leaders’ absence punctures Nasa post-oath agenda

Nasa leaders hold a media briefing at Okoa Kenya offices in Nairobi on February 1, 2018. They said they are still united. PHOTO | DENNIS KAVISU

What you need to know:

  • Ms Odhiambo concluded by declaring the party will back Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s presidential candidature.
  • The Wiper party is still sulking over what members regard as unfair distribution of slots in parliamentary committees.

It was meant to be a joyous historic occasion installing Raila Amolo Odinga and Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka as the “people’s president” and “people’s deputy president”.

But the absence of Mr Musyoka and Nasa co-principals Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula from last Tuesday’s “swearing-in” at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park has punctured the Opposition’s political flight despite a public display of unity later in the week. 

With the actions of Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula attracting the wrath of Opposition supporters, the Nasa bus has effectively been slowed down as its leadership instead engages in damage control antics and public displays of unity.

Mr Odinga himself is not looking presidential as anticipated by supporters – thanks to the turn of events.

CONDEMNATION

He is more engrossed in extinguishing small political fires being lit in his corner and defending his co-principals at ordinary press conferences.

And the “people’s president”, whose deputy is yet to be sworn in, has also been compelled to come out in defence of the lawyers who administered the oath to him.

Ideally, whether or not the Musyoka-Mudavadi-Wetang’ula trio have good reasons for skipping the Tuesday event, the development has greatly slowed down the post-swearing-in momentum and poisoned relations among the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Wiper Democratic Party, Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya coalition partners.

The action by the trio has attracted the ire of some supporters, including Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary-general Francis Atwoli, who has dismissed the Nasa co-principals as irredeemable cowards and political opportunists.

According to the vocal unionist, Tuesday was a test for Kenyans “to see some of the political opportunists who would vanish when there is a risk to take”.

ASSASSINATION
But emphasising that the issue at hand was not a light matter, co-chairman of Nasa’s steering committee Mr Johnson Muthama exonerates the Nasa co-principals from the tag of “cowards”.

Without singling out a specific leader, the former senator claims they received intelligence reports on planned assassination of Nasa leaders and the withdrawal of bodyguards of some of the co-principals sent a chilling message to those who were affected.  

After Tuesday’s “swearing-in” function, a charged Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo took to social media to state that ODM would soldier on without the help of “political cowards”.

And she went further to state that the Orange party will not be compelled to pay “political debts” in 2022.

ODM LEADERS
Ms Odhiambo’s sentiments seem to resonate with most ODM allied politicians, including the party’s national chairman John Mbadi.

According to the Suba South legislator, “cowardice has no cure – there is therefore absolutely nothing we can do to improve the situation of those already regarded as cowards”.

Nonetheless, Mr Mbadi, who also serves as Leader of Minority in the National Assembly, explains he is not privy to the reasons that kept the three principals away from the function.

In her stinging post, whose contents she has not retracted to date, Ms Odhiambo concluded by declaring the party will back Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s presidential candidature.

Mr Joho, who is one of Mr Odinga’s deputy party leaders in the Orange party alongside Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya, is considered a close ally and lieutenant of the former Prime Minister.

He is among leaders who braved threats by security agents to attend Tuesday’s event, where he played the role of inviting Mr Odinga to take the “oath of office”.  

HOUSE COMMITTEES
Hailed and condemned in equal measure, Ms Odhiambo’s sentiments have only served to bring to the fore the underlying tensions among politicians and supporters of Nasa member parties.

The Wiper party, for instance, is still sulking over what members regard as unfair distribution of slots in parliamentary committees and MPs allied to the Musyoka-led party have vowed to push their case within Nasa. 

However, Mr Muthama claims that this matter is now behind Nasa and “our leader Raila has privately consulted with and publicly paraded the three co-principals” to reassure Kenyans that all is well.

Instead the former Machakos senator blames Jubilee for creating divisions in Nasa. 

Similarly, ANC deputy party leader Kipruto arap Kirwa strikes a reconciliatory tone observing that the events of Tuesday only reflect on a hiccup that can be handled.

INTIMIDATION

Noting that it is in the interest Jubilee for Nasa to split, the one-time Cabinet minister maintains January 30 was a defining moment for Kenyans and the Nasa leadership is keen at building on the same.    

“Tuesday was not just about the 'swearing-in' of Raila as the People’s President, Kenyans also expressed their resolve for political leadership in this country. And any leader who imagines that this wave cannot sweep them aside will be doing so at their own peril,” Mr Kirwa said.

The former Cherangany MP is separately in agreement with Muthama, who opines that Jubilee’s tough stance and “creation of insurgency in the country” is reason enough for the coalition to stay united, focused and rally the rest of the country against the Jubilee leadership.

“There are enough reasons for us to stay united beyond last Tuesday. We are being intimidated by Jubilee, including the media following the shutdown of three leading TV stations, and soon other groups will follow suit as victims of Jubilee’s intimidation,” Mr Muthama said.

MEDIA SHUTDOWN
The politician warns that the use of military and police force will soon boomerang on the Kenyatta administration, “because we will not allow the government to silence us and we are ready to die and go to jail,” he told Sunday Nation.

Mr Kirwa concurs, singling out Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i as among those “assisting Jubilee to fuel insurgency” in the country.

The minister’s actions in shutting down TV stations and arresting Nasa politicians and lawyers over last Tuesday’s event, the ANC official said, amount to backpedalling on the gains so far made over the years and go against the values that President Kenyatta swore to safeguard. 

Last Tuesday’s apparent discord in Nasa was not entirely an unanticipated. 

In fact, Ford-Kenya’s deputy party leader Boni Khalwale, in an earlier conversation, hinted to this writer that the event was bound to flop.

2022 ELECTIONS
He maintained the idea of whether or not to proceed with the "swearing-in" had not been wholly agreed upon.

And the former Kakamega Senator predicted possible fallout among the principals when he categorically stated that Nasa will unlikely proceed to the next elections as a united entity and under the same name.   

While Mr Odinga was openly focused on a symbolic swearing-in, which observers say was designed to boost the coalition’s momentum in its push for change in the country’s political leadership, the other three principals were for dialogue with Mr Kenyatta, who in all public indications was not keen.

Although they had been dancing to the “swearing-in” tune, the Musyoka-Mudavadi-Wetang’ula trio never lost hope in appealing to President Kenyatta to embrace dialogue in order to avoid the January 30 event, which according to Mr Musyoka, “would be held under very difficult circumstances” if the President declined to play ball.       

LEGAL AUTHORITY
Reacts Dr Khalwale, another strong dialogue proponent:

“Some people in Jubilee think that because Uhuru is legally sworn in as President he can rule with an iron fist by cracking down on everybody with the belief that Kenya will still enjoy peace in the next five years.

"Similarly, some people in Nasa think that by calling Raila (Mr Odinga) the ‘people’s president’ and chest-thumping that he is not a coward, he can rule the country and deliver on his manifesto without the prerequisite legal authority.” 

Straddling in the middle ground, now Dr Khalwale proposes that Nasa politicians should look at Mr Odinga straight in the eye and tell him that his bravado as a People’s President cannot give him the legal authority to govern Kenya.

ARREST OF POLITICIANS
Similarly, he appeals to Jubilee politicians to tell Mr Kenyatta to stop the crack down on innocent Kenyans forthwith, because terror only begets terror.

The road ahead of 2022 for Nasa has indeed just started.

It is a most difficult patch that will require a delicate balance between addressing the so-called electoral injustice and political ambitions of individual politicians.

The latter is most difficult, considering that Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula are not cut from the same ideological clothe.

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