ODM leader Raila Odinga has turned the collapse of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional changes into a weapon against Deputy President William Ruto.
Targeting regions that would have benefited the most from proposals to allocate counties more resources and create extra constituencies, Mr Odinga is portraying Dr Ruto as working against their interests by campaigning against the BBI.
The ODM leader has singled out Mt Kenya, where the DP’s campaign has gained traction, telling residents BBI was to deliver the “one man, one vote, one shilling” principle through additional resources to the populous counties and creation of additional constituencies. “Kiambu lost big time because of the failure of BBI to pass. You lost a lot of money. BBI was meant to make Kenyans equal in distribution of wealth,” Mr Odinga said in a recent campaign stop in the region.
And while on the charm offensive of the Maa community last week, Mr Odinga said had BBI constitutional changes succeeded, including one to increase allocations to counties to 45 per cent of national revenue, the region’s counties would have reaped big.
He said allocations to Kajiado would have increased by Sh6.3 billion to Sh12.8 billion, Narok by Sh5 billion to Sh13 billion and Samburu by Sh2 billion to Sh6.5 billion.
“Those billions that are on the verge of being denied to the Maa nation would work wonders in providing basics like water, dispensaries, hides and skins factories, slaughterhouses, schools and roads. And that is why we are asking the Maa not to give up,” Mr Odinga said.
The ODM leader, who pushed the BBI constitutional changes together with President Kenyatta until the courts scuttled the campaign, saying it had violated the law, is keen to slow down the DP in these regions by portraying him as the one who had undermined their interests.
Vote-rich Mt Kenya was to get a significant share of the proposed 70 additional constituencies, which means more money channelled through the National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF).
The president’s allies have also capitalised on the collapse of BBI, saying they will not rally behind a person who refused to protect the interests of their region.
“DP disagreeing with Uhuru is deliberate. It was meant to deny Mount Kenya their fair share of resources and representation when it comes to elective positions. It is a continued scheme to marginalise our region and it is very clear that he (Ruto) would want to assume leadership of the country with Mount Kenyatta having been disadvantaged,” claimed Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, who is also the chairperson of the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC).
“To get the Mt Kenya vote, one must now guarantee that their government will deliver what BBI was meant to deliver to us: one man, one vote, one shilling, devolution of more resources and presence in government,” Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said.
Mr Wambugu challenged the DP to explain to Mt Kenya why “he seems to have a problem with supporting anything that will benefit the region”.
Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who has seemingly fallen out with DP Ruto, said the region has suffered from unequal representation and will only rally behind a presidential candidate who will promise to deliver what BBI sought to address. “BBI which sought to address this has died, but we are asking the president we shall be electing to give us an undertaking that in the first 100 days, he shall address the issue of representation either through referendum or boundary review,” said Mr Kiunjuri, The Service Party (TSP) leader.
Alive to the political damage the narrative could cause, the region’s MPs allied to the DP have of late welcomed the move to introduce certain amendments in Parliament to increase the allocations to counties, set aside at least five per cent of counties’ cash for wards, as well as provisions touching on incentives for the youth, small and medium enterprises.
Other proposals which they have said they will back include the ones on the appointment of Cabinet Secretaries from among MPs and creation of 70 additional constituencies.
“If there is a Bill the likes of Kioni should bring in Parliament it is one that touches on revenue increment and not that which talks about creating extra positions,” Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah said on Friday in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County.
“Let them not bring any Bill in Parliament which will create positions for the bourgeoisie but let it touch on more resources to counties,” said Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata accused their rivals of misleading Mt Kenya residents that the DP is against their well-being. “Contrary to Kieleweke propaganda, one man, one shilling had no correlation with the BBI proposed amendment to Article 203. One man one shilling was settled when I successfully championed that cause as a Chief Whip last year and population weight was enhanced in revenue allocation. For example, Murang’a got an extra Sh900 million and Kiambu Sh2 billion,” said Senator Kang’ata who was ousted as Senate Chief Whip following a letter critical of BBI addressed to the president.
“Creating extra constituencies is still possible by coming to Parliament,” said Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
However, the Deputy President has dismissed the bid to revive the BBI and asked MPs to consider other important business like the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) Bill to enable more Kenyans access affordable treatment.