Johnson Muthama

Commissioner at the Parliamentary Service Commission Johnson Muthama during the interview in Nairobi on Thursday, November 16, 2023.

| Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Johnson Muthama: Only Raila can challenge Ruto in 2027

What you need to know:

  • Speaking in a wide-ranging interview, Mr Muthama, among other things, claimed that retired President Uhuru Kenyatta was not keen on seeing Mr Odinga become President.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) founding chairman Johnson Muthama now says it is only Opposition leader Raila Odinga who can mount a strong challenge for President William Ruto in the 2027 presidential contest.

Mr Muthama, who is currently a commissioner at the Parliamentary Service Commission, said it would be a walkover for President Ruto should Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition front Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as its candidate, saying, it would be impossible for Mr Musyoka to inherit Mr Odinga’s support base.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview, Mr Muthama also claimed that retired President Uhuru Kenyatta was not keen on seeing Mr Odinga become President as he never campaigned for him.

Has UDA delivered to the people?

We inherited an empty CBK [Central Bank of Kenya]. The last few months before we took office, no bills had been paid and we struggled with external and internal debts. When you borrow from the bank using your property, you only have two options; sell the property and repay, or the bank auctions.

The property that the government has are the citizens. That is why Ruto had to raid the pockets of Kenyans because that is the only property that can be auctioned. The America, IMF, World Bank, are giving us instructions; if you want us to move your loan and give you an exception of six months, you have to do this and you have to devalue your currency. Uhuru left this country in a total mess.

How long will it take you to lower the cost of living?

We want another one year. The past one year was to build the foundation of the house. Kenyans need to understand that it takes time. It took Kibaki time.

But things are getting worse...

It is because of so many factors. Our local currency is nowhere in the market. We are using it to trade locally; outside there we do it in hard currency. The dollars were taken away. Those who have the dollars and they know our position have raised the rate. You see these people who come here flashing their money saying they want to give it to us, they do not mean it, they have nothing for free; we have to pay for what we are given.

Has parliament been affected by the financial constraints?

Is there anyone in Kenya who has been spared? Come to parliament, there are pending bills that needs to be paid.

How much?

I cannot say, but it is in billions. The Uhuru government left us in debt. Bunge Towers, which was to cost Sh5 billion, has used Sh10 billion. Maybe you should ask Uhuru what happened with this building.

But you have money to facilitate MPs?

There are times we do not have money to pay our drivers. There is no petty cash. You people do not know what all of us are going through as a country.

Are your cars fuelled?

Where? Can I call my driver right now we confirm? We pay for our own fuel; do you want me to show you the receipts? If the funds are not there, it means they are not there. The committees can only retreat in hotels within Nairobi because there is no money.

But your budget was not reviewed downwards?

In the current financial year 2023/2024, we had to forfeit up to 35 per cent. We were not asked, but the naked truth is that Treasury cannot give us money that does not exist. You do not understand the budget cuts that Ruto has carried out.

There are reports that people used fake academic papers to get jobs in Parliament...

There are indications that some malpractices have been carried out. The disparities between an ID and certificates have raised questions. Scrutiny must take place to ensure things are right. We are yet to receive a report on the same.

There is an ongoing verification; it must be done without hatred and malice. We want Kenya’s to work for what they qualify for.

Would you consider firing?

It is wrong to make decisions without having the report. The outcome is what will determine the next approach. You may find that people working in parliament were brought in by political arrangements, and when it comes to political arrangements, there are no qualifications that are considered.

How did you build UDA in such a short period and won?

To sell a political party, you do it in a way that the normal person can relate with it. It has to be simple.

We went to look for name and we found that UDA was a suitable name. We first won the Msambweni by-election, then Juja.

We also knew that Uhuru was not a serious person and he was not going to sacrifice his time, resources and energy to campaign for Raila. You never saw Uhuru taking helicopters going to places to campaign for his presidential candidate.

Our plan and strategy was based on hard work. We were doing up to 10 meetings a day. We worked round the clock.

Are you concerned about the infighting in UDA?

Go and read the history of this country when it comes to politics. Read about Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. He fought for the release of Jomo, but what happened later? He was jailed.

Charles Njonjo was branded msaliti [a betrayer] but he was the one who was used to try and block the Vice-President from ascending to power.

Would you ask Kalonzo to join Ruto?

Let me tell you, If Azimio is to make an impact in 2027 elections (I mean to make impact but not to win), Raila has to be the candidate. Anybody else would be a walkover for us. So, I am not going to ask Kalonzo to support Ruto in 2027 because he is charting his political path and I am charting mine. I have never been tribal.

Would you work with Kalonzo again?

I have never been a person who looks at a person on the basis of where he comes from. I am on record as saying that we should have only three political parties at most.

If Kalonzo realises that alone he cannot go far, the better. Where he is standing now is very slippery, because he wants to inherit Raila’s political base, but how? He should ask himself.

Do you feel betrayed that you are not in the Cabinet?

It is not possible to have two CSs from the same region. My service is a sacrifice to the country, without expecting anything in return. Ask Raila if he has ever given me anything.