Nasa leaders

Nasa leaders Moses Wetang'ula, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga address the Media at Stoni Hotel in Machakos County on March 12, 2018.

| File | Nation Media Group

Leaders: Shaky foundation, mistrust and bullying led to death of Nasa

When the National Super Alliance (Nasa) was formed in the lead up to the 2017 elections, it was supposed to be the juggernaut that would give Jubilee a run for its money. And for a moment, it did before collapsing spectacularly after the elections.

The last nail on its coffin was last week when ODM joined Wiper, ANC and Ford-Kenya in pulling out of the alliance. But the rain started beating Nasa a long time ago as mistrust, disagreement over the swearing in of ODM leader Raila Odinga, the Handshake and blackmail set in.

It began with the naming of the torch bearer in 2017. ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Wiper counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka accused Mr Odinga of employing underhand tactics to tilt the scales in his favour.

At one point, Mr Musyoka lambasted former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, the lead Wiper representative to the committee crafted to help settle on a presidential candidate by selling him out.

“In case Kalonzo Musyoka is not the presidential candidate, we will blame Muthama. As a community, we believe that Kalonzo is the best bet presidential candidate come the August 8th General Election,” Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi said in a public event, repeating what Mr Musyoka had said before Mr Odinga was named as the candidate.

False start

Mr Mudavadi’s senior aide, Kibisu Kabatesi, says given that the damage was already done (announcement of Mr Odinga as the candidate), there was little wiggle room.

“The team had named the candidate without consensus and there was no time to constitute another vehicle. You can see that was already a false start, what saw the ballooning of a trust deficit,” Mr Kabatesi says.

Having been originally created by Mr Mudavadi before the others joined in, the fear was that Mr Odinga would take over their “house” by virtue of being the torch-bearer. They sought reassurance from Mr Mudavadi who, despite concerted efforts, did little to persuade them that he would have an equal say in the event they formed a government.

“One of the things Raila told us as the reason he was to be the candidate was that he had the capacity to fund the campaigns, either personally or through his networks. But when he became one, we ended up fundraising through an M-Pesa till number. We have never been told how much was raised and where it was spent,” Mr Kabatesi said.

ODM, ANC, Wiper, Mr Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani under former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto made up Nasa.

Whereas the five principals signed the main agreement, there was a separate one between Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka on him accepting to be the running mate, creating further disaffection among those who were left out.

Null and void

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana was one of the witnesses to the deal that would have seen the former Prime Minister back the Wiper leader for president next year. But the ongoing dissolution of Nasa makes that water under the bridge, even though ODM had all along maintained that the pact became null and void the moment they failed to clinch the presidency.

For a house whose foundation was already wobbling, the mock swearing in of Mr Odinga as the “Ppeople’s President” on January 30, 2018, and the subsequent Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta did it in.

Days before the truce, there had been reports of the other principals joining forces with the President to isolate Mr Odinga, so the move by the Orange party leader to join ranks with the Head of State is said to have been meant to out-manoeuvre them. The level of mistrust had hit the roof.

“The mistrust in the coalition started when we were going to swear in Raila Odinga,” ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna told the Sunday Nation.

Conflicting versions of why the other principals never attended the Uhuru park event was another problem. Mr Odinga holds that they kept off for fear of government clamp down while they insist they were kept in the dark. They also accuse Mr Odinga of staying out of the presidential re-run following the voiding of President Kenyatta’s win by the Supreme Court without consulting them. These and others make the Nasa highway one that was paved with time bombs.

Opposition coalition

Dr Tom Wolf, a public opinion pollster, once called such wrangling within coalitions that are not in government, the curse of the opposition coalition.

“The challenge the opposition everywhere has is that they do not have access to state resources and that way, it is difficult to keep your troops in order and happy,” he said.

To many observers, the purpose of Nasa was to win the 2017 presidential election. The moment that goal was not achieved, it was just a matter of time before the principals parted ways.

Makueni Senator and Wiper deputy chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jnr says by design, Nasa was not going to achieve much.

“By the virtue of having produced the candidate, ODM was invariably going to end up with more seats in Parliament, but the plan did not take care of intra-party competition. In the end, they started seeing themselves as having a bigger stake yet all these should have been looked at as part of the joint effort,” he argues.

The senator says not even being the coalition in power would have cured the kind of mistrust they have had among themselves.

“We would have actually quarrelled more had we been in government since this was a coalition of convenience as opposed to one of converging interests,” he states.

Mr Wetang’ula was probably the first victim of the falling out of Nasa when he was kicked out as the Minority Leader through an ODM-inspired putsch just two weeks after the Handshake. The Bungoma senator had served in the position from 2013. The fact that he was hounded out in that manner, with ODM playing a big role, was the first sign that all was not well in the coalition.

While he insisted yesterday that the Handshake was an important part of the country’s history, Mr Wetang’ula attributed Nasa’s demise to what he described as the overbearing nature of Mr Odinga’s ODM and advised the former PM that he must get rid of the political upstarts in his circle who have been making incendiary remarks against other leaders.

“The fate of Nasa was sealed after ODM decided to treat partners as invitees to the coalition,” he told the Sunday Nation yesterday. “It all boils down to ODM’s overbearing behaviour. We were subjected to abuse, condescending attitude and bellicose statements from the party. We saw ODM belittle everybody.” He added that the “reckless” political upstarts in ODM will cost Raila his friends.

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said failure to equitably share the political parties cash and bullying by ODM spawned a high level of mistrust that finally killed the coalition.

Domineering

“There are so many promises that were never fulfilled and this made the existence of Nasa difficult,” said the MP, who is also the victim of ODM’s dominance after he was stripped off his position as Deputy Minority Whip.

But while the three partners have accused ODM of being domineering, the Orange party says it is a victim of blackmail and extortion. Mr Sifuna says that while on their own some of the parties in the coalition could not win electoral seats, they have always been emboldened whenever they get on the table to negotiate.

For example, ODM has 20 senators in parliament, while the other members of the coalition have a combined eight senators. However, in the initial distribution of leadership positions in 2017, ODM had only one slot, that of Deputy Minority Leader, which was held by Senator James Orengo. “If there was a coalition agreement, it did not say that ODM should be marginalised by the other partners just because we happen to be a minority coalition,” nominated senator Judy Pareno told Parliament in 2018.

Mr Sifuna likened the coalition’s agreement to the 1918 Treaty of Versailles and declared that the party is happy to see the death of Nasa. It remains to be seen whether, like the bloody end of the Versailles Treaty, the divorce in Nasa will lead to a new order.

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