What you need to know:
- UDA chairman says Ruto’s popularity is at least 40 per cent and Raila’s is 30 per cent.
- Former senator says he believes the upcoming general election is UDA’s to lose.
Politician-cum-businessman Johnson Muthama has been at the centre of Kenyan political transitions for more than two decades now. He has tasted defeat, loss and election stalemates. In this second part of the interview with the Sunday Nation, he reveals the origins of the UDA party, and why he believes Deputy President William Ruto will win the presidential ticket in August.
How did you acquire UDA, previously called PDR? As its chairman what can you say about the UDA journey so far?
This matter was simple. Where people are very sharp with open minds, they end up getting what they want and will not do anything to hurt anyone. PDR was in a coalition agreement with Jubilee. When we sat down and looked for a party, we realised it was Jubilee’s coalition partner and we said, ‘Why can we not use it?’
We tried many things with the party, the pronunciation of the name, different slogans. The ‘R’ became difficult. You cannot tell the Kambas to pronounce ‘R’; the Merus the same. We saw this would be mouthful. So, we went round and decided, United, yes, Democratic, yes, Alliance, yes, and it went well. There were several other names, but let us not delve into that now. I cannot even remember some, but we had over 30 or 40 different names.
At the recent UDA National Delegate Conference, there was that scene where the DP’s aide, Farouk Kibet, appeared a bit aggressive and to be hassling you and the party secretary general on the stage. What was going on at the moment? How powerful is Farouk that he could appear that aggressive towards top party officials?
That was totally a wrong perception. I personally sent Farouk to go and find out what time we were expecting the Deputy President (DP) to come back to the hall because that was the time he had gone to change and put on a suit.
Farouk came and the mic was there, but I could not allow him to talk at that point because the mic would pick our words, so I had to turn as he was standing behind me.
Then Veronica Maina came to brief me and a conversation happened between the three of us. When I turned to the mic, Farouk again turned and told me he had forgotten something. I was standing and it looked like we were having a commotion.
Why should there be a commotion between us? We were not sharing anything; he was not looking for a chance to speak. He was a messenger, being sent from me to the DP and from the DP to me. That is what happened.
What is the agreement at Kenya Kwanza? Who gets what? What will the DP, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Wetang’ula and others be getting exactly?
There is a Swahili film we watched called Usiniharakishe (Do not hurry me). We have just started working together and we are hardly 10 weeks old. Even a baby cannot be born in 10 weeks. We have time to come up with a structure of how we are going to work. Which coalition has given a formula on what they have agreed upon? None.
Why is it that UDA is being asked about the agreement it has made with its newfound friends? This thing cannot be hidden forever. Sooner or later, we will release it to Kenyans.
The bottom line is that in Kenya Kwanza, the vision is one: Galvanise this country and make it one, eradicate this balkanisation of ethnic groups and remove the need to know what someone’s last name means. We want a united Kenya and do away with that narrative. We want a perception and narrative that will unite Kenya.
What do you think are the DP’s chances of winning the next election?
Like I told you, in recent elections, my camp has never lost. In 2013, we (Cord) won, though the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared the Jubilee coalition the winner. The same goes for 2017.
In 2007, we (ODM-K, now Wiper) lost, but we became part of the government of that time. This time round, I believe Ruto is winning because in 2007, he supported ODM leader Raila Odinga, and we all believe Raila won. Ruto has made others win. His own efforts are seen and we want even Agwambo (Mr Odinga) to notice that.
Ruto’s popularity as a person is a least 40 per cent. UDA, being the leading party in Kenya today, will give him another 10 per cent. Then we have the likes of Mudavadi, Muthama and others from the Coast and again Ruto gets another 10 per cent. So, how can we lose this election for God’s sake?
But the other side is also organising itself and galvanising several parties to support Azimio. Raila as a person is between 25 and 30 per cent. He is below Ruto by 10 per cent. Central is about 75 per cent behind Ruto. This is just one part of the country.
All over the country, things have changed and Ruto is eating into Raila’s traditional bases, so there is no way we will lose this election.
Your camp has alleged a plot to rig the election. How will you secure your votes, and if you lose, will you accept the outcome?
You see, we created the situation that led to our wins being stolen from us in 2013 and 2017. The same mistake is what Raila is making and this time it is worse. Why? He has over 20 political parties coming together.
The coalition, I understand, allows each party to field candidates in every elective position except the presidency. So, if they go to Embakasi with seven or 14 candidates and UDA goes with one, do you need a professor of mathematics to come and do that calculation for you and see why they are losing?
All the top political leaders from Ukambani region — the three governors and the former vice president — are in Azimio. What does this say about UDA’s fortunes in Ukambani?
Let me say this, President Uhuru Kenyatta is losing popularity because his term is ending. When President Mwai Kibaki was almost leaving, who cared about even where he lived? Three months to the elections, did anyone even ever hear about Kibaki? No, people were looking at Uhuru, Raila and Kalonzo. No one cared about Kibaki.
Now, even if Uhuru tells people to pick Raila, nobody will care. If you look at Kivutha Kibwana, he is looking for something that will make him remain relevant and visible after he leaves the governor’s seat. The same goes for Mutua. They want to back someone so that when that someone is there, they will be protected from prosecution for financial crimes they have committed.
Most of them are behind Raila saying aluta continua, meaning the status quo should remain so that they enjoy the protection Mr Kenyatta has offered them.
If you look at Ngilu, she can't be re-elected because she has underperformed and squandered public resources. For me, these three are nobodies in Ukambani.
Let me talk of Kalonzo and I want this to be highlighted well. Kalonzo swore before his own people, before Kenyans, that there is no way he can deputise Raila a third time except if he is crazy. If he goes ahead to deputise Raila, all I will do is play around Ukambani the recorded speech and I will not need to add anything.
So what you are saying is UDA is strong in Ukambani?
UDA is very strong. You even saw in the opinion polls the other day. When Wiper was performing at 23 per cent, UDA was at 33 percent, while ODM was at 9.5 per cent. There was even that ward by-election in Makueni and we beat Wiper by far.
You have at one time or the other worked with Uhuru, Raila, Kalonzo and Ruto. How do you rate the four gentlemen?
Let me be candid. Let us start with Uhuru. I was his supporter in 2002 and his whip in the 10th Parliament. About work, that is not Uhuru’s business. A man to wake up and go to the office and sit and work, that is not how Uhuru is cut out.
Uhuru’s business is to be called ‘Mr President, we want this and that’, and his response is, ‘Aha, let that continue that way, that is how it should be.’ For Uhuru, there is absolutely nothing serious. Even his greetings, he can be very enthusiastic and engage you in small talk, but the moment you leave, that is the end. It won’t go beyond that point. In terms of being charming and impressive, he is number one.
Agwambo is firm. When he says right, you need a bulldozer to change him to go to the left. Secondly, he hates saying things he cannot do. Even the agreement he signed with Kalonzo, he had resisted it completely and we had to force him to sign.
Raila resisted because he knew it would never work. Now I know why. When he makes a decision, he remains with it. When it comes to work, Raila is not a person who can formulate ideas, but Agwambo beats these people on one thing: He is a good listener.
Unlike Uhuru who will say ‘yes, yes, yes’ and at the end of the day give no comments whatsoever, Agwambo is a top-class listener. He listens and eventually pinpoints issues to be revisited and once you give him that, he will never trash it.
But for him to formulate ideas and come up with something that is impressive, no. He could make a good president, but I do not know if he might change should he get power in his hands.
Another thing about Raila, everything about him is centred on people. If you tell him that there are people in Uhuru Park at 9pm or 3am who want to be addressed, he will go. That is why, from time to time, you will see Raila without any plan, driving to Burma, or somewhere else, just to meet people because he loves mixing with people.
Now, Kalonzo. I do not know how I can describe him. Let us speak the truth. Going by even what happened the other day with this Azimio coalition and the things he said, how can you describe him?
He commands no attraction for the people. If you tell people Kalonzo is around, nobody will be attracted to go there, leave alone listen to what he is saying. The impression, the structure and material are not there because if you go to his meeting, Raila, for instance, will tell what he did; he will coordinate. But my brother Kalonzo cannot do that. He is just an opportunist who found a vacuum in Ukambani leadership.
Kambas made a mistake fronting him, thinking he would come back with something and they found themselves in that deep sea they are in now—swimming with no shore in sight. But UDA is going to get them to the shore. They have got absolutely nothing from Kalonzo. Even in the areas where he has been sent to negotiate peace, you cannot point at even one where you can say he fully succeeded and people lived in peace.
The other man is Ruto. I swear by the name of the God who lives, Raila has never articulated his own policy on what he would do for this country like this man does. I have never met a presidential candidate like Ruto. I was with Moi when I was in the Kanu camp. And I was with Kibaki.
When I sat down with Ruto, we talked about how to improve the economy, and my first question was where we would get the money. He gave me his brilliant plan of raising money locally without those expensive external loans. He told me how we can improve our hospitals, roads, water systems in this country.
If Kenya wanted a president with a sharp mind, that man is William Samoei Ruto, and I say this without any fear of contradiction. This man commands what a president needs. He does not drink; he does not smoke; he is sober at 9pm and when he dreams at 4am. He is the best person in this country to articulate issues formulated from his own thinking.