The Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition has mooted a three-pronged assault against emerging renegades in the party, amid a continued offensive by President William Ruto’s government to lure them to his camp.
In an exclusive interview on the state of affairs in the coalition with Azimio Deputy Secretary General and National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi, the ODM Secretary of Political Affairs explained the coalition’s plans within and without the House, to maintain their unity, even as President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza intensified plot to capture opposition troops.
Mr Wandayi revealed that amid an invasion of their camp by government side, they will deploy a multi-facetted approach to defend themselves including; continued engagement with their members at all levels, balanced provision of available roles to them and above all, launch “direct engagements with the people on the ground.”
The recent implosion in the coalition had put Mr Odinga under siege, as his members continued to pledge loyalty to the government with other member parties even entering into post-election agreement with Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
Now, Mr Wandayi who by virtue of his role in the House heads the opposition troops, warns that the coalition will not sit and watch an attack within its ranks by its own members and government, but will have no option but to launch whirlwind tours to the ground and engage with the people directly.
“We shall continue to talk to the leaders and make them understand the folly of what they are being led into. More importantly, we shall continue with direct engagement with the people on the ground. Some of these elected leaders eventually follow the people.”
“They can yap and make noise here in Nairobi with false loyalty pledges but where the rubber will meet the road is where their people stand. The people are very rational, they know what is good for them and know which direction is the right one for them,” Mr Wandayi asserted.
He warned that; “That’s a caution, a piece of advice especially for first term elected leaders.”
He said that the leaders risk falling by the wayside, should they fail to get the signal from their people, especially by choosing to side with the government amid its excesses.
Mr Wandayi also explained a myriad of other issues touching on the opposition including the coalition’s legislative agenda, its future and the hope for realization of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) dream.
This is what he had to say;
Is the minority side which you lead in the House intact?
Being intact is relative. Politics is dynamic. It keeps changing every day, every hour, every moment. What is critical is that in a movement such as ours, you don’t expect not to have your lows and highs. You don’t expect not to have setbacks from time to time. There is a serious onslaught from the regime that is in power on our coalition. Cannibalizing our numbers and dividing us and therefore those within our ranks who are not strong enough fall prey to these machinations. Sometimes that is what results in discordance or differences in opinion. However, differences in opinion is a normal thing more so if it’s based on principles and ideologies. The key thing is that whenever we have got differences, we resolve them through our own internal mechanisms. So I can’t say that it is smooth sailing through and through. There are hiccups here and there which are expected in a movement as big as ours. Therefore, we are fairly intact.
Does it concern you that your members are pledging loyalty to the Kenya Kwanza government?
It depends on how one would want to look at it. There is still this misconception that as a political leader who is elected at a whatever level, you need to be seen to be close to those who are in the executive to get what they are referring to as development to your people. It is a fallacy in the sense that even those who are already inside the so called government, party or coalition that has formed government are dissatisfied with some of its pronouncements (Like on GMO) and their expectations are not being met. So what makes you think that you, coming from outside and joining them, you will be better served than those who are already there – the founders? The government which is elected by the people, be it at the national or county level has got an obligation, a legal and moral obligation to serve every citizen and every part of the country equally. Therefore, development as it were can never be a gift. It can never be seen as some kind of carrot being dangled. It is the right of the people to have that development since they are projects that are implemented from tax payers’ money. It is more dignified to remain firm and to play the role you have been given by your people and the constitution. The constitution has given us Azimio the role to oversight the Executive and to defend the interest of the people.
Do you have fears that the dalliance between some Azimio leaders and government can interfere with opposition role in Parliament?
It just weakens the spirit of our members. Beyond that there is nothing really you can talk about. Very soon you will realise and history is on our side, that new alignments start emerging. There will be new realignments, shifts in alliances, back and forth and this will affect even the party and coalition which has formed the government. I can tell you it won’t take long. So one could be running from essentially frying pan into the fire. You could be running from your house hoping to get refuge in somebody’s house yet the house you are running to is crumbling. So it’s very possible that by the time the next elections come, we shall be having a totally different landscape, politically speaking.
Which action(s) is your coalition going to undertake to avert further fallout by your members?
We shall continue to talk to the leaders and make them understand the folly of what they are being led into. More importantly, we shall continue with direct engagement with the people on the ground.
What does the future hold for Azimio? Can the coalition stand the test of time?
It is normal and indeed expected that after an election such as the one we went through in August a political party or movement would undertake introspection - to take stock of the gains and probably losses as to inform the way forward. As a political party or coalition, we desire and intend to be able to capture power and exercise it (form government) for the good of not only our members but all other Kenyans through the implementation of our very robust and revolutionary manifesto. That is what we crave as a political movement. So missing that opportunity once or twice does not mean the end of the road. We must focus ahead with a singular objective of capturing State power not just for our own selfish interest but for the good of the nation. As I said that politics is dynamic, political movements continue to evolve and it maybe that in the next electoral cycle, our movement shall have evolved into something else but the objectives and principles underpinning our existence – philosophy remains the same. People will join and others will leave. But the most important thing is to stay the cause.
As Azimio coalition Deputy Secretary General, how did you lose the August 9 elections?
It so happened that we didn’t take power as we hoped to for reasons that I can say could only be stories for another day. You also understand that the election was disputed vigorously by our side up to the Supreme Court. We said we respect the Supreme Court even though we do not agree with it. So the issue of how we didn’t manage to capture power can be a subject of long debate which we cannot exhaust in this particular sitting.
Do you think your presidential line up with Raila Odinga as the candidate can still suffice in 2027 election?
I don’t want to engage in speculation. 2027 is still too far away. A lot of things are going to happen between now and then. In any case we don’t even know who will be alive among us in 2027 but that doesn’t stop us from planning. Again, as I have said before, this movement is never about who is leading or who is running for president but about the objectives and wider vision of the movement.
Are there plans by your coalition to revive BBI which it held passionately before it was shattered by the courts?
It’s not a question of BBI but simply the issue of what was in the BBI. In my view, BBI by any other name is still relevant and desirable. It might not come back in the name of BBI but those issues that were contained in the BBI are for sure going to be implemented in one way or the other. As you can see the current regime is already pushing hard for the CSs to be allowed to come to parliament to answer questions from members. That was our proposal in the BII. We wanted to entrench it in the constitution and have part of the Cabinet appointed from the House to cure what they are trying to cure through the backdoor. In essence, they are already introducing BBI through the backdoor without necessarily accepting so. We had talked about the issue of allocations to counties being enhanced to at least 35 per cent, that has not changed. The counties require even more allocation as we move along. So basically the BBI spirit is still alive.
If that’s so, when do you plan to resuscitate it?
It may take long but in the fullness of time, the desires of the promoters of the BBI and Kenyans generally shall be attained.
Are the plans by Azimio coalition to form shadow cabinet to help it steer its opposition role still alive?
The plans are still there even though it is not within my province to make any pronouncement on the same because that is basically a matter that Azimio top leadership is seized of.
What’s your vision as the National Assembly Minority leader?
I want us to play the role of a true peoples’ watchdog and ensure we check this government from engaging in excesses. If we can do that successfully, by the end of the five-year term I will have succeeded. In terms of bills, we don’t talk about quantities. It’s about quality. We are focused on promoting those bills that better the lot of the people. Those that improve the lives of the people by creating positive impact. Our members will be fully supported by the coalition in terms of initiating legislative proposals that improve the lot of our people.
Some voices in your party feel you are one of the "blue eyed boys" for Azimio leader Raila Odinga who failed him in the August election, what's your take?
I’m not sure about the term blue-eyed boy but what I know is that I’m a faithful disciple of Raila Amollo Odinga and I have come a long way with him. I strongly believe in his ideals or those that he holds dear. I am ideologically totally aligned to him and I’m not the only one, we are many, I believe. Because as you know he is an institution. What I do is basically to play my role and make my small contribution to the cause of the movement. This movement is a very old one and it goes beyond ODM, Azimio, or our party leader. It’s a serious movement for positive change and will outlive everybody else. I feel happy and content when I make my small contribution to this movement.
They say you have risen so fast, what do you attribute this to?
I could attribute it first to God. I think its God Who has designed all these.
Secondly, I attribute it to my commitment and fidelity to the cause of the movement. So I could attribute my rise, if any, to those two factors.
Read also: Wandayi: We will keep William Ruto in check
How do you relate with the majority side in the House?
We engage constructively on issues that concern the House and those of mutual interest to Kenyans.
Opposition troops have been accused of dallying with government when it comes to bills that touch on welfare of MPs, what’s your take on this?
I can’t say so because so far there is no bill which has been tabled on the floor of the House that has received bipartisan support. Save for the proposal on the amendment of the constitution to entrench the CDF which is yet to be concretised or condensed into a Bill. So I’ll be pre-empting. But as I have said, we are open to engage constructively on issues that are of benefit to the people of Kenya. Anything else that we feel is contrary to the aspirations and the wishes of the people, we shall oppose vigorously including latest policy pronouncement by Cabinet on importation of GMO maize while farmers are languishing in poverty. We shall differ profusely and shall oppose totally regardless of who is promoting them.
Can you rate your performance as minority leader thus far?
It’s difficult to rate one’s own performance because you may end up being subjective. I think we have steered the coalition fairly well so far amidst the turbulence that has been orchestrated by the ruling regime. We continue to form ourselves as a team, bond and know each other since we have got many members in the House and have remained steadfast in terms of putting in check the government/executive. The future can only be bright and we still have immense opportunities to do more.
What's your parting shot?
It is our cardinal duty as patriotic Kenyans regardless of our political affiliations to safeguard the democratic gains that this country realized through years of struggle, sweat and pain and to work tirelessly towards entrenching true democracy in our country to ensure that leadership at whatever level remains accountable. That is the key to our future as a country.