Revealed: Uhuru’s Jubilee Party want Raila in 2027 ballot
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s close allies have stoked a fresh controversy in the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party by disclosing plans to front Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga for a sixth presidential run in 2027, vexing Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his camp.
Jubilee Party Vice-Chairman David Murathe and Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni told the Sunday Nation that Mr Odinga remains the coalition’s preferred candidate going into the next election, a pronouncement that has unsettled important alliance partners planning to gun for the seat.
The development in the opposition coalition could spell doom for the political ambitions of Mr Musyoka, Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) leader Eugene Wamalwa and ODM Deputy Party Leader Wycliffe Oparanya.
The three have declared intention to contest the presidency and are banking on Mr Odinga’s backing.
The Sunday Nation has learnt of plans to name Mr Musyoka the ODM chief’s running mate and Ms Martha Karua as Azimio deputy party leaders in the succession arithmetic as Mr Kenyatta resigns as the coalition council chairman.
Mr Oparanya, who is the National Coalition Executive Council (NCEC) chairman, could be named as the coalition party chairman.
Sources in the alliance say Mr Musyoka is pushing Mr Odinga to take up Mr Kenyatta’s council chairmanship role so that the Wiper leader can become the party supremo.
By assuming the coalition’s leadership position, Mr Musyoka hopes to be the automatic presidential candidate in 2027.
But politicians in Mr Odinga’s inner circle have rejected the proposal, saying he remains the party leader and 2027 presidential candidate, unless the ODM boss opts out of the presidential contest.
Should he challenge President William Ruto in 2027, Mr Odinga would be aged 82.
Mr Odinga has launched an anti-government crusade, which he says will involve holding consultative forums across the country.
The meetings are seen as part of a scheme by the ODM boss to keep his support base from encroachment by President William Ruto and other political players.
Some of Mr Odinga’s allies yesterday opted not to comment on the plan, saying it is likely to cause “unnecessary animosity many years to the election”.
But Mr Musyoka’s camp was not as restrained, saying it would not allow “provocation” by partners, and cautioning that fronting Mr Odinga would result in another loss.
Mr Murathe told the Sunday Nation of the coalition’s plan to strengthen the partner parties in readiness for the next battle.
He added that Dr Ruto is likely to lose the Mt Kenya vote if he fails to deliver on his many campaign promises.
Mr Murathe said Mr Kenyatta lost the grip of the region because of policies that hurt trade, including the crackdown on counterfeit goods.
He said businesses were already hurting due to punitive taxes.
The Jubilee chairman said in the event of such a fallout, Mr Odinga would easily beat President Ruto since they enjoy a near-equal support base.
“For now, a lot will depend on the party leader, Raila Odinga. If he decides to run, some of us will support him. But if he throws his weight behind another person, we will all follow. We will be looking up to him to provide leadership and guidance in the next dispensation,” Mr Murathe said.
“In the absence of anybody else coming forward, he remains our candidate. It is the question of who can tilt the scales in their favour. And, as it is right now, it is only Raila who can do that because there will be a lot of disaffection (against Ruto in Mt Kenya).”
Mr Kioni, on the other hand, said Azimio la Umoja One Kenya politicians interested in the presidency in 2027 are free to declare that but insisted that Mr Odinga remains Jubilee’s choice.
“Certainly, there will be more people announcing their intentions to run in 2027. Mr Wamalwa and others wanting to run does not take away the fact that Raila remains our preferred presidential candidate,” the former Ndaragwa MP said.
The Jubilee secretary-general, however, added that coalition leaders have not sat down to make a final decision on the succession plan, including deciding on the new party structure.
“The coalition succession is among the issues that should be mentioned by the party leader. I am not privy to any decision made as I have not sat in any such meeting. But you will start witnessing a lot of activities from January,” Mr Kioni added.
Last month, Mr Musyoka said he had secured the backing of Mr Odinga for his 2027 presidential bid.
He said his only challenger in the race would be Dr Ruto.
“I have seen it all and we should remain steadfast. This time round, there is nothing to stop Kalonzo from becoming the president of Kenya. Ruto is the only obstacle and he knows it,” the Wiper chief said.
His party yesterday warned Azimio la Umoja One Kenya against making “another blunder” by fronting Mr Odinga as the presidential candidate in 2027.
“You all know what the results would be if Raila is the candidate. It has not worked five times. Wiper is not going to beg anyone because we are a force to reckon with. We don’t want to be provoked again,” Wiper Party Deputy Secretary-General and Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo told the Sunday Nation.
Mr Maanzo dismissed the Odinga presidency drive, saying it is out of lack of understanding of the country’s political terrain.
“Everyone is free to do what they want but the question is the outcome. The mess in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance is because of people like Murathe. They could not even deliver Mt Kenya. We delivered Machakos, Kitui and Makueni,” he said.
Wiper, Mr Maanzo added, is waiting for the coalition to call for a meeting to discuss the succession plan.
Last week, Mr Wamalwa said he would be seeking to challenge President Ruto come the next election.
His DAP-K party also insisted on remaining in Azimio but rooting for his candidacy.
“It is the position of the party that Eugene Wamalwa is our candidate but we are still working under Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition. We will have discussions when the right time comes. For now, our candidate remains Mr Wamalwa,” said DAP-K Secretary General Eseli Simiyu.
Surprisingly, DAP-K Deputy Party Leader and Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula said he would support President Ruto’s re-election in 2027.
Mr Savula said there is no chance of an opposition candidate beating Dr Ruto.
He told Mr Odinga not to run as it would be an “embarrassing defeat”.
“I am in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya but will work with President Ruto. Because of his age, Raila will be weak politically. More than three-quarters of voters in the next election are not in touch with his reform credentials. Raila has been overtaken by events,” Mr Savula said.
“The opposition has to reorganise itself but beating Ruto would still be impossible. There is no serious politician in the opposition that can do that.”
Mr Oparanya recently said he would not support Mr Odinga for the presidency again.
The former Kakamega governor instead wants the ODM leader to back him for the top seat.
Contacted, Nominated MP and ODM Chairman John Mbadi said the 2027 presidential election talk is unnecessary.
He added that a majority of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya supporters have not recovered from the August 9 presidential election loss.
According to Mr Mbadi, focus should be on evaluating the coalition’s performance on August 9 and establish why it lost “despite fronting a credible candidate and mounting a serious campaign”.
“It is too early to talk about who becomes Azimio presidential candidate in 2027. The discussion should be what went wrong with our campaigns. We have to ask ourselves why we lost,” he said.
“Those talking about 2027 are enemies of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition because supporters are yet to heal from the loss.”
Below are excerpts of the interview with Mr Murathe
Q: Former President Uhuru Kenyatta is to resign from Azimio leadership. What is the succession plan?
I still don’t know how they will agree. They might say that Raila remains the party leader and have two deputies – maybe Kalonzo and Karua. Then, of course, the structure will have the National Coalition Executive Council, which has Oparanya as chairman and the rest of us in other positions.
The whole idea is about Azimio strengthening the bond of partner parties. For now, it is precarious. A lot of people are talking about being shortchanged in the coalition in terms of the distribution of seats in the departmental committees in the National Assembly and Senate. There is a lot of grumbling.
We are going to have a parliamentary grouping of partner parties. All these things will be discussed. There was a PG in Machakos before they went to Parliament.
Some of the things they agreed on were not implemented. We don’t want to see some people saying they will quit Azimio because they feel shortchanged and mistreated.
There is also the blame-game on who did what that led to Mr Odinga’s loss in the presidential race. What happened?
The problem in Azimio was not the question of if we were winning but a question of by how much. People slept on the job. I agree with those complaining. Our structure of agents was messy.
If you went to a region like Nyanza, the coalition was purely relying on ODM structures. Lower Eastern relied on Wiper Party. It took long to have clarity. Even Wiper threatened to leave at one point. There was haemorrhage in Mt Kenya as leaders trooped to Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance.
The ‘hustler’ narrative worked. The radicalisation of young people worked. Ruto had a whole four years to penetrate churches and they would go to the villages to preach anti-government messages.
They had an agenda of us-versus-them and the rich-versus-poor. There was rebellion against President Kenyatta in Mt Kenya. Now, the same youths are crying because mitumba taxes have gone up.
Turnout also played a part. It was suppressed in Azimio strongholds, deliberately in some instances. Then there was the feeling that we are winning anyway. It worked against us.
Did Uhuru fail to deliver?
That is relative. Raila has never got a million votes from Mt Kenya until this year. Perhaps, the expectations were high because we thought we could get 20 to 30 per cent of the region’s vote. Thirty per cent of the region’s 4.5 million votes translates to 1.2 million. May be, we missed our target by 200,000 votes.
Sometimes we wonder how we got it wrong. We thought we were carrying the people with us all along. They told us “tuko pamoja (we are together)” but did an entirely different thing at the ballot. May be, we misread the mood on the ground.
Of the seven million votes Ruto got, some 3.5 million were from Mt Kenya. That means he got the remaining 3.5 million from the rest of Kenya. Raila got 6.9 million, with a million from Mt Kenya. He had almost six million from the rest of Kenya.
If there is any attrition, if Mt Kenya were to turn, Raila would only lose a million votes. If the region turns against Ruto, he would lose half of his votes. It is a good thing but also very dicey. The only way to retain the basket is to quenching the region’s high expectations. It will be tough.
Do reports of defections and pledging of allegiance to the government threaten the survival of Jubilee in Mt Kenya?
It does not. That is why we encourage those who want to leave to do so. Some people outside there who are not household names will take their place. I assure you that when we restructure Jubilee, those gaps will be filled quickly. There are many people who are dissatisfied with the way things are looking already. It is their democratic right to choose where they want to belong. But all those have reasons.
Kanini Kega is saying that our Azimio people did not vote for him for the East African Legislative Assembly seat. I have had this conversation with Kega.
How will Azimio navigate around the 2027 presidential contest so that it does not come out divided?
We will deal with that when we get there. For now, a lot will depend on the party leader, Raila Odinga. If he decides to run again, some of us will support him. But if he decides to support somebody else, we will follow. He is the leader. We will be looking up to him to provide leadership and the guidance in the next dispensation.
What is the general feeling among affiliate parties on Raila Odinga gunning for the presidency again? Has it been discussed?
I don’t think it has been discussed. To say he is the party leader does not necessarily mean he is the 2027 presidential candidate. But in the absence of anybody else coming forward, he still remains a candidate unless he decides to throw his weight behind somebody else. Until he has stepped aside or something, he still remains our candidate. If Ruto and Parliament agree on the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition, it is Raila who will be there.
If for some reason, the government falls, the Leader of the Opposition takes over. When you get to that point, it means you are carrying more of the country than the other side.
Whether the August 9 election was stolen or otherwise, it ended up 50/50. Each of the sides has half of the country. It is the question of who can tilt the scales in their favour. As is the case currently, only Raila can do that because of disaffection.
If they don’t meet the expectations of these people , there will be a lot of disaffection. The honeymoon will be over very soon.
For now, they are hurting. They are feeling it but can’t say anything. Everything is headed in the wrong direction.
We can see a return to those days in which we have to call them out early enough. If we don’t, they will entrench themselves.
Listen to some of those suggestions they are making, including amending the country’s Constitution. Those are flying kites to taste the waters.
If people agree with such suggestions and if they are not discussed across the board and agreed on, even the presidential term limits will be removed. You know, some of these people are students of (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni.
Comment on reports of Western powers pressure, which reportedly, led to the cancellation of a parallel Jamhuri Day rally.
We don’t take our briefs from any of those fellows. We actually think they are on the other side and campaigned against us. If anything, we would actually go against them and any advice they would like to prefer to us.
By the way, the same people are also becoming apprehensive from what they can see in terms of government appointments, right from the Cabinet. People with criminal cases now hold top government positions.
How often do you consult former President Kenyatta on political issues? What do you discuss on revamping Azimio?
We talk about Jubilee, not Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition. We do everything after consulting President Kenyatta. He is still the party leader until he makes the decision to leave.
Is he concerned about some of the policy decisions taken by his successor, including reversing key programmes and projects initiated by Jubilee?
Mr Kenyatta has not commented on those issues. He has chosen not to interfere. You should not interfere with what your successor is doing. You leave everything to the people to judge.