President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bid to unite opposition leaders to face off with his deputy William Ruto gained a new urgency after he met with One Kenya Alliance (OKA) leaders yesterday in a hastily arranged meeting.
With the President keen to manage his succession with just about 10 months left before his tenure runs out in August next year, the meeting was the third he has held with the opposition leaders since August. ODM leader Raila Odinga was, however, absent as he is on a foreign trip to Dubai. Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Cyrus Jirongo did not attend, with the former campaigning in Ngong, Kajiado County, where he continued to drum up support for his presidential quest.
The President hosted the trio of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula at State House, Nairobi, yesterday, amid reports that he whipped them to drop their bids and support Mr Odinga instead.
ANC deputy party leader and Lugari MP Ayub Savula told the Sunday Nation that the Head of State is interested in seeing the former National Super Alliance (Nasa) chiefs working together to form a formidable team which will battle it out with DP Ruto who has hit the campaign trail.
“The President is meeting the OKA leaders at State House because these are people who represent political parties, they have to consult. There is an issue of convincing and as Uhuru said before, opposition leaders have to unite because they have a common enemy but that is just an appeal, he cannot force them to support a particular person,” the Lugari MP said.
At the meeting yesterday, sources told the Sunday Nation that the President curtly told the three leaders that he was not going to sit and see them mess up his plans on the future of Kenya and insisted that they must rally behind his choice, the ODM leader.
The meeting was the third of its kind after the two that were held in Mombasa last August.
During yesterday’s meeting, besides talking to them to back Mr Odinga, the President is also reported to have complained that his counsel had been ignored and that the continued campaigning by the OKA team was causing confusion not just in the country but specifically to the former Nasa strongholds that could prove costly to his plans.
Mr Mudavadi was particularly accused of making public pronouncements in his campaigns that have suggested that the economy is dead and nothing good was happening.
Sources at the meeting said the President likened the ANC leader’s comments to what he described as DP Ruto political posturing, and warned that painting the economy in bad light would scare away investors.
Appetite for loans
The ANC leader has lately taken a hard stance on the economy, calling out President Kenyatta’s administration for its huge appetite for loans and running down the economy.
In his campaigns, he portrays himself as the only one who can save the economy. Mr Musyoka has, on the other hand, not been very vocal. In Kakamega on Friday, Mr Mudavadi suggested that some unnamed people were trying to force OKA leaders to either drop their bids or support a candidate he did not name.
While the common assumption was that he was referring to the President as the person making the calls, a source within OKA told the Sunday Nation that the target of the speech was Mr Odinga, who the alliance believes has been using the President to ask them to support him.
“The remarks were directed at Mr Odinga because we believe the President is a mere conduit of Mr Odinga’s message,” the source said without elaborating.
Further meetings with the President are planned once Mr Odinga returns with the realisation that there is little time left to craft a coalition agreement and market it before next year’s elections on August 9.
Ford Kenya deputy party leader Richard Onyonka and Kitutu Chache MP also confirmed a push to have the leaders work together in the next year’s polls.
According to Mr Onyonka, the meetings are aimed at ensuring that the OKA leaders agree on how to streamline their personal interest in anticipation of crafting a joint coalition including Mr Odinga. “OKA members do not have major disagreement on how to govern this country in case they take power but the only issue they are raising is that they had agreed with Raila before that he could support them whether he won or not,” he stated.
“The President hopes and wishes that they would agree and work together because they agree on all other outstanding issues,” Mr Onyonka added.
People close to the three leaders, particularly aides to Mr Mudavadi were, however, not happy with both the last-minute summons and its outcome. According to ANC chairman Kelvin Lunani, the invitation for the meeting was made on Thursday night, a development that disrupted the itinerary OKA had laid out for the weekend. It had planned to have road trips in Vihiga county starting in Chavakali, Majengo, Emuhaya and ending up at Luanda. This was also echoed by Mr Savula.
On Sunday, they were to be in Thika town, Kiambu County. The initial plan was for the meeting with the President to take place at 5pm on Friday.
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The OKA leaders, some of whom were already in Kisumu ahead of western tour, decided to proceed with the Friday activities hoping to travel back in time for the meeting. However, it rained in the region and delayed their arrival in the city forcing the meeting to be postponed to yesterday.
Another close ally of Mr Mudavadi complained that the last minute summons was deliberate to disrupt OKA principals’ itinerary for the benefit of Mr Odinga who has recently been campaigning in the region.
Malava MP Malulu Injendi, another ally of the ANC boss, said that the OKA leaders are angered by the manner in which Mr Kenyatta is trying to influence his succession by leaning towards a particular candidate. “It is an open and clear position that the President is campaigning for one of the presidential aspirants,” he told the Sunday Nation.
Reports by Walter Menya, Onyango K’Onyango and Ibrahim Oruko