Some of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s key allies have ditched the Jubilee Party for Raila Odinga’s ODM in what may yet tighten the National Super Alliance’s grip on its strongholds.
Kanu gave the strongest signal yet of backing NASA, in what may shred Jubilee’s strategy in the populous Rift Valley and require a whole new approach to keep the opposition at bay.
Today, opposition chief Raila will officially receive former Cabinet Minister and Kenya’s immediate former ambassador to UN-Habitat Sam Ongeri, snatching away one of JP’s most steadfast supporters.
Taking Ongeri from JP is seen as a masterstroke by ODM in helping consolidate the Gusii vote bloc that Raila’s opponents have often shared on his Nyanza turf.
“If Uhuru gets 15 per cent from this region [Gusii] he will be lucky,” Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire said yesterday.
“We are not fools anymore. The President was in Kisii, the larger Gusii, when he was looking for votes. He promised many things. To this day, there is nothing tangible. In Nyamira, there is nothing and when I say nothing it’s nothing. At the moment, he is struggling to find a hole through which he can come to look for votes.”
In the last election, Kenyatta garnered 95,596 votes in Kisii county against Raila’s 236,831. In Nyamira, he got 54,071 votes against Raila’s 121,590.
Besides Ongeri, there is Kenya’s immediate former High Commissioner to Tanzania, Chirau Mwakwere, a long-serving Cabinet minister in the Kibaki administration who was Jubilee’s point man at the Coast in the 2013 polls.
Mwakwere, who is gunning for the Kwale governor position, was yesterday received on the Kenya-Tanzania border by thousands of ODM supporters drawn from across the county after tendering his resignation as an envoy.
The former Transport minister, who was welcomed by ODM Coast strongman Hassan Joho, the Governor of Mombasa, had no kind words for the ruling party on his first day on the campaign trail.
“Jubilee will not capture even a single post in Kwale,” said Mwakwere in his first address on the Lunga Lunga border. “I want to clear the air, I have quit Jubilee and now I am with my people in NASA.”
Mwakwere sent the message that Coast remains an opposition bastion, claiming his political move “was a result of citizens’ decisions”.
“You go where your people are and that is exactly what I did. It is not because I feared Mvurya [Governor of Kwale, previously in ODM but decamped to JP] because even if he did not leave ODM I would have faced it off with him through the Wiper ticket,” he told the Star.
Yesterday, Mwakwere addressed a series of roadside rallies at Lunga Lunga town, Perani, Kanana, Ramisi, Msambweni, Ukunda and Kombani before being received by Governor Joho.
President Kenyatta had himself received a number of ODM MPs led by Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, who defected to Jubilee late last year.
But analysts have questioned the Mung’aro team’s ability to deliver the Coast vote to Jubilee after their candidate lost the Malindi parliamentary by-election in which an ODM MP was elected early in 2016.
Last week, Raila officially received Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta, boosting NASA’s presence in the titanic contest for the Maasai vote.
The pastoralist communities’ bloc is considered a swing vote by both Jubilee and opposition strategists.
Narok West MP Patrick Ntutu, who was elected on Deputy President Ruto’s now-defunct URP, also defected, to the NASA-leaning Chama Cha Mashinani of Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto.
The two Maasai counties – Narok and Kajiado – split their votes almost 50-50 between Raila and Uhuru in the 2013 presidential vote. Kenyatta led with 138,851 in Kajiado county, while Raila got 117,856.
However, in Narok, the ODM leader beat Uhuru by garnering 118,623 against the latter’s 109,413.
Former Speaker Kenneth Marende, who was given a plum job by Jubilee as Kenya Power chairman, is also gravitating back to Raila.
Marende recently held a meeting with Raila at the latter’s Bondo rural home before accompanying him to Kisumu to visit ailing Jomo Kenyatta-era Cabinet minister Joseph Otiende, now in his late 90s, at Avenue Hospital, Kisumu.
Marende is yet to declare his political direction as he promised after meeting Raila, although there is speculation he is eyeing the Nairobi senatorial seat, where NASA is yet to name a candidate.
If Marende rejoins ODM, he becomes among the highest-profile Luhya politicians that have teamed up with the opposition to unseat Uhuru.
Already, Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC has taken away many of the Western legislators who were hitherto Jubilee-leaning, among them MPs Alfred Agoi (Sabatia), Ayub Savula (Lugari), Alfred Sambu (Webuye) and Yusuf Chanzu (Vihiga).
On Saturday, Kanu gave the clearest hint yet that it may back NASA in the August 8 vote, although its boss Baringo Senator Gideon Moi has remained tight- tipped on any looming political deal.
Nominated Senator Zipporah Kittony, who has previously been critical of Kanu’s association with the opposition outfit, said, “NASA leaders should dialogue and give us only one person: The presidential seat is only one and can be held by just one person at a time. If you dialogue and agree, you will save Kenya”.
There is muted disgruntlement among some affiliate parties that folded to form the Jubilee behemoth. A group of Ford People members last week moved to court to reverse the decision to fold up the party and merge with JP.
Edward Onyancha and seven others, in an urgent application filed at the High Court on Friday February 10, want registrar of political parties Lucy Ndung’u ordered to rescind a decision dissolving Ford People, insisting the merger was unconstitutional.
Yesterday, former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile said that he remains an ardent supporter of the President but complained that the campaign team lacks the face of Kenya.
Kalembe also lamented that samll political outfits like Maendeleo Chap Chap and PNU were eating into Jubilee membership, deafeating the reason for the merger of Jubilee affiliate parties.