A Friday breakfast meeting of the four Nasa principals helped calm fears of a fallout following weeks of speculation.
The meeting of Mr Raila Odinga (ODM), Mr Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) at the Karen Club in Nairobi came before a rally at the Masinde Muliro Grounds in Mathare.
This followed almost two weeks of what appeared to be infighting when Wiper Party declared Mr Musyoka had to be given the Nasa ticket.
There were also disputes on separate or joint party primaries, particularly in perceived opposition strongholds. Sources, who spoke in confidence, told the Nation in the talks closed to most of the party leaders’ aides, Mr Musyoka said he was disappointed with incessant reports he was planning to cut ties with Nasa and go it alone despite his denying allegations he secretly met President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa.
What incensed him the most, our sources indicated, was his conviction the bulk of the narrative seems to be originating from among members of the coalition and not their competitors.
Some party officials have in the past week blamed Jubilee Party and the media for fuelling the speculation on imminent fallout.
The Wiper boss is said to have assured his three colleagues he was part of the team and that they should treat with contempt any insinuations to the contrary.
It was then agreed that each of the principals would rein in their troops to avoid “friendly fire” that could prove counterproductive.
The opposition politicians are said to have committed to vigorously root for Nasa’s interests but were free to strengthen their parties before the nominations next month.
But this didn’t come without the rare admission that it was a moment of truth given the competing interests and immense pressure from their supporters for each to become the coalition’s candidate.
Wiper deputy chairman Mutula Kilonzo Junior admitted that more such exclusive meetings of the top brass were the only way to avoid cracks.
“I encourage them to hold more of such meetings, away from their allies who can be very toxic,” he said.
Kenya has a history of coalitions crumbling before elections and Nasa supporters.
With the unity question out of the way, the meeting is said to have turned its focus on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and its preparations for the August elections. It was agreed this would be a key talking point in the rally.
On Saturday, keen not to let the guard down, Mr Mudavadi could only reveal to the Nation that the talks centred on the electoral commission.
“We are concerned about the kind of flip-flopping we have witnessed on the part of electoral commission in the award of crucial tenders. We are able to read through this and the intention is to revert the country to manual voting which is susceptible to rigging,” the Amani National Congress leader said.
The commission on Friday awarded French company Safran a contract to supply the crucial electoral management system just three days after cancelling the tender that was initially poised to be awarded to Gemalto SA, another company from France.
Jubilee is, on the other hand, accusing the opposition of plotting to have the August General Election postponed.
At a news conference on Friday, Secretary-General Raphael Tuju charged that Nasa was out to interfere with the election preparation through court cases.
“They have blocked procurement of ballot papers, the audit of the voter register, the tendering for computer equipment. They also accused national intelligence service of registering foreigners as voters and claimed the duplications on the voter registration showed the system had been rigged,” he said.
On Saturday, Mr Odinga hinted that the coalition had settled on a flagbearer when addressing aspirants in Mombasa.
“You will soon see the white smoke … the black smoke you are seeing is deliberate,” he said.
A high ranking member of the coordinating committee, the political wing of the group midwifing the process alongside a technical team, seemed to reinforce sentiments of the former prime minister when he said they had indeed picked who they would front against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The committee led by Senators Johnstone Muthama (Wiper), James Orengo (ODM), MPs Eseli Simiyu (Ford-Kenya) and Sakwa Bunyasi (ANC) has scheduled at least four meetings next week starting Monday to finalise their report by next weekend.
According to the source, who indicated only the principals are allowed to authorise such a “major announcement”, the committee has since asked the top leaders to first prepare their supporters. Remarks by the politicians at the Friday rally asking their supporters to accept any formation unveiled is largely seen in this light.
“Fitina haifai Kwa Nasa (There should be no speculation in the alliance). Nasa is a team. The four of us are just symbols so this argument that if it not so and so then we will not vote should be discarded. Our primary call is to uproot Jubilee from power,” the ANC leader said at the rally held at the Masinde Muliro grounds in Mathare, Nairobi.
At the same time, the principals are exuding confidence they will beat the May 28 deadline set by the IEBC to present their presidential candidate.
“We are on schedule, there should be no cause for alarm,” Mr Mudavadi said. The quartet is reportedly aware that their opponents stand to benefit in the event of such a fallout. The ruling coalition may both want to fuel such a debate.
Minority Leader in the National Assembly and ally of the former vice-president Francis Nyenze has been the most vocal saying they will settle for nothing less than the presidency.
But he is not alone. Some ODM members are also on record as saying that if their man is not the candidate, all the regions where he has huge following will immediately become battlegrounds with Jubilee getting an opportunity to reap. While they are also pushing for their party leaders to be named the candidate, ANC and Ford-Kenya have not exhibited the kind of brinkmanship.
Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo warned of the dangers of continued accusations that their party leader was planning to chart his own political path away from the coalition.
“Even in a marriage, if you keep accusing your wife of infidelity yet she is innocent, she may feel insulted to the extent of choosing to go that route. Of course it will not be a good thing but who do you blame?” the lawmaker said.