Is Jubilee trying to clip Former Prime Minister Raila’s wings and force him out of politics
NAIROBI, KENYA: Three months after exiting from power, anxiety is brewing over former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
His rivals are warning that his forces are regrouping and should be checked, while his backers are protesting over an alleged grand scheme to politically vanquish the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy ( CORD) leader.
Though out of the picture, pundits have — rightly or wrongly — attributed the current friction between the Senate and the Executive to the former premier. The situation is not helped by the fact that Raila is credited with constitutional reforms and that he campaigned spiritedly for a devolved system of Government.
This factor has left Jubilee Government insiders restless, with fears the current stalemate may be earning Raila political mileage and painting President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto as being half-hearted in the push for reforms. But this week Uhuru hosted all 47 governors and reassured them of his commitment to devolution.
The President’s move, which included a promise to issue the governors with diplomatic passports, special number plates and the transfer of provision of health, water, transport, agricultural, forestry, tourism and fisheries services to the counties, have raised eyebrows in some quarters.
This, coupled with conditions from Jubilee-allied MPs in the National Assembly that Raila should quit politics to access his retirement package, and the recent ugly drama at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, where he was denied access to the VIP lounge, among other episodes, has convinced his supporters that the Uhuru Government is out to clip the wings of the former PM.
Minority Deputy Leader Jakoyo Midiwo opines that the Jubilee leadership is in a panic mood and does not know how to handle Raila: “Otherwise how does one explain the suggestion that a former PM and co-President in the Coalition Government should only get a send-off penny on condition that he quits politics. What are they afraid of?” queries the Gem MP.
If indeed there is such a scheme, as claimed by Midiwo, then its executors seem to be reading from the script of political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi, who, in a recent tweet, said Uhuru should tame Raila. “Uhuru-Ruto Honeymoon is over. They should stop holding hands and deal with Raila unapologetically and decisively. The man is re-grouping!” he tweeted.
Reached for comment, Mutahi told The Standard On Sunday that Raila’s political stature was on a quick decline and advised that the Kenyatta-Ruto pair needed to move fast to vanquish the former premier politically or else risk facing a resurgent and powerful Raila in 2017.
Separately, insider sources close to the Office of President and Deputy President have hinted to The Standard On Sunday that the leadership of Jubilee Government is increasingly getting uncomfortable with the simmering revolt by senators who are united over the cash for devolution battle and have moved to the Supreme Court on whether President Uhuru acted within the law in assenting to the Division of Revenue Bill.
But Busia County Senator Amos Wako says the senators’ campaign to amend relevant clauses of the Constitution to strengthen devolution should not be politicised. “The issue that has arisen is a purely constitutional and legal one and we shall not allow anyone to make political capital out of it. Our actions are not meant to benefit any political leader or party but rather in furtherance of general interests of citizens of this country,” says the former Attorney General, who chairs the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.
According to our sources, though, the President and his deputy will be placing more emphasis on the National Assembly and the Governors’ Summit as opposed to the Senate. This makes political sense, considering the fact that Jubilee enjoys a clearer majority in the National Assembly, where the Executive also needs to cut deals and push through agenda.
Ideally, this approach slows down the CORD pair of Raila and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, considering their political strength is largely hinged on the Senate and devolution. “The interest of the Executive in the National Assembly is understandable – the need to push through their agenda. But the Executive can choose the short term gains in the National Assembly and lose out on the larger political constituency of the people by ignoring the Senate,” observes Elgeyo Marakwet Senator, Kipchumba Murkomen.
But noting that they had a fruitful meeting with the President, Machakos County Governor, Dr Alfred Mutua doubts the Executive is trying to wedge a rift between the senators and governors. “Either way, to realize the two-digit economic growth, the President has to work closely with governors, who are development executing officers on the ground. This is probably why he is keener on governors,” explains Mutua. Describing Raila as a politically strong man, Midiwo views the latest developments as “small impediments placed in Raila’s way by a people who lost the elections but trying to win legitimacy of being in power”. But Nairobi County Women Representative, Ms Rachel Shebesh, dismisses suggestions that the Jubilee Government is seeking to tame Raila.
The one-time strong ally of Raila claims the former PM is already caged. “If it is about taming, we tamed him during the General Elections, then at the Supreme Court and further by pushing through our President’s Cabinet nominees. And with our superior numbers within and outside Parliament, we shall continue to tame the CORD leadership,” says Shebesh.
Head of Political Science and Public Administration department at University of Nairobi, Dr Adams Oloo, observes that as long Raila remains on the political scene, he poses the greatest political challenge to Jubilee. “Whether they had the numbers in the last polls, which is still disputable, CORD had a better shade of a national outlook, a factor that should unsettle any Government. They will therefore do anything to get Raila thinking as to whether or not he should quit politics,” says Dr Oloo.
Separately, there is talk of a plot to charm Raila’s strongholds through football teams. Towards this end, Ruto is believed to be leading the political onslaught. Owing to Gor Mahia’s impenetrable conservative leadership, informed sources say Jubilee’s top leadership has planted candidates for the upcoming national elections of “Ingwe” club.
Shebesh is one of the candidates being fingered by some supporters. Citing lack of fervent support for the game and the club, the MP says she was approached by a group of supporters to join the leadership race. But she won’t disclose the identity of the said supporters.
“I’m not anyone’s political project in this race. On the contrary, Ingwe supporters should vote for me because being close to the Government, I stand a better chance to add value to their material and otherwise needs,” she told The Standard On Sunday.
Shebesh is gunning for one of the three positions of Club Trustees, alongside fellow politicians, Nairobi’s Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.-standardmedia.co.ke