CORD leader Raila Odinga secretly met senators James Orengo and Johnstone Muthama to discuss emerging cracks over the opposition coalition’s presidential flag bearer.
The Standard can confirm Raila hosted Muthama (Wiper) and Orengo (ODM) on Monday night at his Karen residence in Nairobi for lengthy discussions on the controversial subject.
Sources said the meeting, which preceded Raila’s trip to Namdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, went late into the night as the leaders discussed how to avert a fallout over who would be the coalition’s presidential candidate in the August 8, 2017 General Election.
The meeting came on the back of Kalonzo’s claim that Muthama, a close ally of the Wiper party leader, is working with Orengo in an alleged scheme to block the former vice president from being picked as the coalition’s presidential candidate.
The public criticism of Muthama by Kalonzo at the weekend stoked fresh controversy in CORD where Raila, Kalonzo and Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula are tussling for the presidential ticket.
In the past, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula have separately and consistently asked Raila, who lost in 2013 to President Uhuru Kenyatta, to drop out of the race and back either of them to run in next year’s elections.
Kalonzo’s recent claim of a scheme involving his closest ally to block him and ensure Raila is crowned CORD’s presidential candidate gave the controversy a new twist. It emerged at the night meeting that Raila, Muthama and Orengo discussed the scenarios that would emerge should CORD settle on Raila or Kalonzo as a presidential candidate.
“We met and consulted on various issues including possible scenarios that would confront CORD should we have Raila or Kalonzo as the flag bearer. Elections will not be easy and we must have the best bet,” said one of the leaders at the meeting.
Yesterday, Wiper leadership met and announced the party’s National Delegates Conference (NDC) will convene on December 10 to ratify and endorse the Kalonzo’s presidential bid.
“As members of Wiper, we have said the other CORD co-principals should also support Mr Musyoka,” secretary general Hassan Omar said yesterday after a meeting of the party’s National Executive Council (NEC).
Omar also sought to downplay reports of a rift in the party over Kalonzo’s criticism of Muthama.
The Mombasa senator maintained there is nobody within the party undermining or working to sabotage the party leader in his quest to clinch the CORD presidential ticket.
“Nobody will sabotage the party leader’s quest to be CORD’s presidential flag bearer. We have explained this before and even Senator Muthama has stated clearly there is no rift,” said Mr Omar.
A section of CORD leaders have argued Raila is an instrumental figure with bigger clout in Western Kenya, Nyanza and is easier to sell in Coast than Kalonzo or Wetang’ula.
Yesterday, Orengo maintained there is enough time for consultations within the coalition and its members and leadership will settle on a candidate through consensus.
“Talks about flag bearer are on-going but we have little misunderstanding which are normal. Kalonzo is still solidly in CORD and there is nothing to worry about. The worst case scenario is that he can be number two in CORD where is he is a shareholder, wielding more stake compared to Jubilee where he cannot be either presidential candidate or running mate,” Orengo said.
Some CORD supporters have been wary of wrangles over the coalition’s tickets warning it could easily cause a split and disillusionment among voters. They say there is need to settle on a candidate way in advance to face Jubilee which has settled on President Uhuru Kenyatta who is seeking a second five-year term, with Deputy President William Ruto as running mate.
The night meeting also planned a joint coalition gathering which will address, among other issues, delays being experienced in implementing electoral road map as per new laws. Opposition leaders have cautioned that CORD would resume street protests to push for the reforms.
“CORD will not accept to participate in elections which are not free and fair,” Orengo said yesterday.