Hidden forces behind Raila-Kalonzo Nasa deal revealed
The people who played a quiet but key role in the Opposition deal that brought together five political heavyweights under the National Super Alliance (Nasa) signed on Thursday can now be revealed.
They comprise strategists, top constitutional lawyers, political and business operatives.
There’s also talk that international experts experienced in coalition building may have offered advice.
Controversial businessman and political operative Jimmy Wanjigi is said to have been at the center of the negotiations that saw ODM leader Raila Odinga named Nasa presidential candidate, the Sunday Nation can reveal.
This came as it emerged that the influential individuals were pulling strings behind the scenes away from the public glare even as technical and political teams representing the affiliate parties worked to recommend the most suitable candidates and power-sharing scenarios.
In an ironic twist of fate, Mr Wanjigi was one of the people credited with midwifing the Jubilee Coalition that brought together Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance party and Mr William Ruto’s United Republican Party ahead of the 2013 elections, but now finds himself in the opposition camp less than four months to the General Election.
TNA and URP have since dissolved and merged with others to form the Jubilee Party.
Not known to hog the limelight despite his name being mentioned in various controversies, the businessman, who had an acrimonious fallout with the Jubilee government at its formative stages, attended the unveiling of the Nasa line-up at Uhuru Park on Thursday to prove his support.
He was even captured on camera occasionally walking to where Mr Odinga, his running mate Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and other principals were seated to consult them.
In his autobiography, Against All Odds, Mr Musyoka, the Wiper leader, writes of a tension-gripped night meeting in his Karen home attended by Mr Wanjigi, in which Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto pushed him out of the Jubilee coalition.
Mr Musyoka says the two had initially made him believe he would be the government backed candidate in the 2013 polls.
Those close to Mr Wanjigi say he believes that throwing his weight behind Nasa could be decisive.
Together with parties led by Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka, Nasa comprises ANC under Mr Musalia Mudavadi who will be named premier cabinet secretary in the power-sharing structure should the opposition win.
Mr Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani will be Mr Mudavadi’s deputies in the event of victory.
Apart from Mr Wanjigi, we have also established that two renowned law professors from Ukambani were instrumental in having Mr Musyoka put pen to paper to a deal that could redraw the country’s political architecture.
Law scholar, Prof Makau Mutua and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana were said to have been instrumental in convincing Mr Musyoka to commit to supporting Mr Odinga as the Nasa candidate for a second time after the failed bid in 2013.
“As a Kenyan, I tend to be helpful. There is no way Jubilee can recapture power in August.
“All the odds are against them. The reign of tyranny will be brought to a merciful end,” Prof Mutua told the Sunday Nation yesterday when asked about his role.
The New York-based academic is in the country enroute to Pretoria tomorrow and has never hidden his dislike for the current administration.
The Sunday Nation established that during the negotiations, the two professors, who were not part of the official negotiating team, advised that Mr Musyoka should remain in Nasa and not go it alone.
The former vice-president came third in the 2007 elections after parting ways with Mr Odinga.
They all belonged to ODM-K then but differed on who between them would fly the party’s flag in the elections that saw Mr Mwai Kibaki controversially declared winner.
The implication of joining President Kenyatta’s Jubilee was another route the professors and Mr Musyoka toyed with but the crowded line-up therein dissuaded them since Jubilee has a succession game plan that favours DP Ruto until 2022. Mr Musyoka will be 79 then.
In Nasa, the least they were going to get, according to our source, would be the number two slot given he was the fulcrum in the negotiations on pairing of each of the Pentagon members.
Mr Odinga also committed to be a one-term president.
A source at the center of the talks intimated that “The Kalonzo Question”, as it became known in the context of Nasa talks, presented the trickiest challenge given the overwhelming pressure from his lieutenants-turned-critics such as National Assembly Minority Leader Francis Nyenze that it was either their man is named the flag-bearer or they would bolt out of the coalition.
Though elected on a Muungano Party ticket in 2013, Prof Kibwana is said to command immense respect from the Wiper leader in what has lately culminated in the former supporting the county chief’s re-election bid amid opposition from other would-be contenders.
Lawyer Paul Mwangi, who headed the committee of experts on Okoa Kenya initiative by the opposition, which was meant to force a referendum on the Constitution, is said to have had much input on Mr Odinga’s side in the talks.
He declined to directly comment about the talks.
But asked about his role on the last day of the talks ahead of the Uhuru Park rally on Thursday, he curtly said: “I only escorted the party leader to Sankara for lunch.”
The choice of the hotel in Nairobi’s Westlands for the final meeting has also triggered speculation on whether or not former Attorney-General Charles Njonjo, who is associated with the facility, might have played a silent role.
Most of those who were waiting for the principals had been led to believe they were at Serena Hotel, near Uhuru Park.
Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli is also credited with ensuring Luhya unity by installing Mr Mudavadi as the community’s spokesman, something seen as having played a key role in the negotiations despite initial resistance by Mr Wetang’ula, the Bungoma Senator.
Other figures, some sitting in the technical committee, but whose closeness with various party leaders helped break the impasse, included Siaya Senator James Orengo, Dr Eseli Simiyu, Dr Mutakha Kangu, Dr David Ndii and Lawyer Dan Ameyo.
It also emerged that the location and agreements of some sessions in the tail-end of the talks were so secretive that, up until the morning of D-Day on Thursday, a majority of those close to the five politicians had no clue about the eventual line-up.
IN THE DARK
Some of the negotiations were also said to have been held at a “safe house” in Karen that was not owned by any of the principals – to avoid giving undue advantage.
On Friday, Mr Kalonzo’s allies – Mr Nyenze and Kitui Senator David Musila – complained they were kept in the dark on the picking of the flag-bearer.
A senior handler of one of the principals from Western Kenya confessed that he could not answer to inquiries about progress on the delicate talks and venue, not because he was out to protect the integrity of the process, but because he did not know.
This, several sources said, was to avoid infiltration by intelligence officials.
At one point, the negotiations were said to have stalled after Wiper accused ODM, led by secretary-general Agnes Zani, of leaking a draft report indicating Mr Odinga was the candidate with Mr Musyoka as running mate.
Mr Nyenze further made a bad situation worse by insisting it was either Mr Musyoka as the flag-bearer or Nasa would break up.
Those privy to the negotiations also say they were punctuated with overwhelming timeouts to give each of the principals a chance to consult their confidantes who were not in the negotiation room before endorsing any watershed decisions.
Because of the intense standoff on who between Mr Musyoka and Mr Odinga would lead the troops to the elections, after Mr Mudavadi settled for the premier cabinet CS slot, the summit, at some point, considered Mr Ruto, the Bomet Governor, to be the compromise candidate.
But the compelling argument that the move would occasion voter apathy in some of the traditional opposition bases saw it dropped.
“Karibu ata tushikane mashati katika harakati ya kuamua ni nani angepeperusha bendera yetu (We almost went for each other’s jugular when haggling over the candidate),” Mr Mudavadi told supporters at Uhuru Park.
To illustrate how tough agreeing on the lineup was, Mr Odinga would also say, “We were meeting through the night to morning every day.”