PROFILE: FIRIMBI MOVEMENT FOUNDER

We could be back to the streets if handshake fails - MP Wandayi

"The current peace could be a lull before an even a worse storm should the handshake agreement collapse'

In Summary

• Ugunja MP denies opposition has gone to bed with the government, saying that they are still in opposition and only that "it is the strategy that has changed."

• Wandayi says he is convinced there is political goodwill from the top to confront the “shameless plunder of the public resources”.

Protesters run away from the police during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2016.
Protesters run away from the police during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2016.
Image: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

 The surprise rapprochement between opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta has proven transformative, turning allies into enemies and hitherto sworn enemies into loyalists.

Even as the secretly guarded deal between the two 2013 and 2017 fierce political rivals is demonised by some, as slowly but painfully driving a sharp sword through the heart of the ruling Jubilee Party, some acknowledge that the pact restored calm and de-charged political temperatures in the country. 

 

The calm is credited for giving President Kenyatta wide legroom to tour any part of the country, commission any development project, and stopped chaotic street demonstrations. But not for long, says Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi. 

Speaking to this writer in an extensive interview at his Parliament office this week, Opiyo cautioned the country that the current peace could be a lull before an even a worse storm should the handshake agreement collapse. 

"We could be back to trenches should this handshake fail to achieve its objective," the chairman of the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee said.

Wandayi was on March 31, 2016, forcibly evicted from Parliament after he defied the Speaker’s order to leave the House. He was among opposition MPs who disrupted President Kenyatta’s State of the Nation address in a chaotic session in the National Assembly.

Asked what they will use to gauge the success or failure of the handshake, Wandayi said, “... the political goodwill and commitment that has now inspired the agencies pivotal to the fight against corruption are direct fruits of the handshake.”

He said those who share Raila's ideology expect the fight against corruption to be even more vigorous.

They also anticipate a referendum proposal through the Building Bridges Initiative. 

 

“We are more than 80 per cent sure that BBI referendum is coming next year,” he said

“The wider spectrum of the progressive movement is betting on this handshake and the processes around it to yield far-reaching reforms in the country. They also expect historical injustices addressed, including the disparity in regional development in the country, among others,” Wandayi said.

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi who was thrown out of the National Assembly during President Uhuru Kenyatta's State of The Nation address, on March 31, 2016
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi who was thrown out of the National Assembly during President Uhuru Kenyatta's State of The Nation address, on March 31, 2016
Image: FILE

But the 47-year-old lawmaker only had praises for Uhuru, a man he bitterly criticised during his first term as incompetent and lethargic. In fact, to some people, his name reminds them of the chaotic session.

THE BIRTH OF FIRIMBI MOVEMENT

Besides his birthday, day of marriage and other personal dates the MP considers important in his life, this date qualifies as another special one, being the day he became the first MP to be forcibly ejected from the precincts of Parliament for an entire session in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

He was regularly notable during the countless opposition street protests that were devolved to the grassroots and were sometimes violently dispersed by the police.

Part of the opposition strategy was to be disruptive, geared towards exasperating the administration and the President. Many would remember the Madaraka Day celebrations which the opposition staged in Uhuru Park as the government held the main one in Nakuru.

"This was at the height of the clamour for dialogue between our leader and Uhuru. We felt there were a number of things that were not being done in the right way," Wandayi said.

"It is the time our soldiers were being slaughtered in foreign outposts besides run away NYS corruption scandals and insecurity in the country. among others. So we had planned that we would catch the eye of the Speaker to allow us to raise some of these issues with the President before he addressed us but the Speaker ignored us," the firm speaking MP said.

Asked why they did not seek the President’s audience through other channels, Wandayi, who is a law student at Daystar University, said he was "perfectly in line with Standing Order number one, which allows the Speaker to make discretionary decisions on matters not expressly provided for."

However, fast forward to Uhuru’s second term, the daring MP’s fortunes changed and got 'rewarded' by his Orange party for his unprecedented 'bravery' in 2016, "willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for the struggle."

Asked what they are doing differently in the era of the handshake, Opiyo dismissed the notion that the opposition has gone to bed with the government, saying that they are still in opposition and only that "it is the strategy that has changed."

" Instead of shouting in the streets, we can raise our concerns through other channels that were not available for us then. On the dialogue we demanded, my leader already had it with the president," he said. “How are how we in government yet this office (PAC chairmanship) is an opposition one?"

STRATEGIST OR EXPEDIENT?

So is Wandayi and the lot of his political class master strategists or are they expedient? 

The lawmaker does not think so.

"I was brought up in a strict Christian value system and my village upbringing instilled in me shrewd survival wisdom in face of hardship and laser-focused mindset. I'm very consistent in my leadership and political ideology," he said.

"It is only the past weekend when I was in a funeral upcountry with my party leader, Raila Odinga, and we spoke against corruption in government and in the counties. We are on record that we will support areas of convenience."

On the corruption crackdown that is increasingly appearing to aim for the high and the mighty, Wandayi said he is convinced there is political goodwill from the top to confront the “shameless plunder of the public resources”.

On the perception by politicians, mainly those in Deputy President William Ruto's Jubilee camp that the anti-corruption campaign is skewed and targeted their wing, the lawmaker said, “it would be naive for anybody to think that the fight against corruption can be divorced from politics."

"Corruption is politics in itself. It is the rich and powerful political barons who use their offices, influence, and connections to siphon public funds," he added.  


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