SUCCESSION POLITICS HOTS UP

Uhuru's tough task of uniting Raila, One Kenya Alliance

ODM leader, OKA trying to outdo each other to get President's attention in a bid to succeed him next year

In Summary
  • Both ODM leader Raila Odinga and One Kenya Alliance are all outdoing each other to get the attention of the President as they separately push to succeed him in next year’s polls.
  • There has been a split among Uhuru's men on whom to back for the top job. 
Nasa coalition principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang'ula, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga during a rally at the Masinde Muliro grounds in Huruma on March 24, 2017
CAMPAIGNS: Nasa coalition principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang'ula, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga during a rally at the Masinde Muliro grounds in Huruma on March 24, 2017
Image: JACK OWUOR

President Uhuru Kenyatta is on the horns of a dilemma on how to navigate his succession politics as two competing teams in his camp jostle for his attention.

Both ODM leader Raila Odinga and One Kenya Alliance are trying to outdo each other to get the attention of the President as they separately push to succeed him in next year’s polls. OKA brings together party leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya).

On his Nyanza tour, Uhuru twice gave signals that he wants Raila in his 2022 succession matrix but tactically avoided declaring 'Raila Tosha'.

On Sunday, Uhuru said his deal with Raila is a long-term arrangement that will “go into the future”. 

The head of state repeated the statement in his written speech at the Madaraka Day fete, which analysts say was loaded with political symbolism.

“I want to say here today that whatever the future holds, I look forward to working with him (Raila) and all Kenyan leaders and Kenyans to build a better, brighter, more united and prosperous Kenya, East Africa and Africa,” Uhuru said amidst applause from the audience.

"Thank you Jakom (chairman) and all the other leaders."

This is the first time the President has come close to speaking about his future plans with Raila as he retires in 14 months.

There has been a split among Uhuru's men on whom to back for the top job. 

Sources close to State House, however, said Uhuru wants OKA to work with Raila and form a formidable team against Deputy President William Ruto.

Apart from Moi, the other three OKA leaders joined forces with Raila in 2017 in the now moribund Nasa to face off against Uhuru’s Jubilee team.

It is largely viewed that one coalition with a joint presidential candidate—enjoying the backing of Uhuru—is the most potent political formation that could easily vanquish Ruto.

However, the OKA team is playing tough, with each principal insisting he will be on the ballot. Other than Moi who visited Raila in Kisumu on Tuesday, the other OKA chiefs remain hostile to ODM. 

In April, Moi had also visited Raila alongside Uhuru's younger brother Muhoho Kenyatta. 

Speaking at the home of Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba on Monday, Mudavadi appeared to rule out supporting another Raila candidacy declaring he will not play second fiddle in next year’s polls.

“After my candidature in 2013 when I was position three, so many people accused me of not being a team player and not supportive. I gave them a chance in 2017, but we are still in the opposition,” Mudavadi said on Monday.

“This time we are going to face off against each other squarely. I won’t leave anything to chance,” he added.

His close ally, Lugari MP Ayub Savula told the Star that even if Raila was to rejoin the Nasa coalition, he will have no option but to support their candidate. 

The ANC lawmaker said Raila has had his chances and it is time to support another candidate.

"We have just amended our party constitution and has been accepted by the Registrar of Political Parties.  The changes make Mudavadi the automatic presidential candidate.  If he will change his mind, then National Governing Council will sit and ratify that. Mudavadi is now tied to a binding resolution," he told the Star.

Yesterday, Kalonzo’s Wiper party reiterated the same hardline, expressing unwillingness to compromise for the ODM leader whom they said cannot be trusted.

Wiper executive director Jared Siso told the Star that past experience with the opposition chief cannot allow them to enter into any coalition with him ahead of the high-stakes 2022 polls.

Siso said Wiper will be cautious with any political deal with ODM after what they went through in the Nasa coalition, which now remains alive only on paper.

“You cannot have an existing agreement then when it comes to the issue of political funding you take it yourself and then you come back and want the same people to sit with you, deliberate with you and expect them to trust you. You must be living out of the world,” Siso said.

The Wiper official said betrayal in Nasa will be a major hindrance to any coalition formation, especially with Wiper.

“As to whether we can work together, everything is possible in politics, but we must be made to understand how to trust Raila,” he said.

“At the moment we are engaging with the affiliates of the OKA. As you all know we have a coalition agreement called Nasa that is alive on paper.”

But unapologetic ODM has maintained they are treating OKA as their competitors in 2022 ruling out possibility of any truce.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna yesterday told the Star that OKA has demonstrated through their actions that the Raila-led party is their common enemy, adding that the Orange party is also treating them as such.

“We have no doubt in our mind that the One Kenya Alliance is going to be our competitors in 2022. They have proved it in various by-elections and in their pronouncements,” Sifuna said on the phone.

“They (OKA) fielded a candidate in Kibra, in the recent by-election in Bonchari they threw their weight behind the Jubilee candidate against the ODM candidate. So these are not people we view as partners, these are competitors.”

Raila has been supportive of Uhuru’s administration since the historic March 9, 2018 handshake and a number of the President's men have declared he is the best choice to succeed him. 

On Tuesday during Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu, the President was full of praise for the former Prime Minister, revealing how Raila sacrificed his personal gain for the larger national good.

Some of Uhuru men have, however, been vouching for OKA, arguing that unlike Raila’s candidacy, it could easily sell in Mt Kenya, the vote-rich region that is perceived to harbour reservation against the ODM boss. 

-Edited by SKanyara