ANXIETY

Jitters over ODM deal at heart of Jubilee tussle

Some MPs believe it would be suicidal to be associated with Raila, fear losing seats

In Summary

•Vote to remove the top officials from the Secretariat to be held at delegates conference.

•Targeted officials say only President Uhuru Kenyatta with power to remove them from office.

Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju, his ODM counterpart Edwin Sifuna,Jubilee vice chair David Murathe, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed at a Nairobi hotel on June 17.
UNSETTLED: Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju, his ODM counterpart Edwin Sifuna,Jubilee vice chair David Murathe, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed at a Nairobi hotel on June 17.
Image: HANDOUT

The looming pre-election coalition deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee and ODM is at the centre of a renewed push to overhaul the party.

The Star has established some MPs are concerned the deal that will automatically make ODM chief Raila Odinga the 2022 presidential candidate could cost them their seats.

At a meeting at the Windsor Hotel on Wednesday, some MPs complained that 'taking ODM and Raila to Central will be suicidal.'

They resolved that Uhuru should pitch tent in Mt Kenya and publicly campaign for Raila for a better buy-in.

“The President has for long sung he will come to the ground and now it is a year to elections and the ground is still hostile to him and towards Jubilee,” one lawmaker said.

A section of Jubilee MPs have, however, turned their guns on Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju and vice chairman David Murathe, accusing them of running down the party.

At a meeting at Nairobi's Windsor Hotel on Wednesday, the MPs resolved the two “have to leave the secretariat if the party is to perform in 2022".

A team of five was dispatched to make an appointment with President Kenyatta to establish if Tuju and Murathe have been running the party with his blessings.

Their mission would be to find out if the President gave word that the two negotiate a pre-election pact with Raila's ODM..

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu lifted the lid of the plot to remove the top officials in a social media post a day after a meeting where the journey to revamp the ruling party was unveiled.

“We need to get Jubilee to 2022, which is where we come in. What we have seen and learnt is that Tuju and Murathe will not get Jubilee to 2022 if left to their own devices,” Wambugu said.

However, sources near the presidency questioned how Tuju and Murathe could make coalition deals without the President’s blessing.

They described the moves as laced by “long-held tribal biases which the president has moved to undo and they (political leaders) are unhappy about".

“Ngunjiri used to be in ODM and turned against Raila. Do you think he’d be at ease if he sees the President campaigning for Raila? Why can’t they just go for the President if that is the person they are after?” the State House insider asked.

As they wait for the President’s word, the leaders have embarked on a recruitment drive to replace interim officials who decamped to Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA side in the next two weeks.

The recruitment would be conducted at the ward, constituency and county levels “to force a national delegate conference” to vote to remove the officials.

“The recruitment will be driven by different caucuses in Mt Kenya, Rift Valley, Coast and other regions where Jubilee has  presence,” a politico who was at the Windsor meeting told the Star in confidence.

“The bigger picture is so that we can force a national delegate’s conference to kick out the ones we want to be removed. We have escalated the process to end by August 30.”

Should the meeting fail to yield their desired results, the politicos plan to collect signatures and bring grounds for removal “if the President would be in the same situation as he was with former Majority leader Aden Duale".

Even so, Jubilee leaders are split on the call to remove Murathe and Tuju, somesaying it would be costly considering the short time to the elections.

Aspirants are equally uneasy with a recruitment drive spearheaded by incumbents, with MPs opposed to the move saying their colleagues are simply insecure.

Murathe was quoted in the dailies saying the Jubilee Party constitution has no provision for signature collection to remove transition officials, indicating  they can only be removed by President Kenyatta.

Tuju, in a phone interview with the Star on the issues, said, “I am in the political arena. I’d be so naïve to think that at no given time there is no scheme to remove me from office. That comes with the territory.”

He backed Murathe’s assertion saying, “There is no provision for removing us using signatures. The person who has the mandate to remove us is the party leader. If they want to collect signatures to give the party leader, they can do so and we cannot stop that.”

However, even among the MPs there is a split.

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni warned that kicking out the two officials would be counterproductive.

“Given the happenings as they are today, we should be sticking to reenergising the party, making it more vibrant without kicking anyone out,” the MP said.

He added, “I wouldn’t want a situation where we would be in a court battle that will take over our energy and not benefit the elections.”

The fresh scramble has followed a concerted bid to draw the party leadership from among members of Parliament.

Of immediate concern is why Jubilee has a chairman who is not in Parliament like other parties whose top officials are in the two houses.

In the new structure, they want the chairman's post to be reserved for Majority leader,  currently held by Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya.

Other names in the works are Murang’a Woman MP Sabina Chege, Kieni MP Kanini Kega who is bidding for secretary-general, which is Tuju's post. 

Kimunya told the Star the proposed overhaul followed concerns about the ruling party’s poor showing in various by-elections.

“We are looking forward to a stronger, vibrant party that will participate in the 2022 elections and carry forward the Jubilee vision and agenda into the future.”

(Edited by V. Graham)