Recent ODM-Jubilee tussles reveal tenuous Handshake built on quicksand

The succession agenda shoves Uhuru in direct conflict with Raila.

In Summary

• Tuju was emphatic that “BBI is not about awarding or giving political positions to anybody”.

• This is a stinger to ODM because securing positions post-BBI is its singular agenda. To torpedo this craving is to deflate ODM. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the handshake on March 9, 2018
IS IT SLIPPING? President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the handshake on March 9, 2018

The tussles that sent signals of mistrust between Jubilee and ODM on whether or not each is committed to the BBI dominated headlines the last two weeks.

It began innocently with speculation that the delayed presentation of its report after the lapse of the task force mandate arose from disagreement within on the whether or not to recommend an executive premier.

Media minced the speculation into a divergence arising from swapping of positions between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Apparently, pressure from Uhuru's Mt Kenya backyard has forced his hand, to now prefer an executive premier yet Raila had abandoned. Others attributed the delay on the absence of Raila who was in Dubai for a surgery.


However, the skirmish is plausible, in spite of forced denials by BBI joint secretaries.

It was escalated by Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju’s rebuttal amounting to a clever ruse to placate and prepare the public for what could possibly be an Uhuru exit strategy from BBI.

In clarifying Jubilee’s position on BBI outcome as opposed to ODM’s, Tuju said its objective is to bring the country together and enhance the agenda of the President in “fighting corruption by ensuring all the persons convicted of any offence are declared unfit to hold public offices”.

ODM pays lip service to avowed BBI inclusiveness, but is certainly at pains denying an increasingly open-door policy to sanitise corruption suspects.

Tuju was emphatic that “BBI is not about awarding or giving political positions to anybody”. This is a stinger to ODM because securing positions post-BBI is its singular agenda. To torpedo this craving is to deflate ODM. To the Orange party, it amounts to Jubilee disowning the handshake.

ODM chose to do battle in Parliament, threatening to withhold handshake support, if it didn’t get plum slots. Strained anxiety wasn’t made any lesser by the acerbic Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe. He told ODM that Jubilee was doing them a “favour” by donating parliamentary leadership positions to which they are not entitled.

In retrospect Murathe was forestalling something else: Obsessed with securing positions in government and believing it’s indispensable after helping sideline DP William Ruto, ODM shouldn’t assume entitlement to arm-twist Jubilee into sharing government with them.

Murathe was reminding ODM of no-go areas where the party has over-reached, assuming to be more government than Jubilee, and now attempting to bully it.


He was prompted to issue the edict by the highhandedness of ODM Minority leader John Mbadi, demanding Majority leader Amos Kimunya reserve specific committees’ slots for the Orange party.

The altercation resulted in failure to reconstitute committees in National Assembly.

That the stalemate lasted five fruitless hours tells us how far south the bromance between Jubilee and ODM has gone. Murathe’s intrusion could also mean pouring cold water on a narrative drummed by ODM faction on eminent formation of a government of national unity before a referendum and elections in 2022.

Indeed, Jubilee let an intransigent ODM have its way, as it pondered its say.

I meant Uhuru re-examining ODM’s appointments in government by shelving an imminent reshuffle. That possibility brings us back to the question whether the handshake honeymoon isn’t over.

First, it’s Mbadi who let the cat out of the bag when he spewed out ODM characteristic suspicion that Jubilee isn’t keen on processing the BBI report.

He loudly accused Jubilee of plotting to stymie passage of BBI recommendations in Parliament by populating crucial committees with pro-Ruto thus anti-BBI legislators.

Mbadi is ODM chairman and could only have been voicing concerns of ODM's top rank. 

Second, Murathe’s word has become Uhuru’s deed though he self-effacingly speaks only as Jubilee vice chairman, a position he alleged resigned from but was reinstated to by Uhuru.

To have courage to tell-off a valued partner like ODM can only mean the latter’s sell-by date is nigh. And sure, ODM hopes were frozen when anticipated reshuffle was shelved.

Third, there’s increased open political activity in Mt Kenya under the mantra of “one man-one vote-one shilling”. There’re tell-tale signs the region is in covert search for Uhuru’s successor and 2022 candidate.

Loud denials from Peter Kenneth’s home county of Murang’a notwithstanding, he is a valued frequent invitee at Mt Kenya senior political leaders’ meetings.

That puts paid to any outsider, mainly Raila’s lingering hope of inheriting Mt Kenya vote. A subtle message is being sent: Raila will be thrown under the bus.

Which leads us to a final question; between Uhuru and Raila, who’s playing who under the handshake, and who stands to lose the most should their bromance dissipate?

Both are masters at deception and insinuations are that each “thinks” they’re playing the other, just waiting out the moment of reckoning. 

One, Uhuru needed the handshake to legitimise himself and buy peace to rule without the nuisance of an opposition.

He’s greatly succeeded in both by gaining traction as president and neutering the opposition. He’s largely achieved this by deft co-optation, lately through co-habitation agreements that will see him through the second leg of his last term. Meaning?

When ODM plays truant, he’s sitting pretty should the handshake not linger on. It won’t be the first time he’ll renege on an agreement.

Everything is looking cosier; he’s pruned Raila of allies, denying him fallback support and making him extremely dependent.

It’s reason Raila’s spooked into creating new acolytes in Western and Ukambani regions after losing Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka respectively. 

Two, Raila’s immediate gratification in the handshake was to avoid being shackled to prison after mockingly declaring himself the “peoples president” in January 2018.

Uhuru called the bluff on Raila’s ruse meant to bait him to the negotiating table that Nasa was calling for. He let Raila have his say at Uhuru Park, then in the same fashion he’s dealt with Ruto, turned to the “Deep State” to take care of the rest.

Anticipating treason charges and incarceration, his acolytes denied livelihoods and the West threatening travel bans, Raila deployed shadow diplomacy for backroom negotiations that led to the handshake.

Exposed, he had no option but play coy hoping to engineer a comeback by setting up insurgency within Jubilee. He has succeeded in jettisoning Ruto and his reward will be when the DP walks away from Jubilee.

But he’s another shocker coming, thinking he’s become indispensable to the extent of holding Uhuru at ransom.

The President has covered his flanks by signing post-2017 partnerships with the likes of Kanu, Wiper and Chama cha Mashinani, at the same time solidifying Jubilee troops behind him in case Raila attempts a putsch. 

Three, the BBI agenda was an afterthought for public consumption after the immediate needs of the two were satiated.

However, Raila has sought to milk the BBI for political and commercial mileage. One strand is that securing appointments for supporters will augment an election war chest.

The expectation is that having helped Uhuru, Mt Kenya “Deep State” will reciprocate this support in 2022. But will Raila get this craving?

It may be too soon to hazard a guess but a likely rapture – the kind that happened with Mwai Kibaki - is in the offing.

It will result in the two fronting proxy candidates against each other in 2022. That means Raila won’t run and Uhuru would’ve succeeded in “retiring” him.

The succession agenda shoves Uhuru in direct conflict with Raila, who’s bidding his time hoping the lucky number will fall into place. Clearly, the handshake has gone through long nights of scheming, yet its dawn has unknown tidings for its progenitors.