Inside Politics

How Kalonzo interests forced Ngilu off Kitui governor race

Friday, June 17th, 2022 02:40 | By
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu addresses an Azimio-One Kenya rally at Kalundu market in Kitui town on Wednesday. PD/paul mutua

Details have emerged on the deal reached between Azimio-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga and outgoing Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, which led her to drop out her reelection bid.

Insiders privy to the agreement but not authorised to speak with the media about the matter, revealed that the deal was struck to accommodate Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka back in Azimio, after he had threatened to go it alone.

Kalonzo had submitted his papers in readiness to vie for the presidential election but was coaxed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila and other Azimio leaders to drop the bid in Raila’s favour.

“When Kalonzo agreed to return to Azimio, one of the conditions was that only Wiper would be allowed to field governor candidates in the three Ukambani counties,” said the source who requested not to be named.

The demand meant that Ngilu would have to drop her gubernatorial bid in favour of the Wiper candidate; former governor Julius Malombe.

On Wednesday, Raila told a rally in Kitui that he would appoint Ngilu to a plum position in the national government. He also asked voters in the region to support Malombe; the Azimio candidate affiliated with Wiper.  Malombe will now face off at the ballot with UDA’s Jonathan Mueke, the one-time Nairobi Deputy Governor and Jubilee Party’s David Musila.

During negotiations that led Ngilu to step down, she said she would only accept Kalonzo’s demands that she drops her bid on the condition she is treated like a principal in the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition.

She also demanded that she be appointed as Health Cabinet Secretary should Raila win the presidency during the August 9 elections.

Before she could give her full consent to the agreement, she further demanded that Raila makes the arrangement public, failure to which she would ditch Azimio.

“I can tell you Ngilu made it clear she would only agree to work with Kalonzo in the same coalition if she was treated the same way as he,” the source told People Daily. “She insisted that she would only drop her bid in favour of Wiper if she was given a Cabinet position.”

Ngilu was yet to mount serious campaigns for her re-election bid because she was also among the top Azimio leaders that Raila was considering for the running mate position before he eventually settled on Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua. After the announcement, Ngilu became part of Raila’s presidential campaign team.

“Ngilu was also on the list of those being considered for the position of Deputy President because Raila was keen on ensuring that the seat would go to a woman but because of various interests, she did not make it,” added the sources.

Following the signing of the deal, multiple sources aware of the details disclosed that talks were ongoing to also prevail on Musila and Nzioka Waita of Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU), to drop their bids in favour of Wiper candidates.

Should they accept to step down, Kalonzo will re-establish himself as the kingpin of lower Eastern, a region that commands over 1.6 million votes. “Kalonzo wants all the governors to come from his party, he has made it clear and Raila has acceded to these demands,” the source said.

Reached for comment, senators Enock Wambua (Kitui) and Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni) told People Daily that Ngilu’s withdrawal from the governor’s race was expected. The duo claimed that the ground had already shifted in favour of Malombe and Ngilu’s chances of being re-elected were slim.

“All indications were that she was not defending her seat, she had not put up a single billboard or even a poster, and when she went to register her candidature with the electoral body, IEBC, she went almost secretly. The ground was so hostile and Raila simply gave her a soft landing so that she could exit Kitui politics in a dignified manner; otherwise, she was going to lose.”

Kilonzo, however, insisted that Ngilu was not promised anything. “They were just helping Ngilu save face. Things were bad for her. The ground shifted a long time ago.”

On Wednesday, Raila appeared to catch the crowds in Ngilu’s Kitui backyard by surprise when he announced that he would offer her a position in his government if he wins.

“We are taking Mama to Nairobi,” he announced at Mutha market while on a campaign stop. The announcement sparked celebration among Wiper politicians and their supporters. You will now have to choose between Malombe and Musila who are seeking the governorship,” Raila added. The two will have to also contend with Mueke.

Bigger role

Ngilu had maintained a low profile even as her opponents for the governor’s seat intensified their campaigns in the county, keeping her supporters guessing about her next move.

Observers saw this as part of the tell-tale signs that she was considering dropping out of the governorship race for a bigger role in Raila’s government.

At a public function last month, Ngilu dropped a hint that she would be pulling out of the governor’s race by stating that she was eyeing a plum position in Raila’s administration.

And as Kalonzo blew hot and cold over the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s position dangled his way by Raila, Ngilu publicly offered herself for the job, leaving her supporters wondering whether she was keen on defending her seat.

Another hint was dropped when Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana campaigned for Malombe while asking the Narc leader to take up a senior position in the national government if Azimio wins in August.

It was, however, surprising that Ngilu did not respond to Raila’s announcement during the Azimio leader’s whirlwind tours of Kitui on Wednesday.

Instead, she rallied the local community to vote overwhelmingly for Raila, saying his presidency would lower the cost of living, create employment opportunities, alleviate water scarcity and reduce insecurity in the region prone to banditry.

For more than a year, Ngilu appeared to have lost interest in county politics and opted to cast her lot with Raila’s presidential bid. Despite submitting her nomination papers to the IEBC county returning officer last week, all indications were that she was not keen on defending her seat.

Signs of her focus on a national-level office became clearer when she started delegating much of the county programmes that had been designed to politically endear her to the electorate ahead of the next elections.

For instance, by Wednesday, when Raila announced that he would “take Mama to Nairobi”, she had not printed a single poster for her campaign, let alone, branded her campaign vehicles. Since her election as Kitui governor in 2017, Ngilu has endured a hostile Wiper Party-dominated county assembly, where at some point she likened the governorship to an elevated chairmanship of a county council.

Since 2007, Ngilu has been a staunch supporter of Raila’s State House aspirations, and talk was rife that if she bows out of the Kitui race, she will be rewarded with a Cabinet appointment to join others like Wycliffe Oparanya, Hassan Joho and Peter Munya who have been promised Cabinet appointments already.

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