Raila,Waiguru new-found unity sets tongues wagging
The new-found relationship between former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru is a typical case of foes-turned-friends.
It’s also testimony to the saying that there are no permanent enemies in politics, but permanent interests.
Waiguru, who in 2015 fell out with the Opposition chief, leading to her resignation as Devolution Cabinet Secretary, has found her way into the former premier’s inner circle and currently features prominently in his list of critical allies.
The two have developed a strong political bond, which has triggered debate whether Waiguru is among key figures likely to form a political alliance with Raila ahead of the 2022 polls.
Not only did Raila attend her wedding, Waiguru was among Jubilee leaders who last week trooped to Kibra to campaign for Raila’s party candidate Imran Okoth, who eventually won the by-election. In her speech, she heaped praises on a man whose name she once dreaded.
“Today I am here (in Kibra) because of the much respect that I have for Baba Honourable, Excellency Raila Amollo Odinga. And that respect is because of the Handshake between him and Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta,” Waiguru said and asked Kibra people to stand with Raila.
She was referring to the March 9, 2018 political truce between President Kenyatta and Raila whose outcome would be captured in the much-awaited Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report. Waiguru was presented as the chief guest at the Kibra rally.
Yesterday, Waiguru defended her relationship with Raila, saying they were on the same side of a critical national agenda; the Handshake and Building Bridges Initiative.
“On our renewed relationship, you must remember that about a year ago, after the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, Raila Odinga and I had a meeting and agreed to let bygones be bygones. You noticed he even attended my wedding. Essentially, whatever animosity that was there in the past is buried,” she told People Daily.
Though she said it was early to talk about political alliances, Waiguru did not rule out future political deals with the ODM leader. “We will see what our working together will produce in good time,” she said.
Raila almost single-handedly forced Waiguru to quit as Devolution Cabinet Secretary after a sustained onslaught on her alleged role in the loss of cash at the National Youth Service, which fell under her ministry. Raila and his Orange Democratic Movement party accused her of presiding over a corrupt ministry. This was after it emerged that close to Sh1 billion had been looted from NYS in fraudulent tenders. “The (Devolution) ministry is under investigations. Waiguru should step aside to facilitate investigations,” declared Raila in July, 2015.
The former premier had accused the President of according Waiguru preferential treatment after she was spared as other ministers were suspended over graft.
Raila marshalled his troops, led by ODM party chairman John Mbadi and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, to push for her resignation or sacking by the President who had remained steadfast in his support for her. But Raila’s push saw Waiguru, who was then regarded as President Kenyatta’s best performing CS, quit on November 21, 2015.
She cited her “doctor’s advice” as the main reason for resigning and requested the President to assign her “lighter duties”.
But two months before she quit, Waiguru had filed a defamation suit against Raila, demanding an apology for alleged defamation. The suit only served to worsen their relationship, with Raila telling the High Court he would be asking the judge to consider inviting President Kenyatta “as his testimony will clear out the dispute between him and the former CS”.
Yesterday, Raila’s spokesman Denis Onyango said the two buried the hatchet last year when they “ended whatever issues they had against each other through a Handshake”. “The two shook hands and whatever misgivings, he (Raila) had about her, he agreed to leave them to the judicial process. The rest (political unity) falls into that (reconciliation),” Onyango said.
But it’s the happenings at the Kibra by-election that displayed the depth of their newfound friendship.
ODM chairman Mbadi says that, being a staunch supporter of the President, Waiguru, who he described as a “fairly intelligent lady”, was bound to work with Raila.
“Waiguru is a supporter of Uhuru and she has never wasted time to say it. And with Raila working with Uhuru, she is working with the former Prime Minister as part of that commitment,” said the MP who is also the Minority Leader in Parliament. Waiguru had initially warmed up to Deputy President William Ruto but quickly changed tune after the Uhuru-Raila pact.
Her latest political move has put her on a collision course with MPs from the Mt Kenya region who support Ruto.
Observers think the governor is positioning herself for a significant role in Mt Kenya politics after President Kenyatta’s exit in 2022. Limuru MP Peter Mwathi said Raila and Waiguru could be courting a future political alliance. “There are no permanent enemies in politics. It’s about political interests. They (Raila and Waiguru) could be working on new political alignments,” Mwathi said. Yesterday, however, Waiguru said it was too early to discuss new political alliances.
“The people will decide who they want to push their agenda on the basis of many factors including competence, capacity, courage and general acceptability,” she explained. Kisumu Woman Rep Rosa Buyu said the unity between Raila and Waiguru might not necessary deliver votes to the former Prime Minister’s side, but was highly symbolic. The relationship, said Buyu, cements the narrative that enmity in politics never lasts. “Waiguru was a great fighter and protector of the other side which we were against while Raila was the kingpin of our side. The fact that the two are (now) working together shows that there should be no enemy in politics, thanks to the Handshake,” said Buyu, a member of the Waiguru-led Embrace Team of women parliamentarians that support the Handshake.
Political scientist Dr Obuya Bagaka thinks the Raila-Waiguru friendship was strategic and futuristic, but one that is also driven by “politics of survival”.
According to Bagaka, who is also a governance expert, Waiguru may be keen to be in good books with a possible in-coming government to avert the “revival of the NYS ghost” which is still unsettled.
“Being friends with Raila, who is working with the President, puts her at a lofty position as a defender of the interests of the Kikuyu community and, therefore, when it comes to (power) negations, she will definitely be on the high table in 2022,” Dr Bagaka said. Her presence in Kibra presented her with a good opportunity to illustrate that she was not anti-Raila.
However, the governor’s critics such as Kirinyaga Woman Rep Wangui Ngirichi, think that Waiguru is up to something sinister. “Everything that Waiguru does is very suspicious. Even this one (her unity with Raila) is suspicious,” Wangui, who is associated with Ruto’s Tanga Tanga team, said.