Ruto in plot to isolate Raila by raiding Azimio
President William Ruto appears to have adopted a systematic approach to weaken the Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga within and outside Parliament.
Since the beginning of the year, the President has executed a series of moves aimed at destabilising the Azimio leader in Parliament by wooing disgruntled MPs in the opposition camp.
With Raila maintaining his hardline position against the government, Ruto seems to have devised a plan to isolate the veteran opposition leader with the aim of leaving him vulnerable politically.
In what is seen as a plan to consolidate his grip on power, Ruto has been targeting Azimio MPs and governors with promises of goodies and development projects.
As the ODM leader and his Azimio colleagues Martha Karua and Kalonzo Musyoka embark on countrywide rallies to urge Kenyans to reject the Kenya Kwanza government, the President has been busy meeting current and former MPs from Luo Nyanza, Western, Gusiiland and Coast.
Political analyst Joseph Gitile Naituli, who is a professor of management and leadership at the Multimedia University of Kenya, Ruto is out to consolidate his authority and isolate Raila.
“The President is just doing what he thinks would make him stronger. Being a good student of former President Daniel arap Moi, Ruto wants to weaken and isolate Raila by enticing allies of the Opposition chief,” Prof Naituli told People Daily.
Prof Macharia Munene of United States International University-Africa says Ruto has decided to take Raila head on by wooing his allies.
“Unlike former President Uhuru Kenyatta who decided to make peace with Raila, Ruto has decided to confront him. But he must be careful because engaging Raila will distract him from delivering on his promises and agenda,” Prof Munene said.
Yesterday, Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua hosted 30 Jubilee MPs at State House where he embraced them as “members of my team whom I will work with.”
“You are now our members and we will treat you as such,” the President told the Jubilee MPs.
Tellingly, the Head of State said he is banking on the MPs to help him push his agenda in the National Assembly and the Senate.
“We will be seeking your support on Bills and regulations on the Housing Fund, Water Purchasing Agreements, among others,” said Ruto.
Some of the lawmakers at the meeting said they were now “back home”.
Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Kimani Ichung’wa said the 32 Jubilee MPs will be attending Kenya Kwanza caucuses.
“We will accommodate you in committees and parliamentary caucuses,” Ichung’wa said.
The MPs told the President that they would not get involved in the ongoing rallies led by Raila.
“We have resolved to work with the government. What our people want is development and that’s why we are now working with the government,” said Nominated MP Sabina Chege.
Eldas MP Adan Keynan said they will support the government to realise its campaign pledges to Kenyans.
“We want to be part of this government, having been together before the last elections,” Keynan told journalists.
Laikipia North MP Sarah Lekorere hinted at a plan to shift allegiance to Kenya Kwanza. “At this rate, we will close down our Jubilee house and join you because we are one,” said Lekorere.
But Jubilee secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni criticized the MPs, saying disciplinary measures would be taken against them.
“Disciplinary measures have commenced against the members as we speak,” he said.
Kioni said Ruto’s plans to stifle voices against his government.
“This move by Ruto is meant to kill any contrary opinion and ensure that there is no voice to speak against the ills of his illegitimate government,” he said.
Migori Senator Eddy Oketch said they will initiate a process to de-whip all Azimio members who side with the government.
“We must immediately de-whip Fatuma Dullo as the Minority Whip and any other Jubilee member who holds a position in parliamentary committees. Dullo can’t whip members who are not aligned with the coalition’s position when she is not aligned with it,” he said.
He added: “We will also seek to have Sabina Chege removed as the deputy whip in the National Assembly. We want Jubilee to take disciplinary measures against its members who are advancing the interests of another coalition. We will be doing the same for errant ODM members.”
Those in yesterday’s State House delegation included Keynan (Eldas), Chege (Nominated), Yusuf Hassan (Kamukunji), John Waluke (Sirisia), Samuel Arama (Nakuru West), Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South), Irene Njoki (Bahati) and Margaret Kamar.
Others were Balambala MP Omar Shurie and Dullo.
On Tuesday, several MPs from Raila’s Nyanza backyard visited State House and pledged to work with Ruto’s administration. They were Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Shakeel Shabir (Kisumu East), Felix Odiwour, alias Jalang’o, (Langata), Paul Abuor (Rongo), Walter Owino (Awendo) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda.
The State House visit by split the party, with those opposed to the State House visit accusing the legislators of betrayal.
“History will judge harshly leaders who betray Kenyans by accepting handouts to scuttle ODM’s activities,” the party said in a statement.
Late last year, Ruto met Luhya leaders among them Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula and Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli.
He has also met former Kisii governor James Ongwae and Woman Rep Janet Ongera, who had been Raila’s close allies.
Mandera Senator Ali Roba-led United Democratic Movement (UDM) was the first to ditch Azimio to join Kenya Kwanza. UDM has eight MPs, two Senators and two governors.
Ugenya MP David Ochieng-led Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) would later ditch Azimio.
The Devolution Empowerment Party led by former Meru County Governor Kiraitu Murungi also joined the ruling coalition.
But Prof Naituli cautions Ruto that endearing himself to opposition MPs would not guarantee him re-election in 2027.
“I wish he had followed in the footsteps of former President Mwai Kibaki who never cared who was on his side but concentrated on service delivery. Even if he wins all the Opposition to his side but fails to rejuvenate the economy, 2027 would be a referendum against his leadership,” Prof Naituli says.