Tough choices for Raila, Ruto in coalition contests
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga are facing tough choices as they try to forestall sibling rivalries pitting their long term loyalists and new entrants in their political formations.
The recently enacted law on political parties has not only formalised the formation of political coalitions, but has also opened a new conundrum that would see some of long-standing allies of the two leaders facing off with new entrants either in primaries or in the General Election.
Both Raila’s Azimio La Umoja movement and Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance face a litmus test in picking candidates for various political seats.
Tuesday’s ugly confrontation between former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja lifted the lid on the balancing act both Raila and Ruto will have to perform to avoid fallouts in their camps.
For almost three minutes, the two engaged in an argument that nearly turned physical as Kenya Kwanza leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, several MPs and the public watched.
Trouble started during a Kenya Kwanza rally at City Park grounds when Sakaja cut short Wanjiru who was addressing the crowd by grabbing the microphone. This was after some youths booed Wanjiru.
An enraged Wanjiru accused Sakaja of sponsoring the youths to heckle her.
Both Sakaja and Wanjiru are seeking the Nairobi governor’s seat, the former on the Amani National Congress (ANC) ticket and the latter on the United Democratic Alliance’s (UDA).
The altercation exposed the delicate balance the coalition chiefs must strike to contain the fierce rivalries between their long standing allies and the new entrants into their camps.
Wanjiru, who had been hoping to become UDA’s automatic candidate for the city’s top seat, is now being forced to face the reality of competing with Sakaja, a recent entrant into the DP’s side.
The Ruto-Mudavadi pact has changed the political equation in the city that might result in major fallouts should any of the governor hopefuls feel short-changed at the nomination level.
“The two principals would have to make tough decisions and settle on one strong individual that they are guaranteed of capturing the seat,” says political analyst Prof Macharia Munene.
Raila too is faced with the dilemma of whether to give his blessings to his long-time friend, Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi, or the latest entrant Richard Ngatia.
In the recent past, Raila and Ruto have found themselves at crossroads as they try to balance between the egos of their strong allies who have stood with them during trying moments and new comers who appear to be more popular on the ground.
The first such fissure was witnessed in Kirinyaga where the Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici, who had been a member of the Hustler movement since its formation, decamped from UDA, accusing Ruto of blackmail and betrayal after Governor Anne Waiguru joined the camp.
Speaking to People Daily yesterday, Ngirici said she left UDA after Ruto and some of his allies piled pressure on her to withdraw from the governor race and vie for the Mwea parliamentary seat.
“It was pure blackmail and betrayal. After having spent my resources to build the party, they turned against me in favour of a new comer who had joined UDA out of desperation. Thank God I saw this coming early enough to run away,” said Ngirici.
The situation is likely to be replicated in several areas in Mt Kenya region as a showdown looms between incumbents and hopefuls scrambling for political survival in UDA.
Some of Ruto’s allies who were guaranteed of bagging UDA tickets have been pushed to the periphery since his former foes backed his presidential bid.
The situation has been made worse by the coming together of UDA and Mudavadi’s ANC which is expected to field candidates in various parts of the country as part of the new political relationship.
In Ruiru constituency, nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, who has been leading the UDA choir to the point of temporarily losing his senatorial seat, is no longer assured of being the party candidate.
The entrance of former MP Esther Gathogo to the UDA camp has complicated matters for the senator.
“My popularity on the ground will speak for me and I will fly UDA’s ticket in the upcoming polls. I know no one will be given the ticket directly and should that happen, we will know the next course of action,” Gathogo told People Daily yesterday.
A similar script is playing out in Githunguri constituency where Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wamuchomba will fight it out with incumbent Gabriel Kago who recently decamped to Ruto’s camp.
In Laikipia East, Cate Waruguru, who has been an on-and-off ally of the DP is bracing for a challenge from Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri who supports the Hustler movement through his The Service Party of Kenya.
In Meru, a fallout is imminent if Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya decides to reclaim the governor’s seat currently held by Kiraitu Murungi who is supporting Azimio La Umoja.
In his Rift Valley stronghold, the biggest concern is how to handle Ruto’s erstwhile critics who recently made a U-turn and backed his candidature. For instance, Chama Chama Mashinani party leader Isaac Ruto last year caught his opponents off guard when he endorsed the Deputy President.
The former Governor wants to recapture the seat he lost in 2017 and the move threw his competitors, including incumbent Hillary Barchok and Petroleum and Mining PS John Mosonik off balance.
Last month, the supremacy battle between Barchok and his predecessor marred a DP’s rally in Bomet as various candidates jostled to catch his attention.
Later, Barchok accused the CCM leader of disrespecting him. “Even if he doesn’t respect me as a person, he should at least respect my office,” Barchok told the press.
Mosonik is believed to be close to the DP and observers will be keen to see how the latter will solve the tricky governor equation in Bomet.
In Mogotio, area MP Daniel Tuitoek is bracing for a bruising battle with his predecessor Hellen Sambili.
While Tuitoek has been Ruto’s foot soldier, Sambili had a dalliance with his adversaries before she joined the DP’s camp.
Sambili was the Building Bridges Initiative coordinator for Mogotio sub-county before she jumped ship last December.
“I want to put it clearly that I am in UDA and I fully support Ruto,” she said.
In Uasin Gishu, the battle is between Soy MP Caleb Kositany, Kenya’s envoy to Pakistan Julius Bitok, Nairobi County Devolution Executive Vesca Kangogo, Jonathan Bii and businessman Charles Kigen.
In Raila’s Nyanza stronghold, he faces a test in Siaya where his long time ally, Senator James Orengo, is fighting for the gubernatorial seat with former police spokesman Charles Owino, deputy governor James Okumbi and former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.
Another test is in Kisumu where four aspirants, former governor Jack Ranguma, Senator Fred Outa, former Kisumu Speaker Onyango Oloo and Chief Administrative Secretary for East African Community have ganged up against the incumbent Anyang’ Nyong’o, who is close to Raila.
In Kisii, Raila will have contend with several of his allies CAS Chris Obure, Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, Senator Sam Ongeri, Woman Rep Janet Ongera and deputy governor Joash Maangi battle it out for the governorship.
In the Homa Bay county, several of Raila’s key allies including ODM chairman John Mbadi, former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, Woman Rep Gladys Wanga, Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata and former MP Oyugi Magwanga are sparring.
The scenario is replicated in Migori where Senator Ochilo Ayacko is preparing to face Woman Rep Pamela Odhiambo, former minister Dalmas Otieno, former MPs John Pesa and Edick Anyanga and County Assembly Speaker Boaz Okoth.
In the race for Kakamega governor, Ruto faces a dilemma choosing between former Senator Boni who has been with him all along and Senator Cleophas Malalah of ANC who has been brought on board by the new coalition.
On the other hand, Raila will have to choose between Deputy Governor Philip Kutima, who is Governor Wycliffe Oparanya’s preferred candidate, and former Ketraco chief executive Fernandes Barasa, who has the backing of Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. Both Atwoli and Oparanya are members of Azimio.
Also in the gubernatorial race on Azimio is Lugari MP Ayub Savula through the Democratic Action Party (DAP)-Kenya while the position of Woman Rep pits Raila ally Elsie Muhanda against nominated senator Naomi Shiyonga.
In the Mombasa governor contest, Raila has the headache of choosing between Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, deputy governor Hassan Kingi and businessman Suleiman Shahbal as Ruto will have to back former Senator Hassan Omar or Sanjeev Argawal.
In Kilifi, ODM initially appeared on course to front Devolution Chief Administrative Secretary Gideon Mung’aro as governor candidate to square it out with Aisha Jumwa of UDA. However the declaration of Azimio la Umoja has complicated the equation as it has attracted aspirants like lawyer George Kithi who wants to run for governor under Pamoja African Alliance (PAA). The party supports Azimio.
The Azimio battle is compounded by Kilifi speaker Jimmy Kahindi who is joining the race through ODM .
In Kwale, all eyes will be on the Matuga parliamentary race where former K24 news anchor Mwanaisha Chidzuga of UDA will now have to face off with ANC Deputy Party leader Kassim Tandaza who is the incumbent.
–Stories by Noah Cheploen, Denis Lumiti, Mathew Ndung’u and Reuben Mwambingu