We are your best bet, OKA tells Mt Kenya tycoons
One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals yesterday pitched a strong case for the support of Mt Kenya, with caution against the impression that they had a preferred candidate.
During the luncheon organised by the powerful Mount Kenya Foundation at Safari Park Hotel, the OKA principals Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Gideon Moi and politician Cyrus Jirongo, told the tycoons their formation cannot be ignored in 2022 succession race.
They adopted a two-pronged approach: Present themselves as a safe pair of hands and Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as enemies of the mountain, arguing that their past had demonstrated they cannot be trusted with country’s top leadership.
They said if entrusted with the presidency, they will revive agriculture, boost small, medium and large businesses; which are the region’s economic mainstay, guarantee equal access to education, ensure adequate peace and unity, as well as fight corruption.
The meeting was organised by the foundation members led by its chairman Equity Bank founder Peter Munga and his vice chair Titus Ibui; who chairs the Kenya Leather Board Council
But unlike their recent meeting with Raila, which was attended by four governors and 13 MPs from the region, only Embu Governor Martin Wambora was present.
Without mentioning his name, Mudavadi appeared keen to project Raila as an abuser of the law, who does not respect presidential elections outcomes and has followers who have no respect for private property by refusal to pay house rent, while painting the DP as a leader who was perpetuating retrogressive policies that were unhelpful Kenyans.
“As we move towards the end of Uhuru’s tenure, we must ask ourselves fundamental questions. Who can you trust with the leadership of this country? Examine all of us. How many of us respect the rule of law? If Munga has won an election, will it be respected?” posed Mudavadi who also sought to paint their opponents as people holding grudges.
He added: “I have been tried, tested and proven able in the restoration of the economic well-being and ensuring fiscal stability in Kenya. The current predicament is no different from the economic meltdown I successfully handled in early 1990s as Kenya’s Finance Minister.”
Kanu’s Gideon also pitched for the group saying: “We fully understand the need for people to have a conducive environment for people to do business. We can give you the best economic model but it will be pointless if we are not in power.”
“We must go out there and tell our people the direction. We know our common enemy. If we hold his neck, will you withstand his kicks?” he said.
While Kalonzo and Wetang’ula reminded the region that they supported retired President Mwai Kibaki when his presidency was threatened, Jirongo said that the Luhya community had voted for Mt Kenya leaders in the past.
“Where I come from, we don’t understand tribalism. We have voted for Mwai Kibaki, Kenneth Matiba and Raila many times. People think Luhyas are voting machines. We decided this time round we will offer one of us to lead the country,” he told the gathering.
But even as they put up a spirited fight to market themselves, there was a sustained push they should agree to unite with Raila and front a joint candidate, failure in which they might plunge the country into chaos like it happened in 2007.
The key message was the push for unity against a “common enemy”.
Munga reminded the leaders that prior to the 2007 elections, which ended with 1,300 deaths, he, his bank’s chief executive officer James Mwangi and the late businessman Chris Kirubi, tried in vain to persuade Kalonzo to shelve his State House bid in favour of retired President Kibaki but he refused, laying ground for a disputed election and violence.
“If that friend of ours (Kalonzo) had accepted our request, the infamous post-election violence of 2007/2008 would not have occurred, because that friend of ours got 800,000 votes and our candidate needed that so that his margin would have been bigger,” said the businessman.
“I don’t want to curtail your ambition because you may have fears of what you feel the future holds for you, but the benefit of you uniting is much bigger for Kenya and for you,” Munga said.
The national vice chairman of Kiama kia Ma Michael Mugo, who spoke on behalf of elders, warned that the region was not ready to split its votes and likened the situation to a beautiful girl, being wooed by many men yet only one will be considered.
“You want a girl and as Mt Kenya region, we have a beautiful girl. Her description is eight million votes meaning she is really beautiful. But here we are seeing five men. We are wondering who among them shall we give our girl to. We will not give our girl to five men. We don’t want to divide our votes amongst five people. Go sit down and decide who will be the flag bearer and us Mt Kenya we will come with mothers and children (all votes),” he said.
In response, Kalonzo said his team was not opposed to unity, but said those calling for it must come with clean hands.
“There has been a clarion call for unity. I don’t believe in fear, I believe in unity and for a leader who will not come to sow the seed of discord. People have matured and the young people should wake up and register as voters. We are moving with such speed and we are asking you to believe in us,” said the former vice president.
Wetang’ula warned the region against voting for an individual who insists that he must be on the ballot at all costs, ignoring alternative voices.
“Embrace us, come we engage and as we engage, know we have been tested, tried, we have been proven and we can deliver. We must be ready to say, if it’s not me, my brother is as good as me. If you make up your mind that you want to work with us, we are ready,” he said.
There have been concerns that the foundation had already settled on Raila as its preferred candidate.
Jirongo in what sounded like a guided strong lecture to the foundation warned any perception that the foundation favours a Raila presidency will scuttle chances of bringing all leaders on board.
“When Mt Kenya appears to have a preferred candidate, you are creating tension among these leaders (OKA). How do you expect us to feel as a community when you come fronting a candidate just because he voted for you once?,” he said.
But Ibui said the foundation has not settled on any one, and asked the leaders to sell themselves to the voters.
He said the foundation will weigh the candidates and their choice will be declared at a meeting to be dubbed Limuru Three although it’s clear that the DP will not be part of their considerations. He also told them to respect the President who tried to unite them with Raila in vain.
“You must be wondering what will happen after this. We will interrogate and converge at Limuru Three and a decision will be made who the community will support. What we want to ask you as the OKA team is that you must respect our President. If you call him names, we will not be with you. You must realise that,” he said.