Will the new political realignments be the game changer?

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The protest by one of the Orange party’s vocal and loyal legislators, Malindi town MP Aisha Jumwa over the admission of former Meru Governor Peter Munya into National Super Alliance (Nasa) as co-principal, outlines the diverse challenges within the Raila Odinga-Kalonzo Musyoka camp as the duo prepares to face off with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto.

The public hostility exhibited by Ms Jumwa and a section of leaders from Kilifi and Mombasa counties towards Mr Munya as well as the exit of co-principal Isaac Ruto, gubernatorial poll losers Omar Hassan (Mombasa) and David Musila (Kitui) among others from Raila-Kalonzo’s corner, contrasts sharply with the gesture being extended by President Kenyatta and his allies to poll losers within his party and in the rival Nasa coalition.

The vocal Malindi Town MP spoke just days before Ruto officially parted ways with fellow principals, Odinga, Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula.

In her protest, Ms Jumwa pointed out the August 8th poll had similarly demonstrated the former Bomet governor had no valuable numbers.

Instead she wants either Mombasa governor Hassan Joho or his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi incorporated as a Nasa principal.  

Former Cabinet minister, Prof Amukowa Anangwe dismisses Jumwa’s concerns as “too parochial” and advises the Nasa leadership to ignore her.

And despite his exit, Anangwe observes that Ruto’s contribution to the Nasa vote-basket might have been small but it greatly improved Mr Odinga’s tally in the Rift Valley.

“Similarly, Munya is a great catch that will help improve Nasa’s figures in Central Kenya. In this race, it is less prudent to continue reaching out to the already converted as this amounts to seducing your wife,” observes Anangwe with a chuckle.

But Dr Adams Oloo thinks otherwise. According to the member of Nasa’s think-tank, Ms Jumwa only but stated a simple fact – that the coalition should not take for granted people of the coastal region.

“I see absolutely nothing wrong with her statement. The coastal region is quite supportive of our presidential candidate and they truly deserve a co-principal slot. But the current designed is that this position is given on party rather than regional basis and Jumwa is suggesting that we need to rework this.”    

Former governors, Ruto, Munya and senator Musila, are just among the big names that may have shifted political allegiance.

There are many other poll losers, including a huge team from western Kenya, that was recently hosted by President Kenyatta at State House.

Led by newly elected Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka and former Cabinet ministers, Ababu Namwamba, Dr Noah Wekesa, Fred Gumo and Musikari Kombo, they pledged to support the President’s re-election.

New realignments are accordingly on the cards and political pundits believe they could have an impact on the October 17 repeat election depending on how the main combatants utilise the players in their corners. Anangwe, for instance, opines that Nasa is still distracted by the goings on at the electoral body.

“They may still be celebrating the (Chief Justice David) Maraga ruling but time is surely not on their side. In contrast, President Kenyatta’s Jubilee is busy on the ground campaigning and harvesting rejected political figures from the Nasa strongholds.”

According to Anangwe, who teaches political science at University of Dodoma in Tanzania, Nasa is losing out on many political players to the rival Jubilee camp at an alarming rate. This trend, he observes, is dangerous considering that poll losers crossing over to Jubilee equally enjoy some support.   

“I hope they can rethink their strategy and stop the leakage in their backyards, while at the same time reach out to politically hostile zones because each vote will count in this tight race,” says Anangwe. 

Political affairs commentator, Prof Peter Kagwanja, draws a parallel between the Jubilee and Nasa campaigns: “Jubilee believes in the popular will of the people and is accordingly reaching out to both poll winners and losers in Central Kenya and other parts of the country. Nasa, on the other hand, appears keen to capture crucial institutions like the Judiciary and IEBC, by weakening them or winning them over their side.”

According to Prof Kagwanja, who heads the Africa Policy Institute, Jubilee is going flat out for the proverbial full loaf unlike Nasa rivals, who are spending more time in boardrooms and courtrooms lobbying for one case or the other: “With Jubilee numbers intact in their strongholds, the President and his deputy have over the last five years sustained the hunt for additional numbers elsewhere, hence the confidence that they will carry the day in the fresh poll.” 

However, Dr Oloo dismisses most of the defections as products of “transactional politics”: “If you take a keen study of our politicians warming up to Uhuru and Ruto, you realise they invested heavily in the last elections are now broke or they are older politicians who have been in political cold for years now, and have perpetually exhibited the tendency of seeking handouts. Nasa on the other hand has no stolen money to dish out to poll losers.”

Nonetheless, the political scientist explains the coalition is very supportive of poll losers, who were rigged out and who genuinely support the opposition’s quest to power. Dr Oloo cites the case of Munya, whose move to Nasa he says has served as wakeup call to Jubilee, “who are now on a buying spree of politicians”.

Similarly, Kitui county senator Enoch Wambua exonerates Nasa from the notion that it is not friendly to poll losers. He attributes the losers’ decision to warm up to Mr Kenyatta to greed, selfishness, quest for cash and need to stay politically relevant.

And noting that transfer of loyalty is not a guarantee in Kenyan politics, Wambua opines the ground will shift because of changes in allegiance: “One needs to ask – how can these politicians promise to deliver to Jubilee, when in the first instance they failed to deliver votes to themselves?”

“I am particularly touched by the decision of Musila, our political senior in Ukambani, to work with Jubilee. I must remind him that an elder doesn’t vacate his home when there is trouble. He stays there to fix it,” says Wambua of the man he has succeeded as Kitui senator.

Prof Kagwanja equally pours cold water on Nasa’s apparent big catch, Munya, describing the move as an effort to paint the coalition as one which projects “the face of Kenya”: “Munya is in Nasa for the same reasons that (Raphael) Tuju is Jubilee’s Secretary General – to demonstrate the image of inclusivity – and not because he can be relied upon for votes.”

But Igembe North Maoka Maore, is more cautious: “Munya will definitely not succeed in turning his huge numbers in favour of Nasa, but his presence adds publicity value to the opposition campaign, particularly following the exit of another principal (Ruto).”

Nonetheless, Maore concedes Munya is a “very strategic” politician capable of “causing commotion and indigestion to the Jubilee fraternity” in Meru county.

The legislator divulges that the former governor’s decision to join the opposition is informed by the divisive nature of local politics, where successive Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta administrations have distributed jobs and undertaken infrastructural developments in favour of the people of Imenti, at the expense of their counterparts in Tigania and Igembe. Munya hails from Tigania.