Nairobi, Kenya: Raila Odinga led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition is facing political turbulence with Kenyatta, who heads its top decision-making organ, expected to relinquish the post next month.
The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition is facing political turbulence with former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who heads its top decision-making organ, expected to relinquish the post next month.
With the former President’s imminent exit from the chairmanship of the Azimio council, coalition leader Raila Odinga is expected to oversee the possible appointment of a new chair or have the National Coalition Executive Council chairman Wycliffe Oparanya take up the role.
According to Section 6 (1) of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, 2003, a retired president “shall not hold office in any political party for more than six months after ceasing to hold office”. This means that Mr Kenyatta, whose close aides have already intimated will exit the coalition’s role, has until next month to surrender his position in both the coalition and his Jubilee party.
The exit of Mr Kenyatta, who is credited with rallying at least 26 political parties together under Azimio to back Mr Odinga in the August 9 presidential election, could spell doom to the coalition, which is already facing challenges as its members are wood by President William Ruto and his allies.
President Ruto has launched an aggressive campaign to win over opposition legislators and has already succeeded with some parties, including Mandera Senator Ali Roba’s United Democratic Movement and Ugenya MP David Ochieng’s Movement for Democracy and Growth.
Wiper vice-chairperson and Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Jnr argued that Azimio is unlikely to survive the current political environment. The governor, who is a close ally to Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, believes that former President Kenyatta was the glue that held the coalition together, and his exit spells doom for the outfit.
“I personally cannot see Azimio surviving. The former president was its fulcrum. With his exit and loss to Kenya Kwanza, Azimio is dead,” Mr Kilonzo told the Nation.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta with Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga during the coalition’s National Delegates Conference at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi City County.
His statement came against the backdrop of some of Mr Musyoka’s allies asking Mr Odinga to anoint the Wiper leader as the Azimio coalition’s presidential candidate for the 2027 elections to give him ample time to prepare for a face-off with President Ruto.
Kitui senator Enoch Wambua and his Makueni counterpart Dan Maanzo believe that Mr Odinga has no chance in 2027 and needs to pronounce himself the coalition’s 2027 presidential candidate.
Yesterday, Mr Maanzo was bullish that even if Azimio dies, parties within the coalition will still have an opportunity to form another outfit.
“If Azimio dies, it will not be the first outfit to die after the elections. We have seen Narc, Cord, Nasa and even Jubilee suffer a similar fate,” said Mr Maanzo. He, however, remained optimistic that with Mr Kenyatta’s exit from the coalition, a new council chairman will be appointed to replace him.
“Once Uhuru resigns officially, we shall appoint another chairman. We cannot hold him there and furthermore the law prohibits him from being in active politics after retirement,” said Mr Maanzo. He insisted that Mr Odinga has no option but to support Mr Musyoka in the 2027 election since the Wiper leader stood with him in the past three elections.
But the demands to back Mr Musyoka have generated heat in the coalition, with Mr Oparanya warning against such pronouncements “as they could divide our team”.
Mr Oparanya, who also doubles as ODM deputy party leader, pointed out that Azimio consists of many small parties that can only survive with the unity of the coalition.
He also warned of a possible rebellion within the coalition, especially by major parties like ODM and Jubilee, should Wiper continue with its push for Mr Musyoka’s anointment as the 2027 presidential candidate.
“Wiper can only survive if we stick with them. ODM is a national party while Wiper is a regional party, so how would you convince all the ODM members to now back them? They will scatter and a rebellion will be inevitable,” warned Mr Oparanya.
“Some of us have been in this party since its formation and have remained loyal to its cause, so you mean we will just be sitting there seeing other people being anointed? Western has also remained loyal to Raila, what do you tell them? We’ve spent a fortune at this party, so you just want us to stay and watch as another person is being endorsed? It’s about numbers and that’s a fact. That’s what politics is all about,” Mr Oparanya added.
Wiper national chairman Chirau Mwakwere appeared to endorse Mr Oparanya’s sentiments, arguing that ODM still deserves the 2027 presidency slot because of its numerical strength and national appeal.
“In fact, if I was Raila I would choose a member of the ODM party to be the candidate and not from a minor party. There are some decisions that should be made realistically,” he told the Nation. “It may be Wiper’s wish that Kalonzo is supported, but practically it cannot be done. Is it really meaningful, reasonable and right for Raila to abandon all ODM members, which is a senior party with more MPs than Wiper by times three and support another presidential candidate?”
Mr Oparanya said the matter of the 2027 candidate is a serious issue that can only be canvassed by the principals and all members of the coalition. He added that there are plans to turn the coalition into a monolith with a huge national support base, but major parties seem reluctant as the move might only benefit small parties at their expense.
Political analyst Prof Gitile Naituli said that Azimio could survive the former President’s exit.
“Uhuru was always a negative to Azimio. He was never adding any value to Azimio, so if they want to prepare Azimio to be competitive, Uhuru must leave,” he said. The Multimedia University don backed calls to have the coalition pronounce itself early enough on its 2027 flag bearer for early preparations.
Nyando MP Jared Okello said: “Kenyans will choose the next president and not Raila. Whoever wants Kenyans’ support should start talking to them and not sit on their laurels awaiting endorsement. Baba has got only one vote.
~Addition reporting by Nation Africa.