Math im­pli­ca­tion of Ruto-munya exit from Nasa

Opin­ion is di­vided whether the re­turn of the duo au­to­mat­i­cally trans­lates to votes for the Ju­bilee side

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SUNDAY REVIEW - BY OS­CAR OBONYO

The two are not or­di­nary for­mer gover­nors but po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers

It may well have been a case of the Kiswahili adage, “mwenye nguvu mp­ishe (pave way for the strong), but there is no deny­ing the move by for­mer gover­nors Isaac Ruto and Peter Munya to back Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta’s re-election bid has bol­stered Ju­bilee Party’s cam­paign and robbed Raila Odinga’s Nasa of valu­able al­lies.

Mr Ruto and Munya are not your or­di­nary ex-gover­nors. They are po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers who sep­a­rately served in the pow­er­ful po­si­tion of Chair­man of the Coun­cil of Gover­nors and were Mr Keny­atta’s harsh­est crit­ics.

Ju­bilee’s ex­cite­ment is there­fore un­der­stand­able con­sid­er­ing they plucked the two from the ri­val Nasa camp af­ter Mr Keny­atta’s win in the Au­gust poll was nul­li­fied.

Mr Ruto was one of the co­prin­ci­pals of Nasa, while Munya was a post-poll mem­ber whose po­lit­i­cal dal­liance with Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka barely lasted one week.

The two, who hail from Ju­bilee-lean­ing coun­ties of Bomet and Meru, were both sub­jected to poll de­feats – a sober­ing re­al­ity that could have per­suaded them to re­treat to Mr Keny­atta’s cor­ner.

This re­al­ity not­with­stand­ing, Mr Ruto and Munya are a big po­lit­i­cal catch for the Ju­bilee team, not nec­es­sar­ily for what they bring to the Keny­atta-wil­liam Ruto cam­paign ta­ble but rather for what they are bound to deny the Raila-kalonzo pair.

Ac­cord­ing to the vice-chair­man of Ju­bilee Party, David Mu­rathe, the re­turn of the duo has helped the Keny­atta cam­paign to sub­stan­tially fence off the Meru and Kalen­jin vot­ing blocs in favour of the Pres­i­dent.

Not­ing that preven­tion of “voter leak­age” is key to Ju­bilee’s cam­paign strat­egy, the one-time Gatanga leg­is­la­tor opines that Nasa ri­vals must now go back to the draw­ing board to iden­tify new point men and av­enues to set foot in their strongholds of Bomet and Meru coun­ties.

Mr Odinga has at­trib­uted the with­drawal of Ruto and Munya from sup­port­ing his pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­ture to “black­mail and in­tense pres­sure” from the Ex­ec­u­tive. How­ever, the Nasa pres­i­den­tial can­di­date main­tains his sup­port, par­tic­u­larly in Meru county, re­mains in­tact.

In an in­ter­view with a lo­cal TV sta­tion this week, the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter ex­plained that when his team went to the polls in Au­gust, they did so largely with the sup­port of their own con­tacts on the ground. The im­port of Mr Odinga’s sen­ti­ments is that noth­ing is lost so far.

None­the­less, Dr Ed­ward Kisiang’ani, a com­men­ta­tor on po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, ob­serves that the Ruto-munya exit from Nasa has given the Keny­atta cam­paign a vi­tal psy­cho­log­i­cal boost:

“It is true the re­turn of the two po­lit­i­cal big­wigs partly seals off these re­gions for Ju­bilee and locks out Nasa. This gives some psy­cho­log­i­cal con­fi­dence to Ju­bilee, only that it is highly un­likely that the re­turn of Ruto and Munya will trans­late into more votes in their strongholds.”

The ar­gu­ment of the His­tory and Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence lec­turer at Keny­atta Univer­sity is based on the ob­ser­va­tion that Mr Ruto, for in­stance, did not re­alise “enough votes” for the Nasa pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and in fact lost in his own re-election bid as gover­nor of Bomet.

“The exit of Mr Ruto is of lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance to Nasa. He was largely ab­sent dur­ing their public events and it re­mains de­bat­able the ex­tent to which he con­trib­uted to Raila-kalonzo’s pres­i­den­tial votes re­alised in Rift Val­ley,” opines Dr Kisiang’ani.

With re­gard to Munya, Dr Kisiang’ani claims the shift to Mr Keny­atta “means ab­so­lutely noth­ing.”

He points out that the Party of Na­tional Unity (PNU) leader never ac­tu­ally cam­paigned for Mr Odinga since his party was af­fil­i­ated to Mr Keny­atta’s Ju­bilee.

“Ow­ing to the poll loss, Mr Munya merely just used Nasa as a ploy to get at­ten­tion from Pres­i­dent Keny­atta. Oth­er­wise, his shift to the Keny­atta camp also changes noth­ing in terms of Nasa’s pres­i­den­tial votes,” says Dr Kisiang’ani.

While Nasa might not nec­es­sar­ily suf­fer any loss, “from what might be al­ready in their bas­ket”, Igembe North MP, Maoka Maore points out the Odinga-kalonzo can­di­da­ture was des­tined to gain even more votes had the for­mer Meru gover­nor not re­versed his de­ci­sion.

The move by Mr Munya to sup­port Mr Keny­atta’s pres­i­den­tial bid has, ac­cord­ing to Mr Maore, helped a great deal in re­vers­ing Nasa’s pos­si­ble gains in the Meru re­gion.

Spate de­fec­tions

Con­trary to opin­ion else­where that Mr Munya’s po­lit­i­cal clout had quickly eroded, Mr Maore views the for­mer gover­nor as very cal­cu­la­tive and one “who was go­ing to cap­i­talise on lo­cal di­vi­sive pol­i­tics to de­liver” sub­stan­tial votes to Nasa op­po­nents.

De­fec­tions are not a new po­lit­i­cal phe­nom­e­non as they have largely been in­sti­gated over the years by govern­ments of the day to weaken the Op­po­si­tion in Par­lia­ment. How­ever, the fresh pres­i­den­tial elec­tions or­dered by the Supreme Court is a unique mo­ment never wit­nessed in Kenya, and one which could trig­ger a spate de­fec­tions.

In­deed, for a mo­ment, the de­fec­tions of Nasa co-prin­ci­pals, Ruto and Munya, in quick suc­ces­sion caused jit­ters and ex­cite­ment in the po­lit­i­cal cir­cles.

Two days later another co­prin­ci­pal, Musalia Mu­davadi, was re­ported to have re­signed from the op­po­si­tion out­fit. It turned out, though, that com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the lat­ter was a fake – Mu­davadi’s sig­na­ture was a forgery and the let­ter was vague and eco­nom­i­cal on a host of facts, in­clud­ing where the Amani Na­tional Congress (ANC) leader had “de­fected” to.

Whether or not this was a Ju­bilee ploy de­signed to deal Nasa a psy­cho­log­i­cal blow, the plot on Mr Mu­davadi was ob­vi­ously over­stretched. Nasa is a brain­child of the one-time Vice Pres­i­dent and it is un­likely that he can desert his own baby. Mr Mu­davadi him­self re­acted by sug­gest­ing that this was a ploy by des­per­ate op­po­nents try­ing all tricks in the book.

But with con­fir­ma­tion of the de­fec­tions of Mr Ruto and Munya, who are con­sid­ered by some as among the most in­de­pen­dent-minded politi­cians, Ju­bilee is em­bold­ened to make even more po­lit­i­cal raids in the op­po­nent’s ter­ri­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mu­rathe, the party is keen on win­ning over more play­ers from the Nasa side and “things are al­ready look­ing good be­cause the Ju­bilee of 2017 is more na­tional in out­look as com­pared to the 2013 one that was crit­i­cised by many as be­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive of only two tribes”.

De­fec­tion, as po­lit­i­cal weapon, has been em­ployed in Kenya’s his­tory with mixed out­comes. The first mass de­fec­tions were wit­nessed at in­de­pen­dence when the Kadu of the late Ron­ald Ngala and re­tired Pres­i­dent Moi, crossed the floor of Par­lia­ment to join Jomo Keny­atta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Kanu party.

To­day, the sons of these two found­ing fa­thers – Uhuru and Raila – are at the mix of the de­fec­tion game. Then Jomo and Jaramogi were on one side and they sweet-talked Kadu col­leagues, ex­cept Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Martin Shikuku who de­clined to de­fect – to join the in­de­pen­dence party for the sake of forg­ing in­ter­ests of a united na­tion.

The dif­fer­ence is that to­day Uhuru and Raila are pulling from dif­fer­ent ends. The im­pact of the de­fec­tion plot, ar­gues Dr Kisiang’ani, will de­pend not nec­es­sar­ily on the clout of the tar­geted politi­cians but the cam­paign is­sues that are pop­u­lar to the elec­torate.

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