Raila Odinga will swear as the People’s President
The renewed threat by the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to symbolically swear in Mr Raila Odinga as the “People’s President” with Mr Kalonzo Musyoka as his Deputy has understandably not been taken kindly by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
As executed, it will also have direct implications on more political players, including other Nasa bigwigs.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are the constitutionally sworn-in President and Deputy President respectively, and any attempts at a separate swearing-in, no matter how illegitimate, will be viewed as mimicry aimed at undermining their authority, that of the state and the sovereign will of the people after the October 26 repeat presidential election that was boycotted by Nasa.
The opposition has refused to recognise the Kenyatta-Ruto duo as duly elected, maintaining their own victory was stolen in the August 8 poll, which the Supreme Court annulled, hence the push by Nasa.
Last week Attorney General Githu Muigai repeated the line that Nasa’s planned swearing-in event – which has been postponed twice – as “high treason” “whose penalty is death by hanging”.
But speaking during the funeral of Kitui West Member of Parliament Francis Nyenze, Mr Odinga dismissed the AG’s threat and sensationally stated he and Mr Musyoka were not afraid of being sworn in and hanged thereafter.
However, even within Nasa, divisions remain on the effectiveness and legality of the proposed oath for the “People’s President”.
The national deputy secretary general of Wiper party, Mr Peter Mathuki, for instance, singles out electoral reforms as the area of priority ahead of the 2022 poll and not the planned swearing-in event.
“It is not in doubt that Raila has achieved so much for this country in terms of development of the democratisation process and several liberties.
“These achievements, alongside those of Kalonzo – who both enjoy respectable international stature – cannot just be washed away by a meaningless swearing-in ceremony,” argues the immediate former East African Legislative Assembly MP.
But Mathuki’s is not necessarily the popular voice within Nasa, which has three other main member parties including, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Ford-Kenya and Amani National Congress (ANC).
Ford-Kenya’s deputy party leader Boni Khalwale has, for instance, has been vocal on the swearing-in of Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka.
However on Friday, he declined to discuss the matter with Sunday Nation.
Nonetheless, if the swearing-in ceremony eventually comes to pass, it will be a mixed bag of fortunes for various political players. Sample the following instances:
In public, the President has exhibited an attitude of indifference by dismissing Nasa’s swearing-in plans and even scoffed at calls for dialogue by the coalition’s leaders, asking them instead to discuss “with William (the Deputy President)” in 2022.
But the activities of state organs and utterances of senior operatives of the Jubilee party tell a different story – that of panic, vengeance and insecurity.
Ahead of the December 12 date of the planned Odinga-Musyoka swearing-in, the security agencies were on high alert as police beefed up their presence in areas suspected to play host to the ceremony.
Harassment and arrests of Nasa operatives, including that of strategist, Dr David Ndii, who was charged in court for alleged “public incitement” were made in succession in an apparent attempt by state apparatus to disrupt the swearing -in event.
In the meantime, the President’s close allies went on an overdrive, warning Nasa leaders, with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria specifically issuing a death threat to Mr Odinga.
The AG, Prof Muigai, similarly called for a press conference in his office to offer a detailed account of legal repercussions of Nasa’s move.
Although Prof Macharia Munene, a commentator on political affairs, argues that these acts do not amount to panic or apprehension by the President, he explains that Mr Kenyatta is focused more on shaping his legacy over the next five years:
“He has stated that he wants to touch every corner of this country with his latest development agenda and any sideshows like the one being pulled by Nasa is bound to be disruptive.”
Of course, a prolonged political tussle with Mr Odinga and his Nasa team is also likely to disrupt Mr Kenyatta’s succession plot as he will be compelled to do more firefighting than laying out his succession plans.
William Samoei Ruto
Stiff challenge from the opposition is the oxygen that will keep the Deputy President’s political dreams alive.
According to political scientist Prof Amukowa Anangwe, a united, strong and belligerent Nasa is what works best for Mr Ruto to inch ahead of the pack in the 2022 poll.
A stubborn Nasa calls for a united front by Jubilee to tame or vanquish it, and this is the exact scenario that will hand Mr Ruto opportunity to exhibit his political worth.
The swearing-in of the Odinga-Musyoka pair is one such major antagonising development that will require combined efforts of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto’s troops inside and outside Parliament to counter and contain.
“Of course this is not to suggest that Ruto is behind the political headaches being experienced by his own Jubilee administration.
“However to remain relevant to Kenyatta and the Mount Kenya fraternity, the DP requires a strengthened Nasa,” Prof Anangwe opines.
According to the ex-cabinet minister, a weakened opposition spells doom for Mr Ruto, because the knives now aimed at Nasa will shift towards Jubilee players in vicious internal battles.
“A dormant opposition will automatically expose Mr Ruto as a target of succession politics within Jubilee,” Prof Anangwe says.
But Prof Munene observes that Mr Odinga does not need any encouragement from the DP to destroy his own Nasa outfit as “things are falling apart already within Nasa owing to suspicion that Raila may be candidate again in 2022”.
The swearing-in act places the former Vice-President ahead of the pack in the Odinga succession within the Nasa fraternity.
In essence, it serves as a continuation of the 2017 pre-election pact, complete with Raila, Kalonzo, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula at the helm of the Nasa political vessel in that pecking order.
This arrangement spares the Wiper party leader the hustle of jostling for the baton from Mr Odinga, should the son of Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga exit from active elective politics as he reportedly promised his colleagues ahead of this year’s presidential elections.
Curiously, some of Mr Musyoka’s backers view the situation differently.
For instance, Mr Mathuka wants Nasa to shelve the swearing-in plot and instead “move in the right direction in a more robust manner to ensure no presidential candidate is rigged out again because of flawed electoral processes”.
Unlike Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka, who are on card for the planned swearing-in event and Moses Wetang’ula, who is Bungoma County senator and Leader of Minority in the Senate, the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader is neither in Parliament nor features among Nasa’s top two.
He is therefore in dire need for political visibility over the next five years.
Political reality is that the swearing -in event is not good for the former deputy Prime Minister.
Such an event will confirm his 2022 target political rival, Mr Musyoka, as Nasa’s second in command, yet Mudavadi needs the rankings dismantled in order to get a fighting chance within the Nasa family ahead of the next presidential poll.
Some of his backers like Lugari MP, Ayub Savula, may be aware of this reality and that is why they are lately anxious that Mr Mudavadi should kick off his 2022 presidential campaigns independently.
Prof Munene considers the Bungoma senator politically astute, for “getting himself a job in the Senate, when the others were chasing for highly competitive positions of President, Deputy President and Prime Minister, which all slipped away”.
The import of this is that the Ford-Kenya leader still has an active platform in Parliament from which he can advance his political ambitions.
Individual advantages or disadvantages of the anticipated swearing-in event notwithstanding, Prof Anangwe says Nasa will only achieve its goals if it speaks the same language now and in 2022.