The fear of anticipated fallout from party nominations has rocked the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) much sooner, fuelling defections from Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.
Although the DP has won over at least 11 leaders allied to President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga since June, he is also losing allies as the season of defections peaks ahead of party nominations in May.
MPs Wangui Ngirici (Kirinyaga woman representative), Malulu Injendi (Malava), Charles Gemose (Hamisi) and Michael Kingi (Magarini), as well as Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi, are among those who have abandoned Dr Ruto recently.
Migori Governor Okoth Obado has also started blowing hot and cold on his support of the DP’s presidential bid, while Kilifi governor Amason Kingi, whom the DP had been courting, has since backed Mr Odinga.
With losers in party primaries set to be time-barred to run as independent candidates if party chiefs exploit fresh tight timelines to curb defections, Ms Ngirici jumped ship to run for Kirinyaga governor as an independent, citing unfairness in UDA.
The decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to move forward the deadline for primaries to May 26, 2022, allows parties to hold nominations long after the deadline for politicians intending to vie as independents to resign as party members. This is a trap that politicians uncertain about their position in their parties like Ms Ngirici are keen to avoid rather than be denied a party ticket when it’s too late.
Yesterday, Ms Ngirici revealed that she sensed danger when she was summoned to the UDA headquarters in Nairobi and told to step down for Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru, who has become UDA’s favourite since abandoning Jubilee.
“When I appeared at the headquarters, the officials tried to convince me to give up my gubernatorial ambition and vie for Mwea parliamentary seat on a UDA ticket. I refused as they were determined to kill my dream,” she said.
Ms Ngirici warned political thuggery could be witnessed in the UDA primaries and asked those supporting it to watch out.
“If the UDA officials are telling me to vie for a junior seat, do you expect nominations to be free and fair?” Ms Ngirici posed.
Keiyo MP Daniel Rono exposed what cost Ms Ngirici, one of the early campaigners of UDA in Kirinyaga, her standing in the party, saying her position in the ‘hustler nation’ had become untenable given her close working relationship with Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
“Ngirici is very popular on the ground but of late she has been wavering; she has failed to disassociate herself from Kibicho,” said Mr Rono, referring to the Interior PS who is often the target of attacks by the DP’s camp.
Mr Gemose and Mr Injendi yesterday also confirmed to the Daily Nation that they had ditched the DP’s camp to join Mr Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC). “Yes, I have ditched DP Ruto’s camp and now I am in ANC,” Mr Gemose said.
Mr Injendi said: “I have not left the Jubilee Party, which sponsored me to Parliament, but I have decided that I will no longer associate with the Tangatanga team linked to Ruto; I am now with Musalia. Ruto will remain a friend but not a political ally.”
Mr Injendi cited efforts to ensure the region’s MPs who are in other camps join either Mr Mudavadi’s camp or Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula’s.
The DP’s point men in western now are MPs Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), John Waluke (Sirisia), Mwambu Mabongah (Bumula) and Fred Kapondi (Mt. Elgon), as well as former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.
Mr Obado, who has been accompanying the DP during his tours of Nyanza, early this week wavered on his previous declaration that his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would work with UDA. “I am not campaigning for Ruto or any other presidential contenders. As a party, we are going to field candidates in all the seats,” Mr Obado said while opening a PDP office in Mombasa.
Another of the DP’s Nyanza point men, Mr Maangi, attended the Azimio La Umoja event.
At the Coast, MP Kingi, who was in the DP’s camp, fled immediately after the Kilifi Governor formed Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) party. “PAA will not field a presidential candidate in 2022 but will back Mr Odinga,” Mr Kingi told a meeting in Malindi at the weekend.
Former Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando who seemed to have a soft spot for the DP has also made a U-turn and endorsed Mr Odinga’s State House bid.
“We know we are safe with a Raila Odinga presidency. We shall win this,” he tweeted.
But the DP has also had significant catches since June, securing the support of two Mt Kenya governors, Ms Waiguru and Nyeri’s Mutahi Kahiga. The other Mt Kenya governors are backing Mr Odinga.
MPs Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East), Cate Waruguru (Laikipia Woman Rep), Gichugi Mwangi (Tetu), Ali Amin Deddy (Laikipia East), Wario Qalicha (Moyale), Wilson Sossion (nominated), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and William Chepkut (Ainabkoi) are among leaders who are now supporting the DP.
Mr Sossion, who was nominated to the National Assembly by ODM, Mr Keter and Mr Chepkut have bowed to pressure from the UDA wave sweeping their region.
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