It was supposed to be a big announcement on who would be the flagbearer for the One Kenya Alliance (OKA).
But yesterday, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu boss Gideon Moi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula postponed the announcement despite travelling hundreds of kilometres to an event that was skipped by ANC chief Musalia Mudavadi, who sent Mr Godfrey Kanoti, a Khwisero MP aspirant, to represent him, amid reports of sharp differences over the method of choosing a candidate.
And in a surprise turn of events, Tujibebe Wakenya Party leader William Kabogo and Ms Rosa Wangu, representing Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, also attended the meeting.
The OKA affiliate parties’ technical team, which was expected to name the outfit’s presidential candidate after a three-day retreat at the Elementaita Mountain Lodge Hotel in Nakuru, said all plans were complete.
Addressing the press, Mr Wetang’ula revealed that OKA will unveil its nominee by the end of this month.
“We are not under pressure to unveil our presidential flagbearer. Forget about the naysayers who think OKA is moving too slowly, good coalitions and good preparations for elections are never done in a hurry,” said Mr Wetang’ula flanked by his two co-principals.
“We have promised Kenyans that by the end of January, we will be unveiling our candidate, we will not let them down.”
The principals have been under pressure to pick one of them to fly their flag in the August 9 General Election.
They first held a closed-door meeting with members of the technical team, before they jointly addressed the media.
Despite maintaining that all was well, Saturday Nation learnt that sharp differences have emerged, with some affiliate parties threatening to leave if their leader is not chosen. Constant poaching of members by Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga is also breeding mistrust, as blunders and pronouncements by aides of the Oka leaders escalate tension.
ANC and Wiper are said to have maintained hardline on the choice of flagbearer. A source privy to happenings within the technical team revealed that Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi rate higher above others and one of them could be chosen. Most members were leaning towards a Mr Musyoka candidacy as his delivery of the Lower Eastern bloc had been tried and tested.
“The two—Musyoka and Mudavadi—are the most preferred and one of them would be chosen as the flagbearer. The running mate will come from the rest, including Gideon Moi, Moses Wetang’ula and other affiliate parties like Narc Kenya that have shown a cordial working relationship with OKA,” said the source, without elaborating the criteria being used to identify the flagbearer and running mate.
However, the technical team’s chairman Sammy Karanja, who read OKA joint statement, maintained there was good progress towards arriving at the preferred candidate.
“This committee has made considerable progress and submitted a report that brings us closer to identifying and unveiling the flagbearer. However, as an alliance that brings together different political parties, best practice requires that these member parties consult with their membership through their established party organs to consider any such recommendations and ratify them,” said Mr Karanja.
Saturday Nation learnt yesterday that the technical team, made up of top aides and strategists of the party leaders, has planned another meeting to prepare a strategy paper.
Insiders present at the Elementaita meeting revealed that OKA has also opened its doors to more parties, including Karua’s Narc Kenya, Kabogo’s Tujibebe Wakenya Party and DP, which is associated with National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.
The team also discussed the ongoing debate on the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and resolved that members back it.
The Elementaita retreat comes at a time when talk is rife that Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula are secretly engaging DP Ruto over a possibility of working together. On the other hand, Mr Musyoka and Mr Moi are accused of being Raila’s men in the shaky alliance. This split and feeling of betrayal is prompting loss of members to rival parties. In the recent past, 10 legislators have left for either UDA or Azimio.
Mr Mudavadi’s absence raised eyebrows, with sources indicating he has abandoned OKA and is in talks with Dr Ruto for a coalition. This came days after the DP attended a football match hosted by the ANC boss’s closest ally, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, in Mumias, Kakamega County, on December 31.
The second in command, in Mumias, said Mr Mudavadi had asked him to attend the football tournament. Malala reciprocated by attending his Eldoret rally.
But the OKA principals present yesterday rejected division claims. Mr Musyoka said they will all attend Mr Mudavadi’s National Delegates Conference (NDC) to be held on January 23 in Nairobi. “We are still united despite split rumours. We are stronger than never before,” he said.
The principals also denied allegations that some of them were holding secret meetings with DP Ruto or Mr Odinga. Both Kalonzo and Senator Moi have publicly flirted with Mr Odinga, with the most recent one being in December last year, during the Wiper Party Delegates conference and at the National Azimio la Umoja convention in Kasarani, Nairobi.
University of Nairobi’s Prof XN Iraki says Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi are fence-seaters and not ready to make decisions, something likely to work against them if they fail to give political direction as early as now.
“As things stand, OKA will be losers whichever side they choose. They will go with Hustler or Azimio. Remaining alone is even worse as they are likely to be seen as spoilers,” he said.
“They could also be playing hard to catch raising their political price. The longer they take before deciding who to back, the higher the chances they will become irrelevant.”
For United States International University’s Prof Macharia Munene, the move by OKA to delay settling on the flagbearer is benefitting DP Ruto.
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