By Kamau Wairuri
I remember a while ago, Hon Danson Mungatana , former Garsen MP(now broke and forgotten), had taken to attacking Raila Odinga, a more senior and seasoned politician. In his sharp and dismissive response, Raila said when a dog barks at you, you go for the owner.
There are two key lessons from this incident. First, as a general rule in politics, when you are attacked by an opponent, you return the favour. Secondly, don’t run after dogs, chase the master.
Looking at the turn of events in Rift Valley politics, it is evident that Deputy President William Ruto, the usually astute, focused and aggressive politician, misread signs of the times. His delayed response to the onslaught by Isaac Ruto, Governor of Bomet, has turned out to be costlier to him than he must have initially thought. Whether this results in a loss of votes, it has seriously challenged Ruto’s dominance in the region.
On the other hand, he failed to demonstrate a clear and articulate response to the rise of Gideon Moi in the region. Gideon, and his party Kanu, have thrown a spanner in the works in Rift Valley politics. For many people, it appeared obvious that the battles led by Isaac Ruto and John Lonyangapuo, the senator for West Pokot, could be connected to machinations by Gideon Moi.
And now the chickens have come home to roost, with Gideon being offered several cabinet post in the next government should Jubilee win. William Ruto only has himself to blame.
On the other side of the Jubilee party ridge, people seem to be outdoing themselves to demonstrate their commitment to the party despite clear evidence that their plan is doomed to fail. Just this week, Jubilee Party officials led by Veronica Maina – the Sectary General – and Raphael Tuju, Head of the Secretariat, called a press conference to announce that they will not accept small parties supporting President Kenyatta’s re-election while fielding candidates for other elective positions. How silly.
One would hope that they would have learnt some lessons from the past and from recent experiences of William Ruto in the Rift Valley and either accommodate the smaller parties or completely annihilate them if they could.
In promoting the idea of a single party to support President Kenyatta’s re-election, I have often heard people making reference to the “embarrassing” re-election of Mwai Kibaki without a majority in Parliament. In fact, people often highlight that PNU had only 41 MPs out of 210 elected members then. It seems to me that in pushing this agenda, the proponents of the single party miss two key points.
For one, it was not only the 41 PNU MPs who sat on the government side in Parliament. With all the “Kibaki Tena” MPs sitting on the government side, the government minority – before the Grand Coalition was established – was very thin. Second, the various “Kibaki Tena” candidates running on smaller parties were key in mobilising support for Kibaki. The fact that my candidate for whatever position is on the ballot, is an important determinant for whether I will show up to vote.
It is, therefore clear that these people are learning precisely the wrong lessons from the 2007 elections. In my view, it should be obvious to any intelligent observer that small parties only pose a threat in the few places where splitting the vote can actually lead to a loss for Jubilee. There is no doubt that if Peter Kenneth and Mike Sonko were to run for Governor of Nairobi, Kidero would beat them hands down. But pray do tell, what could be the loss for Jubilee if Munya, running on a PNU ticket, were to beat Kiraitu on the Jubilee ticket.
The way forward for Jubilee is to avoid high handedness and sit down and negotiate with these small parties to generate a unity of purpose. ALSO
If the focus is to have Uhuru reelected and pursue a majority in Parliament, they can ride in the popularity of these small parties in mobilising voters across the regions but also use this goodwill to agree that these parties will not field candidates in places where a split of votes will occasion a loss.