The loss of Kajiado Central by-election is causing tension in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s newly created Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) as its leaders engage in blame game after the false start.
There is also a feeling that the area’s former MP Joseph Nkaissery, now Interior Cabinet Secretary, did not give his best shot to help capture the seat.
But most profound are the murmurs that TNA-URP supremacy contest may have handed ODM’s Elijah Memusi victory over JAP’s Patrick Tutui.
Those in URP feel they were sidelined in the campaigns yet according to their pre-election zoning pact with TNA, Kajiado is their stronghold.
Earlier in the week, Deputy President William Ruto is reported to have given a tongue-lashing to his lieutenants in URP for the loss.
The presidential duo’s major fear now is that the humbling defeat, which made nonsense of the government machinery deployed in Kajiado, has deflated their preparations for 2017 polls.
Their concern largely hinges on the fact that dissenting figures in Rift Valley have now found another reason to tell their people to shun JAP.
The Sunday Nation established that the politicians began celebrating the moment it became apparent that Mr Memusi was headed for victory.
To the politicians, the defeat is another reason Mr Ruto should reconsider the move to lead URP into JAP.
“I want to congratulate the people of Kajiado for speaking in one voice and shaming Jubilee. They should now know that Kenyans will only vote for leaders with an agenda,” Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto said.
Majority of URP MPs have publicly lamented that their opinions were never sought before the drastic decision was arrived at.
After Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot castigated the Deputy President for the decision, many other politicians have reportedly registered their scepticism with the planned dissolution and the Kajiado outcome gives them an opportunity to get at him.
Those blaming Mr Nkaissery argue that he could have secretly campaigned for Mr Memusi who belongs to the Olpiron age set, which in Maasai social system are the first born sons of Iseuri— Nkaissery’s age set. Mr Tutui has for a long time been the minister’s avowed political enemy.
“Nobody should blame the Cabinet Secretary for the loss because despite the fact that he did all he could to deliver the seat to JAP, many factors were at play. It is clear that certain advice from the ground was never heeded. The politics of oltim (local groupings) and a sense of suspicion from a people who ought to have pulled in the same direction saw us lose the seat,” said Ms Dorothy Mashipei who unsuccessfully ran for Kajiado Woman Representative seat on a URP ticket in 2013.
Before JAP primaries, Ms Mashipei said, the contest was marred by TNA verses URP loyalty contest yet after that nobody cared to bring the two groups together. She believes the oltim politics took centre stage again.
“The locals felt that JAP campaigns were being driven by foreigners. This is what ODM capitalised on in spreading their propaganda that we never countered. All these is behind us, what is important now is to put our house in order and stop taking an election like a business venture like some of us did,” she said.
Mr Nkaissery said to have previously appeared reluctant to back his former political foe later submitted himself to the campaigns.
He, however, played down ODM’s victory.
“It was a very open and democratic campaign. I’m not a politician and the government did not interfere. But I congratulate the people because they turned out in very large numbers, it is not usual in a by-election. I congratulate him and we wish him well,” he said.
The minister took issue with the fact that some sections of the media linked the victory to Cord leader Raila Odinga.
“This was a victory for Memusi so why are we saying the other things. I also voted for my preferred candidate,” Maj Gen (rtd) Nkaissery added.
The non-Maasai communities offered swing vote in the mini-poll that saw one of the most clinical campaigns in the recent times.
Aware of the somewhat cosmopolitan nature of the constituency, the opposing camps utilized their diverse composition to lure voters. While Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka had an extra job of winning the Kamba votes, ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed was tasked with delivering the Somali Nation.
Equally, Jubilee was aware of this and deployed Majority Leader Aden Duale and Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko to counter the strategy although Cord/ODM carried the day.
Mr Odinga campaigned five times in Kajiado, Mr Musyoka four times while Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula took three days campaigning for Mr Memusi.
The DP took four days on the ground and a day-long Presidential tour was meant to add value to the Tutui campaign.
RECOVER LOST SUPPORT
Cord and ODM are now planning to use the win to relaunch its 2017 election plan and to recover lost support in Maasai land in the last elections.
Although the loss was by a mere 500 votes, it has robbed the ruling coalition of the psyche and energy it hoped would give it the good start that The National Alliance got when it successfully sponsored Tiras Ngahu (Kangema) to Parliament a few months after it was launched in 2012.
Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda, who was among six local leaders who camped in Kajiado Central to mobilise support for the JAP, is now blaming powerful government Chief Whip Katoo ole Metito for the embarrassing loss.
“Everything went wrong from Day One. We tried to advise Mr Metito that the candidate he was advising the President to back was a ‘hard sell’ but he wouldn’t listen,” said Mr Sakuda.
Local leaders, he said, met the President on several occasions to discuss Kajiado Central after he made it clear he wanted to make the by-election a big thing.
“We met the President several times and advised him that the candidate favoured by Mr Metito was unpopular and was not going to win but no one appeared bothered,” he said.
Mr Sakuda said he warned that Mr Kanchory Memusi had captured the hearts and minds of the youth and women — making him a formidable force but he was dismissed.
“Every time we spoke to the President, Mr Metito and Kenya Meat Commission chairman Taraiyia ole Kores would return to misadvise him,” he claimed. The two are said to have teamed up with Kericho Senator Charles Keter and Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau in running the show in Kajiado during the by-election.
Mr Keter and Mr Kamau were detailed by the President and DP to start off JAP at inception. Mr Metito denied responsibility for the loss, arguing that it was unnecessary to heap blames on anyone in an election the JAP candidate nearly won.
“This was a very local matter. And I want to state that every politics is local. This was an opposition zone— since 2002 the people of Kajiado Central have been stuck in the opposition,” he said.
“It appears getting them out of their comfort zone within a month was not going to be easy. But you must remember the opposition won in 2013 by over 12,000 votes now we have reduced the gap to less than 700 votes, ” he added.
TNA chairman Johnson Sakaja said the loss indicates JAP’s structural inadequacies, which he characterised as the result of poor organisation and the hurried manner in which the party was set up.
“What we want now is to create a party owned by the people. Unless we look at the structural issues and the rationale behind the party’s formation, we’ll be unable to sell the party to our people,” said Mr Sakaja.
Mr Sakuda said that initial strong opposition against the JAP candidate by most members of the Nkaissery family including his wife, Ms Hellen Nkaissery— whose sway among women is said to be very strong— also contributed to the rebellion against Mr Tutui.
Mrs Nkaissery only changed her mind at the eleventh hour after the State began to put more pressure on the Interior minister to have the seat delivered to JAP.
An intelligence brief indicating a wide range of popularity for the opposition candidate forced the government to mobilise more leaders to pitch tent on the ground.
Cord is planning a major home-coming party in Kajiado Central, where several Maasai leaders— including former Narok North MP William ole Ntimama— are expected to attend.
“It was a big thing for and we know the whole Cord fraternity in Kenya is happy. A major thanks-giving prayers in Kajiado to say thank you to the all mighty God is not a bad idea,” said Mr Mohammed, the Suna East MP who led the Cord team in Kajiado.
JAP interim vice chairman David Murathe said: “We gave it our best. They retained their seat. It makes no difference to the numbers in parliament.”