THE STAR 09/30/2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta has embarked on a fresh push to compel One Kenya Alliance principals to back ODM leader Raila Odinga's presidential bid.
In the new plan — the first one crashed — the President has stepped back and empowered his confidants, including Mt Kenya tycoons, to hammer out a pact.
The Mount Kenya Foundation (MKF), the elite club of shrewd billionaires from Uhuru's backyard, is at the centre of the plan.
Foundation members held talks with Raila on Tuesday. On Friday they will engage Oka chiefs in a first session to broker a succession deal.
The Oka chiefs in the fledgling outfit are Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya).
The business magnates have said openly they were tasked by the President to interview Raila and Oka bosses to help identify Uhuru's successor.
The Star has established the round-table talks on Friday are part of an elaborate plan to push reluctant Oka chiefs to rally behind Raila.
Previously, they have said Raila could join but not be Oka's presidential candidate. Kalonzo and Musalia want to run for president and Kalonzo's supporters have said they will not tolerate Kalonzo backing Raila again.
“Our President expressed his wish to abide by the Constitution as his term is coming to an end. He has asked us what kind of advice would you give me about my succession," MKF vice-chairman Titus Ibue said.
He went on, “And we told him we are not going to give you a name but we want to give you a person who has the character we would want to see in State House.”
Initial efforts by the President to push Raila’s presidency triggered fury in Oka after Musalia and Kalonzo stood their ground.
They demanded the ODM boss back one of them to reciprocate their support in 2013 and 2017.
ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula said Friday’s meeting will provide a platform for Oka chiefs to table their agenda before the Mount Kenya Foundation.
“We are going there to present our agenda. There is nothing like backing Raila. The Mt Kenya caucus wants each and every candidate to present their ideas so they see which idea to buy. They're focusing on the economy," Savula said.
The Lugari MP said the candidate who presents a practical solution to revive the economy will win the support of the foundation chaired by Peter Munga.
The President has changed tack and does not want to appear heavy-handed, trying to impose Raila on Oka. He wants others to do it while he remains behind the scenes.
He hopes the Mt Kenya elites will be able to cajole Oka leaders Musalia, Kalonzo and Gideon into abandoning their presidential bids.
There are concerns that unless the principals unite behind Raila, defeating Deputy President William Ruto will be a tall order.
Uhuru's plan started last year when he met the Mount Kenya Foundation at Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri county.
The meeting came at the height of his falling out with DP Ruto. Uhuru is said to have tasked the team to craft a strategy to propel Raila to power.
"This has been a lengthy process involving a lot of consultations. I am happy we are getting to the tail end and the most crucial phase," one MKF member said.
In a bid to build consensus, the MKF plans a series of meetings with opinion leaders from Mt Kenya.
Select MPs and politicians will also have a session with the team later next month.
The preferred name will be handed to the President by December.
Questions are being raised about the credibility and objectivity of the vetting process after the Mt Kenya club left no doubt they had settled on Raila.
The foundation will focus, among other things, on the ability of candidates to ensure continuity in development projects the President has started.
The candidate should also safeguard Mt Kenya's business interests countrywide and listen to the region on issues affecting them.
The key meeting on Friday follows the announcement of Kanu boss Gideon Moi's presidential bid on Thursday. Raila is expected to be the chief guest.
In what is a pointer to a possibility of Raila and Moi working together in 2022, the ODM boss will today grace the launch of the Kanu leader's presidential campaigns.
The Baringo senator last weekend was to preside over a major funds drive at Ageng’a Secondary School in Migori, which was hosted by Raila’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango. A signal of Raila's blessing Gideon to visit his Nyanza turf.
The presence of Raila at Gideon's Bomas of Kenya event on Thursday is seen as part of the strategy to compel the Oka chiefs to back down and back Raila.
President Kenyatta is said to have blessed Raila and Gideon's close association.
Kalonzo and Mudavadi are both playing hardball against a Raila candidacy. They insist Oka will go all the way to the ballot, despite cajoling and arm-twisting
On Wednesday, a number of Oka MPs said they will not tolerate any plans, subtle or blatant, to whip Oka into Raila's camp.
Makueni MP Dan Maanzo, a close confidant of the Wiper leader, said their irreducible minimum as they meet Mt Kenya tycoons is that Raila will retreat and back one of them.
“We are telling Raila to keep his promise [previously agreeing to back one of the principals if he won the presidency in 2017]. We will not back down, it is upon Raila to back us and not change even after the Friday meeting," Maazo told the Star on the phone.
Raila has said there is no promise or deal since he lost the election.
The lawmaker said Raila must reciprocate.
“We have told Raila we will not support him. If Raila is not supporting Kalonzo, then our votes as Kamba will go elsewhere,” he said.
“I don’t want to anticipate the debate, but Mt Kenya wants their businesses together, that is why they want the whole of Nasa intact."
(Edited by V. Graham)