Political players were still counting gains and loses last night as the country came to terms with Friday’s surprise deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga. With observers agreeing that the deal will drastically alter the political landscape, it was left to individual political players and their formations to find their place in the new scheme of things.
In all of it, new opportunities have suddenly been thrust to the fore and careers put on the line. As the going gets tough on one hand, the tough get going on the other side with a ruthless political game in the offing. Isolated out of the deal, NASA co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula have been lamenting publicly, while awaiting a make or break meeting tomorrow. Their statements measured and bereft of their strongest pillar, they sounded unsure whether to embrace the move or go for fresh alliances.
Even as they contemplate their next move, the emerging details that some of them were closer to clinching a deal with Jubilee before they were beaten to it by Raila make them instant losers.
Unless they closed ranks with their senior, the political support accorded to him over two elections will certainly go down to waste. Alongside the co-principals and teetering between loss and opportunity is Deputy President William Ruto. For five years, Ruto has enjoyed the dashing status in the Jubilee political marriage until a new bride was thrust into the scene from the blue and in broad daylight.
Wheeler dealers From his absence in the Friday event to the half-spirited congratulatory remarks he made, Ruto must now come to terms with the new polygamous status of his political marriage.
How he takes advantage of the confusion wrought on the Opposition movement by the exit of its pillar will determine whether his loser status will last long. NASA principals and DP aside, the many politicians and wheeler dealers who have earned their political stripes through verbal attacks on either Uhuru or Raila are in a perilous position.
They are now at a crossroads and for as long as the peace between the two biggest names in Kenyan politics holds, they will be forced to reinvent themselves or pay for personal re-branding classes.
But as these two proceed to prescribe the medicine for a Kenya whose health has been steadily deteriorating, these politicians are likely to become collateral in this never-ending wars at the very apex of Kenyan politics. Hardliners such as Adan Duale and Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, directed by a decision of their party leader, have now seen the light of nationhood and finally figured that Raila is a statesman and can from time to time act in a statesmanlike manner.
“Congratulations President Uhuru Kenyatta for living to your promise of leaving behind a prosperous nation as legacy. Meeting Raila was part of his promise to promote national reconciliation, healing and fostering unity among our citizens,” Duale said soon after the news of the meeting broke. If legacy is what was really at the back of the President’s mind, then Murkomen, and other attack dogs of the Jubilee Party might soon become redundant if this alliance continues to hold.
This applies to the other side as well, where ODM chairman John Mbadi has been having the time of his life talking down President Kenyatta’s legitimacy in office. So have others such as the vocal NASA CEO Norman Magaya. But away from the politicians, this development may put a break on the positions of some of Uhuru’s trusted men and women who have been appointed to various positions in Government.
“Kenyatta and Raila have agreed to roll out a programme that will implement their shared objectives. The programme shall establish an office and retain a retinue of advisors to assist in their implementation,” the statement issued by the two politicians said. These words should be familiar to Kenyans with some bit of institutional memory. A similar agreement was reached when, in the implementation of the National Accord, key ministers within President Mwai Kibaki’s Government were redeployed to other lesser offices to create space to accommodate a Raila premiership.
A similar thing might happen in the coming days as this committee moves to put in place structures to govern this partnership. To note though is whether some key individuals, who have consistently antagonised the opposing side will have any role to play in the new dispensation.
David Ndii, an intellectual par excellence, has on more than one occasion rubbed the Jubilee administration the wrong way. His critique, particularly castigating the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) — Uhuru’s pet project — has been interpreted as an all-out war against the executive. If Raila insists on bringing him on board, will Uhuru’s men agree to have him walk with them side by side? The same dilemma will face the Raila faction when it comes to abrasive members of Uhuru’s Cabinet such as Fred Matiang’i who has implemented the wishes of the State to the letter when dealing with the Opposition.
Or Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju who uses unkind words in describing Raila and his brand of politics to further the agenda of his party.
As for winners, Kenyans who have born the brunt of recurrent divisive politics, an economy battered by politics, democracy stifled by exigencies of cutthroat competition and neighbours worried that Kenya could one day slip into orgy of violence are instant winners of the deal.
Kenyans can now look forward to stable days ahead, a stronger shilling, a more cohesive country if the two stick to their plan of action unveiled on Friday. Political negotiation being a game of give and take, the two will have to cut off the fat if they are indeed committed to bringing the country together.
The truth of the matter is that both sides will have to make sacrifices if the country is to resolve the underlying crisis. And both sides must be willing to come to terms with losses within their ranks.
The highest level of patriotism will not be displayed by the two key players, but rather the individuals around them, who for one reason or another feel owed. Raila’s men will feel owed by virtue of their role in the agitation that has resulted in this agreement, some braving arrest while others have suffered far worse fates such as death.
Uhuru’s men will feel owed by virtue of their defending of the throne, sometimes at great personal and political loss and in total contradiction to their intellectual and moral standing.