The Tangatanga camp has tactfully retreated from rocking Jubilee Party from within — on Deputy President William Ruto’s orders — even as it emerged that it is reluctant to lead a ‘No’ campaign against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum slated for next June.
The Saturday Nation has learnt Dr Ruto, in a meeting with his inner circle on Tuesday, pleaded with them to stop attacking the ruling party and its leader President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The call for ceasefire came moments after Jubilee Party deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany wrote to the Registrar of Political Parties seeking its intervention to force the party to hold grassroots elections.
Sources at the Tuesday meeting said the DP asked for the letter to be withdrawn and no demands be made for action on it. He asked his allies to “let the matter rest”.
The posts of party leader and deputy party leader would not have been up for grabs had Jubilee polls, planned for this year, taken place. Party officials have cited the Covid-19 pandemic for postponement of the elections.
Mr Kositany wrote to the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu asking her to compel top Jubilee officials to conduct party elections, in what Tangatanga reckons would be their last shot to wrest the party’s control from the President’s power cabal.
The Ruto team has since then backtracked on a number of attempts to attract the attention of the President, including shelving their initial threats to move to court to push for the audit of Jubilee Party funds.
But yesterday Belgut MP Nelson Koech seemed to suggest that the DP has a Plan B and is not keen to fight for the party. He said they have agreed to let the party “go”, arguing that some of those allied to the Head of State have refused to listen to their complaints.
“Jubilee belongs to the members, but a few officials do not want to listen to what we are saying. Some of them have become dictatorial. Tuju said that Uhuru has to continue beyond 2022, that tells you that the party is rotten,” Mr Koech said.
“We are not interested in fighting for the party anymore. No one will use Jubilee come 2022. We have ventured elsewhere. Without Ruto in Jubilee, it is dead.”
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono said they are now studying whether they need Jubilee Party in the 2022 General Election and working on a strategy that will catapult the DP to State House.
“The DP has taken a back seat to strategise and make a decision whether to use Jubilee for his presidential bid or get another outfit. He is consulting his political strategists,” said Mr Rono. “We have suspended the fight for the party because, as troops, we do not want to use resources fighting for a party when we can get another one.”
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa echoed the sentiments, saying “we have registered several parties, on one of which we will launch our campaign mid next year”.
Isolated in government, he complained that there were plans by certain forces to bar the party from having a presidential candidate in the 2022 General Election.
“Our Jubilee Party has been hijacked by busybodies, conmen and brokers, making it look like Kanu, which had issues and at last remained a skeleton. Now we are being told by them that they cannot give tickets even if I win, or the party might not field a candidate come 2022, saying they have plans with certain individuals,” said DP Ruto at the time.
Now the Tangatanga pugilists have developed a reconciliatory approach, even on the divisive BBI, and are now pushing for consensus rather than a ‘No’ campaign against the referendum. Insiders, however, say they want to concentrate on their ‘hustler’ empowerment programmes and consolidate support for the 2022 election.
In this regard, the DP and his lieutenants will not mobilise funds for a ‘No’ campaign, which advisers have said would be a “waste of resources”. That turn of events is quite telling as Dr Ruto and his foot soldiers have been demanding that the report be opened for fresh scrutiny, and that some “offending” clauses be removed.
The other camp has, however, been quick to remind them that they squandered their chance to appear before the steering committee when it was collecting views from the public.
Some also feel that, with State backing, the BBI will sail through and their loss could threaten their chance of winning the 2022 contest.
“This BBI is going to pass even if we oppose it and that is why we should not lead ‘No’ campaigns because a loss at the referendum could torpedo our main agenda, which is ensuring that Dr Ruto succeeds President Uhuru Kenyatta,” said one of the Tangatanga lawmakers who requested for anonymity. Mr Kositany has publicly declared that they will not oppose the referendum.
However, taking that route would be his biggest gamble yet, especially because he would have no control over the outcome of the referendum vote, his political strategists argue. While a win would give his presidential campaign momentum, a loss — and the odds are against him, having lost in the 2010 referendum — would equally harm his projection of political strength.
Political analyst Javas Bigambo said Dr Ruto’s onslaught against the BBI would be beneficial in that it would mean that he has a knack for consistency, and he is his own man.
“But,” he cautioned, “ it would also open him up to the criticism that he always opposes a Constitution that always turns out to be beneficial to him. Whether it is his strategy or a default setting, his fortunes would be determined by how he is capable of marshalling national political support for the ‘No’ side, and whether his side will carry the day or not.”
Another analyst, Prof XN Iraki of the University of Nairobi, argued that a Yes-No referendum is likely to raise Dr Ruto’s profile as he can use it “as a rehearsal for 2022”. For Prof Egara Kabaji, Dr Ruto is rooting for a non-contested referendum as the ‘Yes’ team will win anyway.
But Mr Kositany said they do not want to divide Kenyans before the next General Election.
“Some people are looking for those who should be in the ‘No’ camp. We have chosen the line of consensus. If you want people to be in the ‘No’ team, why can’t you be there? We need Kenya to move forward as one nation,” said the Soy MP in Emgwen, Nandi County.
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