By BEATRICE ELACHI
Although opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his cronies are trying to put a brave face on things, the divisions within NASA are there for all to see.
At the heart of tensions is the plain fact that NASA doesn’t really exist. It is not a recognised party. It is nothing more than a brand name. It is simply a group of individual parties, in which Raila’s ODM has effectively taken control. It has left Wiper, Ford Kenya, ANC and Chama Cha Mashinani competing for the crumbs of influence from Raila’s table.
During an election campaign, the public reasonably expects the main competitors to put on their best, united face.
And if this is NASA’s best attempt, it is alarming. Most glaring is the ballot itself, which will show Raila is not the NASA presidential candidate, but for his own ODM party. Consequently and technically, his running mate Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka will run on an ODM ticket.
Understandably, Wiper’s apparent political neutering has led to enormous friction within the party. This was laid bare at the recent funeral of Kitui Senator David Musila’s mother, where Kalonzo was heckled, booed and many of his natural supporters walked out. Not an unreasonable reaction towards a man who has effectively allowed Wiper to be consumed by ODM.
Despite the animosity, NASA’s constituent parts are backing ODM’s candidate for President: It suits their own interests to see Raila in State House. But at a local level, it is open season as each faction battles the other.
Senator Moses Wetang’ula has sternly warned ODM not to field candidates in perceived Ford Kenya strongholds such as Bungoma, where a clash between the two is expected for governor.
Meanwhile, ANC officials have expressed similar displeasure at the Orange party competing in its Western heartlands. They argue that Raila should show gratitude over their support for the presidency by handing the ANC a clear run.
And the animosity is also a major feature of the campaign in the Coast region.
Most obviously, Wiper’s Senator Hassan Omar is going head to head with ODM’s number two Hassan Joho for Mombassa Governor. In fact, the two parties are battling each other for parliamentary seats across the region.
In some cases, more than two of the NASA factions are competing against each other. And well they might.
Kalonzo, Musalia Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and Governor Isaac Rutto understand that the NASA marriage of convenience is in effect an ODM takeover.
As such, the contest on August 8 is not just between Jubilee and NASA, but also between NASA’s affiliate parties.
Because NASA is nothing more than an informal arrangement, agreements between the factions are pliable at best, and cannot be considered binding.
Internal influence in the post-election reality is, therefore, up for grabs — the only currency that really talks is parliamentary seats and governorships. This is an old-fashioned street fight for power.
And Kenyans must be clear that if Raila is elected, the battle won’t end on August 9: It will be the beginning. The potential structure of a Raila-led government is just as vague as the arrangement between NASA’s constituent parties.
Five positions have conveniently been created for each of the five principals — the Pentagon. But you can fully expect Mudavadi to use his role as Premier Cabinet Secretary to jostle for position with Kalonzo. Meanwhile, Wetang’ula and Rutto will likely be desperate to demonstrate their relevance as joint deputies to Mudavadi.
The pecking order that has been constructed won’t quell anyone’s thirst for power, apart from Raila. It will instead invite continued political infighting. It is a recipe for chaotic government, an administration pulling itself in different directions to the detriment of the entire country.
The contrast with Jubilee could not be starker. Jubilee Party also incorporates multiple communities and political factions. And yet, not only does it function as one, single, united party, but has also worked together to achieve so much for all Kenyans in the past four years. More households have been connected to power since 2013 than since Independence.
During the last four years, thousands of kilometres of roads have been paved, millions of Kenyans have benefitted from free maternal healthcare and the number of Kenyans online has tripled.
The unveiling of the SGR, which promises to take our country to the next level, is another reminder of what can happen when Kenyans, driven by a common vision and purpose, work together for the national good.
When the alternative is an internal power struggle between self-interested factions, it doesn’t seem like a difficult choice to make on August 8.