Ababu Namwamba’s tricks for political survival

Ababu Namwamba

His chutzpah shocked even dyed-in-the-wool Opposition supporters. That was in 2008, and MPs were being sworn in.

Among the first-term legislators was an eloquent young man bubbling with NGO activism who had the cheek to pledge his loyalty to Opposition leader Raila Odinga instead of Mwai Kibaki, who had been declared the President in Kenya’s most contested and bloody elections.

With unnerving lucidity, he would breathe out fire through his first term in the August house.

But things happen to politicians and Ababu is no exception.

So it came to pass that he saw the light in his second term and quit Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party for the Labour Party of Kenya, maintaining he was nobody’s sidekick and therefore independent of Jubilee, whose bigwigs he was obviously dining and wining with.

It was just a matter of time before the real Ababu revealed himself.

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Endorsed Uhuru

“Only a fool does not change his mind.” Those were his words as he endorsed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election on Monday.

Not really surprising. A 360-degree turn is in order when you are fighting for political survival. Ababu is in good company – remember, eating words his words never gave British politician Winston Churchill indigestion.

Back to 2008; Ababu, a former University of Nairobi student leader, entered the annals of history as perhaps the only MP who swore in the name of his party leader in the presence of the President. Holding up a Bible, he swore in the name of Raila, bringing the House to a standstill.

The standoff threatened to derail the swearing in of the 210 MPs, who included President Kibaki. The stunt would haunt him after Kibaki handlers rejected his nomination as a Cabinet minister following the signing of the National Accord that gave birth to the Grand Coalition in April 2008.

He did however succeed towards the tail-end of the 10th Parliament, when he became the Sports minister. But it is strange how he is embracing the very party he rejected, not once but a number of times.

“Jameni nitazame, ninakaa Jubilee kweli? Hii ni lugha ya Jubilee? The blood of Ababu Namwamba is so incompatible with that of Jubilee that if you mix the two, you get a fatal clot. A fatal clot! That’s how incompatible I am with Jubilee,” he told supporters early this year.

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Hostile crowd

Last October, Ababu ran into a hostile crowd outside a church in Mombasa, where a mob confronted him after a slip of the tongue on his political alignment. T

hey wanted him to declare his political affiliation after he gave a speech at Glory Worship Centre in Bangladesh, Jomvu constituency, that appeared to indicate he was allied to Jubilee.

Addressing the congregation, the MP remarked “we in Jubilee” and quickly corrected the slip with “we in Labour Party” but some youths still called him a Jubilee mole and almost ran him out of town. T

his was only two months after he ditched ODM and launched an amorphous lobby calling itself ‘Mulembe Consciousness’, which didn’t last long after his Funyula counterpart Paul Otuoma abandoned him.

Ababu and Otuoma had quit their positions in ODM as vice chairman and secretary general respectively to ostensibly spearhead a political grouping that would lead the Luhya community in charting its own political destiny.

 Ruto’s protégé

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After quitting ODM in July 2016, Ababu joined Julia Ojiambo’s Labour Party of Kenya where he became the leader. Still, he burned many calories rejecting claims that he was Deputy President William Ruto’s protégé in western Kenya.

On March 11, he finally came out of the closet to lead LPK’s top brass in resolving to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “elaborate development agenda”.

And on Monday, the outspoken MP was at Kenyatta International Convention Centre to witness Uhuru present his nomination papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and vowing to work tirelessly to ensure that the President was re-elected. It is now left to observers to see if Ababu will swim against the tide of an Opposition stronghold and retain his seat to serve the people of Budalang’i for a third consecutive term. 

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