Jubilee top guns are on quest to wrest control of debate on the fight against corruption in government from the Opposition. This comes as public perception about roaring theft poses serious threat to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.
In what appears to be a coordinated counter-narrative led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto, and majority leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale, the aim is to deflate the Opposition’s message that has consistently depicted the government as corrupt.
The urgency of the task, sources told the Nation in confidence, is informed by intelligence briefings warning that the corruption message by the Opposition could cause voter apathy in Jubilee strongholds but revitalise Cord zones.
Mr Kenyatta’s handlers feel he has allowed Cord leader Raila Odinga undue latitude in his criticism of government’s commitment to the fight on corruption and now government strategists believe Jubilee should not be on the defensive but should set the agenda.
There’s an entrenched feeling that the Head of State has for a while left his deputy to take on Mr Odinga, only coming in occasionally.
But it has been different in the last few weeks with Jubilee leaders locking horns with Mr Odinga and other Opposition politicians.
It was the same on Friday at Kasarani Sports Stadium when Mr Kenyatta addressed the 7th anniversary of Joyful Women Organisation , a non-profit organisation started by Mr Ruto’s wife Rachael that advances soft loans to women. The two leaders took on Mr Odinga and the Opposition for their frequent criticism and highlighted government achievements.
Of grave concern among Mr Kenyatta’s key bureaucrats has been that the corruption narrative, informed by various scandals, was fast drowning major milestones the administration has registered inside an election year with little fight back time.
PRESIDING OVER THEFT
Claims by the Opposition are, however, supported by numerous reports of graft in high places that have dominated the headlines in the recent past in the national government as well as counties.
As such, the report by the Auditor-General Edward Ouko accusing counties of presiding over theft of public funds could not have come at a better time as it provided enough fodder to make Mr Odinga look equally culpable.
Dr Ouko’s report adversely implicates almost all county governments but Mr Kenyatta’s lieutenants have cleverly capitalised on governors close to Mr Odinga like Kilifi’s Amason Kingi and Mombasa’s Ali Hassan Joho to argue he was a direct beneficiary of looting in the devolved units and hence had no moral standing to criticise the national government for sleaze.
Mr Duale, the Majority leader in the National Assembly, has been at the forefront accusing the opposition chief of applying double standards— defending Cord politicians implicated in corruption while condemning the same in government.
On Saturday, State House referred us to Mr Duale when we asked whether the new scheme points to existence of a structured organ to deal with the Opposition.
“I cannot comment on that one, please look for the Majority leader Duale,” Mr Ruto’s press secretary David Mugonyi curtly said.
Mr Duale was not immediately available for comment.
The government accuses the former prime minister of running with hare and hunting with the hounds even as Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission chief executive officer Halakhe Waqo asked the political class to stop trivialising war on graft.
REIN IN CORRUPTION
“The ongoing bickering will not help the country rein in corruption. If any of the groups were to be useful, they should channel such energies in supporting institutions investigating and charging those found guilty,” Mr Waqo said.
A member of the President’s inner circle revealed they are deliberating whether to release “a dossier” on Mr Odinga which he said, “Unfortunately ropes in his late son Fidel Castro.”
“We have to stop him in his tracks. You know a lie repeatedly told somehow becomes believable,” our source said.
But an unfazed Mr Odinga told the Nation that Jubilee’s scheme was meant to divert public attention from the scandals that have lately rocked the government.
“What Uhuru and his team are engaging in is similar to a petty thief who is fleeing from the scene of crime and on noticing that owners of the loot are in hot pursuit points at an innocent bystander who is lynched as the thief goes scot-free. But we will not allow them to get away with the wanton stealing that is the order of business in government,” he said.
A source in Jubilee told us that moving forward, Mr Kenyatta will take on the Opposition chief with more gusto than before with a view to slowing him down.
Last week saw the President robustly take on his arch-rival after initially adopting a policy of not responding to Cord leader’s prodding.
“Raila’s job from morning to evening is to criticise my government. Such utterances cannot bring development. He does not see any positive thing to talk about this country. I wonder why he wants to lead a bad country,’’ Mr Kenyatta said on Thursday.
The debate has attracted attention of the foreign envoys with the US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec saying, “What’s needed now is not talk, but serious action.”