The Jubilee Party enters a crucial week with the unveiling of teams which will coordinate its primaries in the 47 counties. The primaries are slated for April next year.
The teams will be known from December 16. The party secretariat headed by former Cabinet minister Raphael Tuju will pick 19 people in every county through a process of “consultation, consensus, communication and compromise”, as opposed to elections.
Mr Tuju has been holding a flurry of meetings with party members from counties as he seeks common ground for each county.
Officials of the defunct, merged parties will be given priority in the new structure. Mr Tuju said the party has guidelines to determine who becomes an official.
“If you are an aspirant and also a party official, we will not allow you to remain as a party official because you can use that position to your advantage. If you are an elected Member of Parliament or hold any other elective seat and you are also a party official, then we will ask that you give a chance to those not contesting,” he said.
This comes against the backdrop of cracks within President Kenyatta’s campaign teams in several Jubilee Party strongholds in Central Kenya, barely two months after they were set up. They include Nyeri, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and, to a lesser extent, Nakuru.
The cracks threaten to derail President Kenyatta’s re-election campaign against a rejuvenated and united opposition only eight months to the General Election.
In each of the troubled counties, parallel factions are claiming to be the President’s men on the ground. But Mr Tuju downplayed the differences, terming them “passionate disagreements”. He said members of the campaign teams will not hold positions in the county teams that will preside over the primaries.
In Nyeri, for instance, some Jubilee leaders have disowned the nomination of local Governor Nderitu Gachagua to head Mr Kenyatta’s re-election campaign in the county, saying he is unpopular.
Mr Gachagua was named alongside Nyeri Town MP Esther Murugi as the chief campaigners in the county, creating a perception that they are the President’s point people in the region.
One of Mr Gachagua’s critics, Former JAP county secretary-general Nderitu Wamitii, accuse him of “arrogance and disrespect to party members”.
He said the governor was a lone-ranger in running the President’s re-election campaign in the area while isolating 2017 election aspirants.
“We would like the President to remove the governor from the campaign team and instead appoint him to the JP advisory board,” said Mr Wamitii. He threatened to defect.
Mr Gachagua laughed off the aspirants’ demands, terming them an empty threat.
“Those are just empty threats. If anyone wants to run on a different party, we will not stop you. But prepare for a battle because Jubilee will make it very difficult for you to win,” he said.
The governor convened a meeting at Boma Inn Hotel for all party aspirants on November 29, immediately after the President’s tour of the county. But the meeting ended in disarray after the aspirants demanded to be included in the President’s campaign team.
In Nakuru, the President’s campaign team leader, Ms Susan Kihika, maintained that the party was united despite demands by Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri that she vacates the position as she is allegedly unsuitable to lead the campaigns.
In a thinly veiled reference to Mr Ngunjiri, Ms Kihika termed the disgruntled Jubilee leaders “disloyal” to the party. “These are Doubting Thomases. They should keep quiet and give me time to prove my worth because I have what it takes to spearhead the Jubilee presidential campaign in the Central Rift,” said Ms Kihika.
She said her scorecard in the presidential campaigns should be evaluated after the General Election in August 2017.
LOYALTY TO JUBILEE
“President Kenyatta and his Deputy, Mr William Ruto, are smart politicians. When they picked on me, they had faith in my leadership qualities. For some politicians to doubt them speaks volumes about their loyalty to Jubilee,” she added.
Mr Ngunjiri, a political nemesis of Ms Kihika, has dismissed the appointment as “the joke of the year.”
Ms Kihika is eyeing the Nakuru county senatorial seat in the 2017 General Election. She will fight it out with seasoned politicians such as Koigi wa Wamwere, Njenga Mungai and Karanja Kabage.
In Murang’a county, the battle for control of Mr Kenyatta’s campaigns is between the incumbent governor Mwangi wa Iria and Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau.
This is thanks to the nomination of Senator Kembi Gitura, a close ally of Mr Kamau’s, to the President’s campaign team, alongside Women Representative Sabina Chege.
Mr Gitura has been a fierce critic of the governor and is seen to be backing Mr Kamau for the governor’s seat.
Ms Chege has, on the other hand, maintained a middle position, careful not to be seen to be supporting either side.
In Kirinyaga county, the Jubilee Secretariat has been asked to ensure that only popular and honest interim party officials are picked to spearhead Mr Kenyatta’s campaigns.
According to a director of Tana Water Services Board, Mureithi Kang’ara, the residents want to have credible officials with a good reputation to manage the party affairs at the county level.
The secretariat will be visiting the county headquarters on December 14 to coordinate the identification of JP offices and agree on who will be the interim party officials.
Stories by Wanjohi Githae, Joseph Wangui, Francis Mureithi and George Munene