Jubilee targets ODM governors to turn tide in Opposition areas

President Uhuru Kenyatta has laid out an elaborate plan not only in the race to recapture his seat in the August General Election, but also field strong candidates in Opposition strongholds, especially the Coast, western Kenya and parts of Nyanza.

His strategy, which involves targeting Opposition governors, is likely to put him on a collision cause with Nasa leaders, who are seeking to consolidate their support bases as well as unseat the President.

Governors – who in total have controlled more than Sh1 trillion in the last four years – are the new-found prize in politics and the President hopes they will pull a critical mass behind them.

The county bosses are also believed to have a campaign war chest that could come in handy in campaigns for the election, billed to be the biggest — and likely to be the most expensive — in Kenya’s history.

The Saturday Nation spoke to a wide range of sources in President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party who painted the picture of a man determined to recapture power and one who has ordered that his party leaves nothing to chance when it comes to his re-election bid.

This includes wooing Opposition leaning governors and where Jubilee Party does not have strong candidates, getting them to decamp and seek re-election on a Jubilee ticket.

Since the President has no strong candidate in regions such as Taita Taveta County, his point men have persuaded Senator Dan Mwazo of ODM to gun for the governorship position on a Jubilee ticket .

President Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, are on Tuesday and Wednesday slated tour Kisii and Nyamira counties — both led by ODM governors — as part of their whirlwind tours to woo votes in the opposition strongholds that is increasingly become a theatre of high-level political contests.

The tour is targeted at governors James Ongwae and John Nyagarama of Kisii and Nyamira counties respectively, both of who have steadfastly stuck with the Opposition.

Instructively, in Kisii, Jubilee have fronted two former ODM politicians, Senator Chris Obure and Deputy Governor Joash Maangi to take the battle to Mr Ongwae.

The two will battle it out for the Jubilee gubernatorial ticket in the primaries in what strategists say is likely to invigorate the ruling party in the region that largely voted for the Opposition in 2013.

The tour is set to take place barely a week after Jubilee pitched tent at the Coast where the President launched various development projects aimed at enticing the public to vote for his government in the August 8 elections.

During the tour, President Kenyatta told off Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, who he accused of following him wherever he went.

Mr Joho is the Deputy Party Leader of ODM and has repeatedly said that the region is an Opposition zone despite the defections of leaders from Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Tana River from the Opposition to Jubilee, a move that, again, appears to lend credence that Jubilee is specifically targeting ODM in these regions.

In the strategy, Opposition governors who refuse to toe the line are either presented with an intensely financed Jubilee candidate or their deputies are snatched from them and sometimes asked to run against the incumbent.

Among ODM leaders who have joined Jubilee are Mr Joho’s Deputy Governor, Ms Hazel Katana. In some areas, governors find they have to respond to “awakened legal suits” from different government agencies.

Among the governors who have ditched the Opposition and are now working with Jubilee are Bungoma’s Ken Lusaka, Salim Mvurya of Kwale, Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Hussein Dado of Tana River and Marsabit’s Ukur Yatani.

Dr Mutua and Mr Yatani have agreed to back President Kenyatta but have declined to join Jubilee.

“The droves of opposition leaders, especially governors, trooping to Jubilee is slowly creating the perception in those areas that Jubilee is the winning team. The political momentum is usually a pointer that the ground is shifting to us,” said Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata, who is also seeking to be the next Murang’a Senator.

And though the Raila Odinga-led Opposition has insisted that the defection of five governors to Jubilee has had no effect on the Opposition, President Kenyatta’s team is banking on the regional chiefs to muddy the waters and hive away a chunk of Opposition supporters in those regions where Jubilee performed poorly in 2013.

Jubilee strategists are also taking advantage of anxiety in the Opposition coalition — Nasa — over nominations, which are likely to lead to fall-outs.

“They are telling Nasa politicians: Look, the nominations will be shambolic. Already, the current governors and MPs have nomination tickets in their pockets, come we give you tickets,” said political analyst Barrack Muluka.

It is in this context that Senator Chris Obure and his Taita Taveta counterpart, Mr Dan Mwazo, ditched ODM.

The two are hoping to get the Jubilee ticket to run for governor in their respective counties.

Kilifi Deputy Governor Kenneth Kamto also ditched ODM for Jubilee and is expected to face with the incumbent, Mr Amason Kingi at the ballot.

In Turkana, where ODM vice-chairman Josphat Nanok has been running the show, the Jubilee Party team has fielded Senator John Munyes who was elected on Ford Kenya.

When President Kenyatta visited the county earlier this month, he had a bitter exchange with the Governor, Mr Nanok, over the proposed sharing of oil revenue.

On the defection of governors from ODM — which is allied to Nasa — National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso said: “You do not imagine that these governors are coming empty handed. They are coming with people, and they are a critical part of President Kenyatta’s re-election campaign.”

Jubilee is also dangling the carrot of development, telling regions whose leaders are in the Opposition that they were missing a lot for being out of Government.

This is a line the Opposition leaders, such as Mr Joho, have rebuffed, saying the government is obligated to serve every tax payer.

Parties have until April 5 to submit their lists of aspirants to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The Jubilee Party had set Friday as the deadline for the submission of papers before it can plan for the primaries

Jubilee is also deploying campaign cash – a critical element in the winning formula for Kenyan elections – to woo opposition politicians.

The party has also formed a powerful, well-oiled and adequately financed campaign team.

The Saturday Nation has established that the ruling team aspirants have been promised millions of shillings after the nominations to run campaigns for themselves as well as the Head of State.

“You are all mine. When you campaign for whatever seat you want, campaign for my re-election as well,” President Kenyatta told Jubilee aspirants during the party’s National Governing Council.

Despite this raids on the Opposition, the ODM Director of Elections, Mr Junet Mohamed, has dismissed the defections as inconsequential.

“The voters will see right through these people’s selfish interests and they will lose as early as 8am. You are a governor with billions, and you say you are defecting to bring development. What a shame!” he said.

ODM is also reportedly counting on what its leaders believe is enough anger in the country over loss of jobs due to hard economic times and runaway corruption, to turn the tide against President Kenyatta come August.

“Jubilee took over a nation of Sh1.5 trillion debt. That debt is now Sh4 trillion and rising. As a Kenyan, has your income increased two and a half times since Jubilee came to power?” Mr Odinga posed in a statement he sent from Washington on Thursday this week.

He said President Kenyatta was not telling the whole truth on development.

“We challenge are challenging the President to show Kenyans the 7,000 kilometres of roads the Government has constructed in the last four years by category, status and region,” Mr Odinga wrote.

Additional reporting by Ruth Mbula and Justus Ochieng

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