Jubilee Party was doomed to fail from the outset, says Noah Wekesa
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party was doomed to fail from the start after going against advice on nominating its national officials, a former minister who co-chaired a committee that brought together 12 parties to form the mega political outfit in 2016 has told the Sunday Nation.
In an extensive interview, Dr Noah Wekesa says Jubilee, the party they worked so hard to form, failed the committee at the last minute after one-and-a-half years of hard work crafting the monolith the President had hoped would dominate the political scene for a long time, mirrored in the image of the ruling parties of China (Chinese Communist Party), South Africa (African National Congress), and Tanzania (Chama Cha Mapinduzi).
Jubilee’s downward path, the 85-year-old says, started at a Bomas meeting when the interim officials that the committee he co-chaired with Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi — who has since declared Jubilee dead and awaiting funeral rites — were to be unveiled.
“We had prepared a list of officials, dutifully sat and brought them from all the parties that were to merge and presented the names. But when we got to Bomas, it was like a cattle market. People would stand up and claim they wanted to be officials, and Deputy President William Ruto would nod in agreement. I was disappointed, and I walked out and drove home. What was the essence of having us work for one-and-a-half years to come up with officials, and then the list is just discarded in such a manner?” asked Dr Wekesa.
The four-term Kwanza MP, who takes pride in having been part of the team that crafted the National Rainbow Coalition in 2002 and that of the Party of National Unity (PNU) in 2007, says it was then that Jubilee’s death — even before it was born — began.
“We had a structure, right from the top to the bottom. We wanted to have these structures to go to the counties. We stated clearly that these leaders will be interim officials, and three months after the elections, we will have a national election for the party officials. That was not done,” Dr Wekesa regrets.
While he is happy that the party won elections and registered 171 MPs, 34 of the 67 senators and 25 governor seats, Dr Wekesa thinks Jubilee took for granted its status and failed to follow through what his committee had recommended.
“Apart from the President, the Deputy President, secretary-general Raphael Tuju, and some few others, do you know anyone else as an official of Jubilee? Would you say the party belongs to members? You must instill ownership of the party. If they had followed the things we had told them, no one would have run away from the party and Jubilee would not be half the party we had wanted and envisioned,” he said.
Jubilee, which won elections in 2017 and had representation in 41 of the 47 counties, is now a pale shadow of its former self, with Dr Ruto having pulled away from the party and started his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) wing. Dr Wekesa thinks the party’s troubles are self-inflicted.
“The first step that Jubilee took was wrong — the nomination of interim officials. The second is trying to run a party all on nominated people. A party must belong to the people. We had intended that these national leaders we had named will be interim. As long as you have a party being owned by the people, we argued, you know you have started the journey well. But if the members are not part of the organisers, then who is organising at the grassroots level? They do not have officials in the county,” said Dr Wekesa.
Going forward, Dr Wekesa thinks Jubilee’s chances of survival lie with a proposed coalition with Raila Odinga’s ODM.
“Jubilee is not what we created. It is half of what it could have been. It is not dead, but it is now what it could be; and now it needs ODM very badly. And that too, is not enough. They need to get a lot more,” he says.
On 2022, Dr Wekesa believes this Jubilee-ODM coalition and that being created by Dr Ruto will be the only two horses in the race, with the advantage going to the one that crafts a coalition faster than the other.
“In this country, you cannot win an election without a coalition. I have been active in the creation of coalitions since 2002, and I know that to be true. The quicker one creates a coalition now, the better. If anyone imagines he can win without a coalition, you must be a wonderful person. The group that will have as many political parties in a coalition, will get it,” said Dr Wekesa.
He offers himself to any of the two for coalition building.
“That is my specialty. If anyone of them wants to create a coalition, I am here to offer,’’ he says.
He rubbishes the chances of the One Kenya Alliance unit of Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Gideon Moi, and Moses Wetang’ula, saying their only path to the job is through either Dr Ruto or Mr Odinga.
“The faster they disband that One Kenya, the better. They need to join either Ruto or Raila and do it now before it is too late,’’ he says.
He, however, warns the two leaders against gauging their strength based on the MPs that are behind them, saying it is a false statistic to use.
“Close to 70 per cent of these MPs will not be re-elected. You cannot use elected leaders as the only ones running parties and coalitions. They will mess you up,” he says.
Read: Musalia Mudavadi tells Raila Odinga to brace for battle of his life
On the elusive Luhya unity — the 2.2 million voter bloc in Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga, Busia, and Trans Nzoia — Dr Wekesa thinks the community has been misrepresented.
“Luhyas are very democratic people. They join what they want. They cannot be herded to go to one side because one of their own is running, and you cannot allocate parties for them. If one wants the Luhya vote, be a national leader like Kijana Wamalwa and Masinde Muliro. Luhyas will decide,” he says.
This, he advises Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula of Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford Kenya, respectively, to aspire for national leadership and not the tribal one.
On whether President Kenyatta will have an influence on his succession, Dr Wekesa says he cannot be underestimated.
“I have seen people say he only has influence in Central. You cannot dismiss the President. He is still influential in a lot of places. He has a lot of say,” he says.
He, however, warns that the project tag — being seen as a project of an outgoing President — was a serious issue the leaders must look at ahead of 2022.
“Do not carry that tag. Do not want to be endorsed. From where I sit, I do not see Uhuru Kenyatta saying I want so and so. I do not think he will,’’ he says.