At least 15 candidates are resisting pressure from President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga to withdraw from the race to avoid dividing the vote in Jubilee and National Super Alliance (Nasa) perceived strongholds.
Several candidates told the Nation that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga were exerting pressure on them, directly or through proxies, to withdraw from the August elections in favour of their preferred candidates in order to ensure the two main political formations secure a majority of votes and seats that could be jeorpadised by “sibling rivalry”.
For Jubilee, these include independent candidates and those belonging to “friendly” parties while for Nasa balancing the interests of affiliate parties is a headache on top of the independents in their perceived strongholds.
In Rift Valley, Deputy President William Ruto is said to be the man exerting pressure on several independent candidates to drop out of the race in favour of Jubilee candidates.
Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are said to be promising the affected candidates top jobs if they withdraw from the race.
The biggest achievement on this front for the President and his Deputy was convincing Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua not to run as an independent against Jubilee’s Lee Kinyanjui.
This came as Amani National Congress Secretary General Godfrey Osostsi and Lugari legislator Ayub Savula warned that “sibling rivalry” within Nasa, especially in Western Kenya, would hurt its chances of securing seats in its strongholds.
“Nasa is a coalition of five parties and must operate as a coalition through mutual consultation among the partners and inclusivity so that we can remove this problem of sibling rivalry,” said Mr Osostsi.
Mr Savula said the issue must be solved urgently because it was spoiling chances for Mr Odinga to ascend to the higher office and affect their campaigns.
He said Nasa stands to gain more if the parties under it work together instead of fighting adding that the community will support and campaign for Mr Odinga.
The Nasa affiliates are ODM, Wiper, ANC, Ford Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani.
Among those who have come under pressure include Uasin Gishu independent gubernatorial aspirant Zedekiah Kiprop Bundotich Buzeki, his Homa Bay counterpart Oyugi Magwanga, Migori gubernatorial aspirant on an independent ticket Ochilo Ayacko, his Bungoma counterpart Alfred Khangati (ODM) and the county’s senatorial aspirant Boniface Nyongesa.
In Narok, Nasa fears that the rivalry between ODM Governor Candidate Joseph Tiampati and CCM candidate Patrick ole Ntutu could give an advantage to incumbent Samuel Tunai of Jubilee.
Others include the Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lang’at who is defending his seat as an independent candidate and his Gem counterpart Jakoyo Midiwo,
Sammy Koech who is contesting the Konoin parliamentary seat also as an independent candidate and businessman Kipsinget Koross who is gunning for the Soin/Sigowet parliamentary seat have additionally come under pressure.
Mr Buzeki, Mr Magwanga, Mr Khangati and close aides to Mr Ayacko confirmed to the Nation that they had been asked to drop their bids in exchange for plum jobs in a possible incoming government.
Mr Buzeki, a wealthy businessman who was last month asked to drop his bid in favour of current governor Jackson Mandago by the Deputy President said that he would not heed the calls despite the pressure from the two leaders.
“I am not stepping down for anybody and I am not going to negotiate with anyone. I am firmly in the race. I have an agenda for the people of Uasin Gishu based on the manifesto I have and that can only be decided on the ballot on August 8,” he said.
Mr Magwanga also said he had received calls from the ODM leadership to drop his bid and support the incumbent, Cyprian Awiti of the Orange party.
“I have come under pressure from the ODM leadership to have me drop my bid,” said Mr Magwanga, referring to Mr Odinga.
Sources revealed that Mr Odinga had also held a meeting with Mr Ayacko at his Bondo farm last month during which he unsuccessfully tried to convince him to drop is bid and back governor Okoth Obado.
“Mr Odinga pleaded with Mr Ayacko to drop his bid, promising him government appointment should Nasa ascend to leadership,” said a source who attended the meeting.
Mr Ayacko is, however, said to have stood his ground, saying the nomination exercise in Migori was not free and fair.
It was not the first time Mr Odinga’s presidential campaigners were asking Mr Ayacko to drop from the race.
During a campaign rally in Dede trading centre in Awendo constituency last month, Mr Odinga’s elder brother Oburu Oginga and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga who are heading the Nasa presidential campaign in Nyanza pleaded with Mr Ayacko to drop his bid because he would be given a government appointment should Nasa ascend to presidency.
“I tell Mr Ayacko to drop his gubernatorial bid because Raila will reward him with a government appointment,” said Dr Oginga.
And last Monday during Nasa presidential campaigns in Gem, Mr Odinga extended an olive branch to Midiwo, also promising him a job in the Nasa government.
Mr Odinga said he could not afford to clash with Mr Midiwo over politics, saying he would soon meet the latter and try to persuade him to drop his bid.
“Midiwo en owadwa matin, okwanyal gwenyre kode kisiasa, onego okony wa e kedoni, ok abiweye oko ka wayudo loch’ “Midiwo is m younger brother, we cannot differ with him politically, he should back us in this battle, I won’t leave him out if we ascend to power,” Mr Odinga said in dholuo.
Mr Midiwo was however not at the function.
Mr Odinga also publicly asked the Bungoma senatorial candidate Bonny Nyongesa to drop his bid and support Nasa principal Moses Wetang’ula during a rally at the town’s Posta grounds two weeks ago.
Mr Khangati, who is challenging Ford Kenya’s Patrick Wangamati and incumbent Kenneth Lusaka (Jubilee) for the county’s gubernatorial post, confirmed that Mr Odinga had approached both him and Mr Nyongesa over the need to drop their bids.
“My party leader Raila Odinga called me to his office in Nairobi to tell me that he was under a lot of pressure to get me to step down for the Ford Kenya candidate Wangamati and I explained to him that I could not sacrifice my gubernatorial ambitions.
When he came to Bungoma the other Friday, He also supported Wetang’ula and asked our ODM candidate for the senatorial seat Boniface Nyongesa to step down for him. The next day the local ODM branch disagreed with the suggestion and he has not gotten back to us after that,” he said.
OMAR DISMISSED SUGGESTION
Sources further revealed that Mombasa senatorial aspirant Hassan Omar (Wiper) had also been approached by Mr Odinga to step down for the incumbent Ali Hassan Joho (ODM) at a meeting two weeks ago.
The meeting was reportedly attended by Mr Musyoka, Mr Joho and two politicians from Kwale county.
Mr Omar is, however, said to have dismissed the suggestion.
The Senator at the time confirmed having attended a meeting but declined to divulge what transpired, only stressing that he was in the race for Mombasa governor.
Speaking to the Nation, Mr Omar denied ever having been approached to step down.
“Personally I am not aware of any plans to prevail upon some candidates to step down within Nasa,” he said.
Busia gubernatorial aspirant Paul Otuoma and his Siaya counterpart also downplayed reports that they were under pressure from the Nasa leadership to drop their bids in favour of the incumbents, Sospeter Ojaamong and Cornel Rasanga respectively in exchange for jobs.
“Those kind of attempts where people do shambolic nominations and want to offer those kind of positions are not democracy. If we wanted jobs we would just have applied for them,” Dr Otuoma said.
“There is nothing like that. Even if they come, I don’t want anything to do with them,” Mr Gumbo said.
Mr Gumbo was responding to claims by Kisumu deputy governor Ruth Odinga, who is the co-chair of her brother’s Presidential Campaigns that they have attempted in vain to reach out to the Independent candidates to drop their bids.
“We have tried to invite them to plan the presidential campaigns because they say they support Raila but they have not bothered to attend our meetings. We have therefore stopped further involvement with them because they seem to be offering lip services,” Ms Odinga said.
Mr Lang’at, the Ainamoi MP, on his part dismissed Mr Ruto’s promise to give them jobs if Jubilee wins the election.
“Ours is a calling to serve the people. Before I decided to run for the Ainamoi seat as an independent candidate, I consulted many people.
Therefore, it would be a big let-down to the electorate if I withdrew from the race at this stage,” said Mr Lang’at.
The legislator argued that he would have considered Mr Ruto’s job offer had it come before he publicly declared that he was going to defend the seat as an independent candidate.
The youthful Mr Koross also said he had turned the job offer from the Jubilee leadership.
“I ask the DP to reserve the job that he promised me for my competitor Justice Kemei because I am confident I’ll defeat him in the August 8,” he said.
Speaking in Kericho county last month, Mr Ruto had promised the politicians jobs once jubilee retained power.
Unlike Mr Odinga who is finding difficulties convincing the independent candidates in his strongholds to drop out of the race, Mr Kenyatta has already succeeded in convincing a number of candidates in his strongholds to sacrifice their ambitions in exchange for plum jobs in his government.
These include Governor Mbugua, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, his Starehe counterpart Maina Kamanda, Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire, former Kamukunji MP Simon Mbugua and Nairobi Woman Representative aspirant Ms Millicent Omanga.
Independents in the ruling party’s perceived strongholds are, however, yet to bow to pressure.