Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has dismissed ODM’s threat to punish members who back Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid.
This comes as Mr Ruto pitched camp at the coast and appeared to make more inroads into the region.
Mr Kingi pn Sunday said they were simply taking the cue from President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s political truce.
“The aim of the handshake was to heal, unite the country, cool political temperatures and make us work with our opponents (Jubilee). I urge the Deputy President to continue visiting us. We are doing exactly what Raila has done and we are going to follow that,” he said.
Speaking at Sai Eden Roc resort in Malindi during a fundraising, Mr Kingi said efforts to unite the region, which has about 1.7 million registered voters, ahead of the 2022 elections, had started “because tomorrow’s journey starts now”.
Mr Kingi’s ally, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who has been a strong ODM lieutenant at the Coast, said the residents were tired of being in the opposition and that it was time to join the government.
Ms Jumwa, who unsettled coast politics when she backed Mr Ruto for President immediately after the pact between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, said the DP was “not only the frontrunner but the only runner”.
Last Thursday, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna warned that the party would punish members who have rallied behind Mr Ruto.
He said the party would consider disciplinary action against the members for allegedly contravening its resolutions and directions.
Mr Kingi, however, wondered why the party considered the lawmakers as rebels for “working with the DP to develop the region”.
“These MPs are doing exactly what Raila is doing, uniting with the people and I do not see why they are threatened,” he said.
“We know very well that the handshake is not for the purpose of 2022 politics.”
Mr Kingi said he was ready to work with Mr Ruto in the next elections.
“I have asked Mr Ruto if he is ready to join us for 2022 race,” he said. “We want a united coast before 2022. If we unite from Kiunga to Vanga, we will form the next government, but first we must sit down as coast people to plan for 2022 politics.”
He added: “Mr Ruto is interested in the presidential seat, but as coastal people, we are also interested in the same seat. Therefore, we have to plan. Sometimes people have to sit down and talk since there is only one seat.”
Ms Jumwa said she would not be cowed by Mr Sifuna’s threats.
“You cannot threaten an elected leader. I personally will not agree to be threatened. I am an iron lady.”
ODM swept all the seven parliamentary seats in Kilifi County, and only lost three of the 35 MCA seats to Independents and Kadu Asili.
Mr Ruto, who has been at the coast since last Friday, on a visit that ends today, said the residents should review their political stand to remain relevant and benefit from the current political dispensation.
“You cannot do the same thing again and again and expect different results…that is madness,” he said.
He said coast leaders should sit down and agree on a party that shares same ideals with residents and work with it.
He said the handshake was meant to end retrogressive politics.
“We asked ourselves, when are we going to talk about issues concerning 40 million Kenyans?” he said. “Let us leave politics aside and work to serve the people. Kenyans are intelligent and will decide (their leaders) when the time comes.”
Mr Ruto praised Mr Kingi’s efforts to unite the residents.
“Every time I come here I usually hear people shouting ‘tibim’, but they do not know what it means. I am ready to work with coast people to form a government,” said the DP.
Kilifi North MP Owen Baya said coast leaders would unite and find ways of forming the next government.
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya praised Mr Kingi and other coast leaders for sharing his “ambition of joining the government”.
He said he would prefer Mr Ruto to become the President because the DP cooperates with leaders when called upon to assist in development. “We want to be in the government from now until 2022. Do not listen to propaganda,” said Mr Mvurya.
He asked the local residents to support the DP, saying that opposition leaders would only use and dump them.