Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli sat down with Sunday Nation for a wide-ranging interview.
You admonish the DP so much yet with all that push to stop him, we still see a lot of sentiment in his favour, especially in the President’s Mt Kenya backyard. From where do you draw this confidence that you’ll stop Ruto’s march?
If you came to my house today and talked to my children and wife over a political subject, whatever position they took, I would overturn it within minutes if it countered mine as the head of the family. In that same regard, Ruto is just wasting time going to Central without Uhuru. Uhuru will only need a week or less to undo all he’s achieved there in three years. Our politics is based on kingpins. It’s like going to Western and bypassing the likes of Wycliffe Oparanya, Musalia Mudavadi, Eugene Wamalwa or Moses Wetang’ula, as weak as he might be. Or going to Nyanza without Raila. They may welcome you, but when the time to make that critical decision comes, they will go by what their local leader says.
Do you belong to the ‘Deep State’ or ‘The System’ like many seem to suggest?
I neither belong to the system nor am I Uhuru’s adviser. He has his team of advisers. I do not talk to the President on a daily basis like them, but I am his supporter. He means well for this country and that was manifested when he agreed, amid opposition from his own deputy, to shake hands with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the sake of tranquility in the country. Raila controls half of the country, so you can’t wish him away and hope to have peace in the country. The President is a visionary.
Why have you been receiving many delegations to your home in recent days?
You seem to have forgotten that I’m an elder in this country and am concerned about the future of younger generations. Elders consult on important issues affecting the society. As early as June 1967 I was an elected representative of workers. That’s 53 years now. Don’t you then think I’m an important person to be consulted? I have seen it all. Regimes have come and gone. At the global level, I take care of the interests of Asia and Africa as a trade unionist, and locally I lead more than four million workers. That qualifies me to advise anybody on the planet. Anybody.
And what do you talk about in your meetings?
I am a nationalist. As such we can only talk about national issues; the leadership of this county, the ills bedevilling it and how we can overcome them. The country will soon see the fruits of our deliberations.
Do you have the blessings of the President in the meetings?
The meetings are not sanctioned by the President or the former Prime Minister, but we support them.
From the caucusing, do you have a line up for the 2022 General Elections already?
When the time for a line up comes, we will tell you. It’s still too early. What we want is to ensure that we have the right people in the right camp… I mean… political positioning. And we will leave some of these pronouncements to political players when that time comes. Personally, I’m not interested in any political seat.
Do you have a plan to manage the fallout expected when the presidential candidate is finally unveiled, given the competing interests among those supporting the Handshake?
Such is expected in a democracy. As you hope for the best, you also prepare for the worst and how you’ll manage it. That has been factored in because we know there are those among us who are over-ambitious.
There has been so much talk about the President forming a government of national unity to accommodate those from the handshake side. Is it about time?
That’s the prerogative of the President. What I can tell you is that, with Raila on his side, whatever changes he want will pass through, even in Parliament. Kenyans will also accept it. In the past, I’m told some individuals would ask for money in the name of helping manage the people before certain key decisions were made; but now with Raila you do not need to spend a coin to get support.
Other than yourself, who are the other like-minded elders you’re working with?
We are many. You must have seen some of them here. You’re also free to join the team as long as you share our vision. Some of them are politicians and others are business people. Actually, we would be keen to recruit Tobiko (Environment CS Keriako) after his “clerk” sentiments. We see he’s also aligned. He was right, Ruto is Uhuru’s clerk by virtue of being the President’s principal assistant and we want to see him behave like one.
Does the State fund the many delegations you host?
Not at all. I am propelled by patriotism. I have been receiving visitors in my home for 53 years now. It is how I managed to be elected in the trade union movement. And do I really need to be funded to buy sukuma wiki, milk and bread? We don’t give handouts in our meetings. These are respectable elders as well.
What became of your bid to unite the Luhya nation?
We’ll soon have Bukhungu Two to anoint a new community spokesperson and thereafter give political direction. We have already booked the stadium for the event and I must thank Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya for this. We have commissioned a study to know which young men and women are popular in Luhyaland and know the positions they would best serve in. Musalia Mudavadi remains the community spokesman until we host the next meeting.