Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana put on a brave face as a section of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) critics punched in the air in solidarity while addressing reporters in Nairobi on Sunday.
But Prof Kibwana, the most prominent politician thus far in the Kongamano La Mageuzi caucus, is being bogged down by the thinning support at home where most politicians have joined the BBI bandwagon.
Meanwhile, at home, the political class savoured the 135,000 signatures the county delivered to the BBI secretariat last week following days of intense campaigns.
The campaigns were jointly coordinated by administrators of the national government and Mr Mwengi Mutuse, an aide of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua.
Dr Mutua and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu have abandoned Prof Kibwana and have instead been cosying up with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, setting the stage for an epic clash over the bid to change the constitution in the region.
Wiper MPs who had initially expressed strong reservations about the BBI report beat a hasty retreat at the last minute. Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo, for instance, had initially rubbished the push to amend the constitution as a ploy by ODM leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta to influence the 2022 succession politics.
The Wiper MPs took turns in signing BBI booklets in low key ceremonies after meeting the party leader, Mr Musyoka, drawing the line with Prof Kibwana, a constitutional lawyer.
He is among those pushing for the full implementation of the current constitution rather than mutilating it.
“All the people who love Kenya, we must say let us stop this haphazard self-centred change of the constitution and sit down in a national conversation, from the grassroots to Nairobi, and then ask what the problem with our country is and how we can together save ourselves. If we do not do that, we are going to go the route of our neighbours, which is a bad route. It is a route to hell,” Prof Kibwana said at the Nairobi press conference.
As they rallied their supporters behind the proposed changes to the constitution, which they hail as the panacea to under-development in the country, Makueni Woman Representative Rose Museo, who was part of the BBI taskforce, and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior have not missed a chance to implicitly call out Prof Kibwana and other BBI critics.
The senator, for instance, told a funeral in his backyard that those opposed to the BBI are only scared of the proposed tough provisions to fight corruption. Ms Museo termed those opposed to the BBI “selfish politicians who are only determined to raise their national profiles”.
Mr Mutuse has, however, assumed a more diplomatic tone. On Sunday, he pledged to reach out to Prof Kibwana.
“We shall reach out to Prof Kibwana so that even if he does not switch to Yes, he tones down on the No campaign,” he said after Sunday service and presiding over a funds drive for the construction of a new church block at Kikuumini GNCA.
The governor, who enjoys the backing of the church, Kamba council of elders, silent supporters of the Deputy President William Ruto and a section of local elites, has, however, maintained he will not relent.
Already, Prof Kibwana has taken the fight against the change of the constitution to the Supreme Court. He has filed a plea with the apex court seeking guidance on whether a Bill containing a proposed amendment to the constitution should only be limited to a single issue of the constitution.
At the same time, the governor wants the court to advise if it is proper for civil servants to be used to promote BBI.
The governor’s firm stand, and that of a section of the civil society which includes former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and NARC Kenya leader Martha Karua, comes as Dr Ruto blows hot and cold on the push for constitutional change.