By OSCAR OBONYO
Those being touted as possible running mates, Ruto said, were “incapable of tilting the scales” in the Rift Valley. The United Republican Party hopeful added that the Prime Minister was “too smart and calculating” to name a running mate from the region.
Roads Minister Franklin Bett and Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey have been jostling for the spot in the Orange party, promising to lead the region back to ODM.
Observers say Rift Valley counties are back in play after recent missteps by Ruto with regard to appointments. Another major factor is the quashing in court of abuse of office charges against Kosgey.
The defection of Western giant Musalia Mudavadi from ODM is also a factor, having narrowed the party’s support base. Ruto also faces trial at the International Criminal Court that may knock him out of contention for president, limiting the region’s options. The URP hopeful, however, insists the Rift is politically sewn up.
“I do not think Raila (would) contemplate picking a running mate from Rift Valley,” the Eldoret North MP told The Standard On Saturday. “There is no Rift Valley – it is gone already (to URP). The PM will definitely look elsewhere.”
Ruto’s observation comes as Raila is expected to address a political rally at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium today. The ODM Reloaded team has been in the region since Friday, with stops in Baringo, Olenguruone, Molo, Elburgon, Njoro, and Mauche.
The rallies are meant to weaken the hold Ruto has had on the region over the last four years. The Eldoret North MP had a falling out with Raila not long after the 2007 General Election over the latter’s alleged betrayal on several issues, including Grand Coalition appointments, and the handling of post-election violence suspects and Mau Forest squatters.
But his hold on the region’s communities has weakened. The return of Kosgey to the foreground after surviving pre-trial hearings at the ICC and an abuse of office trial locally have given ODM a major boost in the region.
Raila’s allies in the region have also made hay of Ruto’s blunder during the nomination of MPs to the East African Legislative Assembly. Although three members from the Kalenjin community were proposed for some of the nine slots, Ruto allegedly declined to back any of them “because they were sponsored by rival camps”.
Roads minister, Bett, said this, and other issues, are “slowly shifting the ground in our (ODM’s) favour”. Observers say Ruto is aware of the shift, which explains his activity this week, ahead of ODM rallies.
The MP led politicians from URP in touring the region, using two helicopters to cover more ground. During the weeklong campaign, which included consultative sessions that ran past midnight, the team addressed rallies in Pokot, Keiyo-Marakwet, Kericho, Baringo, Bomet, Nandi, and Uasin Gishu counties.