Martha Karua and Rigathi Gachagua face off over integrity, graft in presidential debate

Running mates Rigathi Gachagua and Martha Karua shake hands as journalist Nimrod Tabu looks on. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The differences were as stark as the running mates and their principals as the much-awaited running mates debate started.

Martha Karua and Rigathi Gachagua took on each other on the relationship a president and their deputy should have, showing stark differences in the manner they plan to engage with their prospective bosses - Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, respectively

While Ms Karua, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya deputy presidential running mate, maintained the need to be submissive, Mr Gachagua of United Democratic Alliance, said there was space for a “strong” deputy president.

The two, touted as abrasive politicians, were asked what kind of DP they would be in the government that takes over after the August 9 elections in light of the strained relations between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto, characterised by frequent public spats.

“I will be a deputy president who is respectful of the Constitution, the people of Kenya and my principal,” Ms Karua said, stating that her role would be complimentary to help “my captain stick to the rule of law.”

Gachagua said that he had a “fairly good idea of how to help my candidate and give him backup.”

They agreed on the complementarity that the president and their deputy should espouse in delivering their promises, captured in their respective manifestos, which both candidates said were the results of consultative engagements with the public.

But Ms Karua, referring to Mr Odinga as “my principal” and “my captain” several times. She said that it was natural that the president and their deputy would have disagreements and said that such must be settled in private, and should not be aired in public as is the case with Dr Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Mathira MP dismissed the thought that disagreements could exist between himself and the DP if they were to be elected.

“I like to look at life from a positive point of view,” Mr Gachagua said. “It is incomprehensible that we could have sideshows.”

He blamed differences between the President and his deputy on an “inferiority complex” that does not allow strong-willed deputies to thrive.

Running mates Rigathi Gachagua and Martha Karua. [File, Standard]

Ms Karua shot back, saying that the differences between the President and the deputy had rendered the government unable to fight corruption, saying that the most prudent thing to do if one disagreed with their boss was to leave.

“Those who don’t understand principle cannot comprehend resigning. It is dishonest to earn a salary without serving,” she said to remarks by Mr Gachagua that it was not honourable to be a quitter.

“Those who don’t understand principle cannot comprehend resigning. It is dishonest to earn a salary without serving.”

They agreed against amending the Constitution to make the DP position an appointive position.

“There is nothing wrong in the architecture of the Constitution but something is wrong with our behaviour,” said Ms Karua.

“The deputy president needed to enjoy the mandate of the people,” Mr Gachagua said of why the DP position was elective.

Both candidates were also put to task on how they planned to end corruption, trading blame on who had more skeletons in their closet. Ms Karua asked how Mr Gachagua had made his wealth, a subject that the Mathira MP had, for a while, dodged. She said that Azimio was ready to “confront the monster”, saying that she and Mr Odinga had supported the anti-corruption fight.

She accused UDA of giving the fight against corruption a wide berth. Dr Ruto’s running mate would allege “state capture”, a concept that Karua agreed existed, but termed it as corruption propagated by cartels.

Mr Gachagua was, seemingly, on a mission to tie Azimio to the Jubilee administration and their failures, claiming that the President would micromanage an Azimio government, claims Karua refuted.