Dilemma over Azimio running mate as IEBC deadline nears

Applicants for Raila Odinga's running mate, so far, include Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and Martha Karua (Narc Kenya). [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya advisory panel is rushing against time to end the tug of war over the running mate position.

To beat the IEBC’s Thursday deadline to pick a running mate, the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition Council constituted the panel last Thursday to evaluate and recommend the most suitable candidate in seven days.

Sources say applicants for running mate so far include Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua (Narc Kenya), and Peter Kenneth.

Others are Governors Peter Munya (Meru), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui).

Some affiliate parties have also made a last-ditch decision to have their representative on the list, hence the inclusion of Ms Ngilu’s name.

Earlier, the affiliate parties successfully fought to expand the governing council membership from seven to 11, which brought in two representatives from Narc and DAP-K.

Parties are expected to make a formal application, unlike in the past where apart from Mr Musyoka’s Wiper, none had declared their interest in the position.

On Friday, DAP-K deputy leader Ayub Savula said they had asked Ms Ngilu to tender her application for the running mate position as a representative of affiliate parties.

He said they considered her experience in politics, the fact that she has run for president and her grasp of national politics, before making the decision.

“We have spoken to her and agreed that she puts in her papers because affiliate parties have a big stake in the support for the presidential candidate,” said Mr Savula.

So what will the seven-member committee consider when picking the most suitable candidate for the running mate?

Analysts say the committee has its work cut out, but they will consider the ability of the person to work closely with the president and the numbers he or she is likely to deliver.

Political analyst Martin Andati, who has closely followed developments in the coalition, says the choice will most likely be between Mr Musyoka and Ms Karua.

He says Mr Musyoka has more numbers but the problem is that it will be a stale ticket running for the third time and that does not look good.

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga with NARC-Kenya leader Martha Karua. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

There are also Jubilee Party interests in Mt Kenya region that are intertwined with those of President Kenyatta after his departure from office.

Prof Macharia Munene says the Mt Kenya region has more than five million votes and the Kamba nation over two million and that may influence who between Mr Musyoka and Ms Karua will be picked.

But Mr Andati argues that the Wiper leader’s demands to be running mate may work against him, because he will be seen as somebody who will become deputy president and then start campaigning for president.

From the foregoing, he thinks the creation of the committee is merely a rigmarole aimed at ultimately settling on Ms Karua or someone else for the job.

Support for Ms Karua

And the fact that Ms Ngilu, who like Mr Musyoka is from Ukambani, is championing the Narc Kenya leader to be running mate is also telling.

Prof Munene, however, says the Kitui governor has already voiced her support for Ms Karua and shown her disdain for Mr Musyoka, which was a game changer in Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya.

“Her entry throws a spanner in the works although it may be more about opposing Mr Musyoka. But if she gets into the picture it will complicate matters in Azimio,” says he says.

Ms Ngilu bringing Ms Karua into the game further strengthens the gender perspective, which will be considered by the committee and makes her (Narc Kenya leader) among the front runners.

“They want to have a fresh ticket and also have a woman for the first time as a running mate and it appears the idea is being pushed by people around the president,” says Mr Andati.

But Wiper Secretary-General Daniel Maanzo is adamant that the Azimio running mate will be Mr Musyoka because of the numbers he brings.

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka at the JKIA, 2019. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

“If they don’t want Azimio to lose, Raila has no choice but to make Kalonzo his running mate because nobody else will gather the numbers he will bring and that is what we are all looking for,” says Mr Maanzo.

He further argues that from the look of things, Central Kenya leaders have completely failed to deliver and Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition may end up getting no seats in Parliament from there.

Mr Maanzo says Azimio should stop talking about boardroom meetings and creating committees, which will not help them. “We, the representatives of Kamba nation, are watching what is happening because we know Central Kenya is bringing nothing to the table,” he says.

Prof Munene argues that Azimio constituted the committee to pick a candidate because it is in a big jam and they are trying to figure out how they can come out of it.

He says Mr Musyoka is playing very smart but hard politics, which has created problems in Azimio.

“I can see the committee creating a problem should they pick somebody else other than Mr Musyoka because he has stuck out his neck too much in demanding for the seat,” says Prof Munene.

Prof Gitile Naitili of Multimedia University says nothing big should be expected from the committee because they will just pick the person they have been told to give to Mr Odinga.

“For the committee to carry out a selection process, they need to be given a marking scheme and so, I think it is just a way of pacifying whoever will not be taken,” he says.

He argues that Ms Karua or Ms Ngilu will most likely be picked because of the odds staked against Mr Musyoka and the way he has played his politics since joining the coalition.

Prof Gitile says Mr Musyoka has been treated with contempt since joining Azimio and Ms Ngilu will therefore complicate his chances because she is an ally of Mr Odinga.

“He lost a lot of bargaining power the moment he announced early that he cannot deal with Kenya Kwanza, instead of using it as a bait to get a watertight agreement,” he says.

Mr Andati says some powerful forces in Jubilee want Ms Karua to be deputy president, Mr Musyoka speaker of the National Assembly and Mr Munya speaker of the Senate should Azimio form the next government.

“That arrangement will create more problems for Azimio la Umoja because Eugene Wamalwa has also been eyeing the position of speaker,” he says.

Mr Andati says from the ongoing talks, Kisii Governor James Ongwae will most likely be Head of Public Service and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya a Cabinet Secretary, leaving western with no senior position.