Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Should Azimio leader Raila Odinga succeed in his bid for the Africa Union Commission (AUC) chairperson job, attention will now shift to Azimio co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Martha Karua as Raila’s possible successors.

Even before the campaigns for the AUC job take shape, an axis within Azimio has started forming, with Wiper leader Kalonzo on Thursday last week summoning the Azimio summit to issue a joint statement opposing Kenya Kwanza’s budget policy statement and punitive tax regime.

Karua, the Deputy Azimio leader and, Raila’s running mate in the 2022 General Election, did not attend the summit held at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation (JOOF), Nairobi, giving Kalonzo a field day together with the other leaders.

Azimio meeting

Those in attendance included the National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa, Roots party leader George Wajackoyah, Usawa Kwa Wote party leader Mwangi Wa Iria and former Laikipia Governor Nderitu Muriithi.

Political analysts believe the absence of Narc Kenya leader Karua at the meeting, whether by design or by default, sent a message within the Azimio power matrix after Raila’s expected exit. This is despite Kalonzo conveying Karua’s apologies at the meeting. ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya too did not attend the summit.

Prof Gitile Naituli, a governance and political expert and a key think tank in the Azimio coalition said although Kenyans should not read too much in the Narc Kenya leader’s absence at the Thursday event, it was natural for some friction to grow between the two big guns within Azimio, on who should replace Raila.

“Being Raila’s deputy, Karua naturally becomes Raila’s heir in the Azimio coalition but with some other considerations like having a political party with over 20 MPs it is okay for Kalonzo to feel like he should be the one to fit in Raila’s shoes,” Prof Naituli told The Standard.

He, however, cautioned that the two leaders must remain united and seek to sacrifice their ambitions to beat President William Ruto, warning that any disorganisation will empower the Kenya Kwanza side to break the cohesion within Azimio.

“The two must remain under one fold as their leadership to retain the cohesion of the opposition will be tested. They need to transcend personal ambitions for the sake of Kenya and if they don’t do that it means they can’t unite Kenya and hence are not yet leaders,” said Prof Naituli.

However, former Mukurweini MP Kabando Wa Kabando averred that neither Kalonzo nor Karua would be the automatic heir of Raila and that Raila’s departure would give rise to a new breather in the Opposition.

Possible successor

According to Kabando, although Raila was irreplaceable, a situation will present itself for a possible successor, a person who will bell the cat.

“A vacuum has been created and Kenyans are not hostages to what is there. While Raila is a larger than life political dynamo and his departure inevitably deflates the parachute that is Azimio, there will be a rebirth in the Opposition politics,” he said.

He predicted that there will be a repeat of what happened in 1990 Kenneth Matiba a pro establishment in the late President Daniel Moi’s government emerged from the government and eclipsed Mwai Kibaki to become the face of the opposition.

On summoning the Azimio summit, Naituli opined that Kalonzo was moving faster to fill Raila’a vacuum, a strategy that was aimed at showcasing that he was able and had the qualities of succeeding the opposition leader.

 “It’s a good move to see an opportunity and to seize it, he wants to be seen as Raila’s replacement or alternative and that is why he moved fast and summoned his fellow Azimio leaders,” Naituli said.

Azimio leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Martha Karua. [Sila Otieno, Standard]

The development also comes at a time when there are reports of the formation of Kalonzo, Wamalwa, Wa Iria and Wajackoya axis in Azimio with the aim of consolidating the opposition support base in readiness for the 2027 General Election.

The axis also seems to have gone south with leaders like Oparanya who feel Wamalwa may be out to polarise ODM in Western region while Wa Iria seems to be building his political base in Mt Kenya region.

The members of the said axis have in the recent past held joint meet the people tour in Ukambani and Western regions a move that may cause ripples in the succession matrix.

Raila’s succession comes at a time when Kalonzo and Karua publicly differed over the Narc Kenya leader’s move to establish Kamwene group within Azimio that he dismissed as “a terrible political philosophy that sought to militate against the main objective of the Azimio grand coalition.”

In an interview with The Standard, the Wiper leader called for Kamwene it to be disbanded saying, “I would advise my sister and those who have come up with the formation to leave it so that we can stick together and adhere to the agenda of Azimio. Just like in Kikuyu, the meaning of the word in Kikamba is individualism against the tenets of unity of purpose.”

In a rebuttal, Karua did not understand why Kalonzo was bothered by the movement and its business.

“Kamwene scares my brother Kalonzo Musyoka that he must drag it in every conversation he has,” she said.

Sources have intimated to The Standard that the two leaders clashed in one of the Azimio summit meetings in the presence of Raila over the Kamwene group, a move that allegedly severed their relationship.

Better prospect

Jubilee Party Vice chairperson David Murathe has already thrown his weight behind Kalonzo saying, “If Raila is not on the ballot, Kalonzo has better prospects of becoming the best candidate in the Azimio coalition.”

While the Wiper leader has remained the symbol of unity in his Akamba community with anyone running on his party’s ticket having their ace in the hole, for Karua, her Narc Kenya party has no single MP elected in Mt Kenya region a move that pundits say works against her

Charles Njoroge, a political analyst said, “Karua was picked by Raila to sway the woman vote in Mt Kenya, as to whether that materialised is a matter of debate because the 800,000 votes that Raila got from the region may be attributed to former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s efforts, despite being Raila’s Deputy, Karua may have an uphill task to succeed him.”

Njoroge opined that although Kalonzo moved fast to summon the Azimio leadership, his ascension to Raila’s throne may not go unchallenged by Karua and the friction may end up lighting the fire that may destroy Azimio.

Sources within the opposition said already leaders have started taking sides on who between Kalonzo and Karua should be their leader with some calling for Raila to provide direction and guidance.

“We hope that he will find it fit to pronounce himself over the matter to end the looming stalemate that might cost him his brainchild,” a source said.

By Celine Awuor 18 mins ago
High alcohol taxes will save youth from potential harm
Governors reject Treasury's plan to slash budget by Sh5bn
Premium Kenya, Uganda rivalry rears ugly head with new milk war
By James Wanzala 18 mins ago
Nairobi among underserved aviation routes in Africa - report