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Allow Raila and Ruto to pick running mates of their choice

By Elias Mokua | Apr 28th 2022 | 3 min read

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left) and Deputy President William Ruto chat during the Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium in 2020. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The drama about running mates for the two leading presidential candidates, Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga seems to zero in on Mt Kenya as the deserving producer of the next Deputy President. The argument is that the Mountain has votes that any serious presidential candidate cannot underestimate.

On the slopes of the Mountain, former Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka is the most vocal among those angling for the second top office. The tone from his camp carries some weight of entitlement. His argument, at least in public, is that he is a senior politician, has deputised the Azimio flagbearer in the past and the results have been satisfying. Satisfying is another way of saying the contested presidential election outcomes in 2013 and 2017 could have gone either way. 

In the UDA camp, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the second in command will hail from the Mountain. The voices from the camp reminded Musalia Mudavadi that his dreams could hover anywhere but not in the Deputy Presidency.

In Kenya, Deputy Presidency is the second most powerful office. It comes with all manner of privileges including representing the President during important functions. Away from the benefits and trappings of power, the office has a very symbolic value. The occupier, like the President, is the face of the country within and outside.

Moreover, as the Constitution contemplates, should the President vacate office for whatever reason, the Deputy President assumes the responsibilities of leading the country until a new election is held or until the next general election.

By all standards, the Deputy President is a very important office.

However, not only does the experience of Deputy Presidency (previously Vice Presidency) in Kenya show how successful presidents have undervalued the constitutional expectations of the persons in that office but also a new experience in the ruling Jubilee regime has emerged. Pairs do not necessarily work together. Regardless of who between the boss and the assistant is right, there is a symbiotic relationship that ought to exist between the two duty bearers. After all, the Presidency is a symbol of unity and cohesion from which citizens learn patriotism.

Here are three lessons learned for those aspiring to be Deputy President or for ethnic groups fronting their own.

First, consider all attributes of the person whom you want deputised and the one deputising. It is against any organisational and institutional spirit to pair persons who cannot pull in the same direction. Even when they differ, one of the two must give in to the other for the good of the institution, in this case respect for the Office of the President. National unity, national pride should override personal ambitions. So, even as people scramble for the Deputy Presidency, as party members and committed citizens of this country, the only country we call home, it rests on us to rise above individual and ethic interests and pair people who will bring honour to the highest office in the land.

Second, politics, in its very basic form, is about interests. Much as individuals and ethnic blocks are ganging up to have one of their own to be Deputy President, it is important to know that getting the office and demonstrating leadership are two different goals. Very ambitious persons must be checked for their true inner interests. Ambitioning is a good thing. But ambitioning at the expense of other tribes, at the expense of merit, with short termist goals through the second highest office in our land should be censored and stopped at the earliest opportunity possible.

Thirdly, the Constitution ties together the President and the Deputy President. The best we can do in the circumstances is to be magnanimous and let the presidential aspirants choose persons they are extremely comfortable working with. Volunteering oneself and campaigning for a presidential candidate is not a guarantee the two will work together.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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