Deputy President William Ruto admires a football t-shirt from McDonald Mariga. Photo: Courtesy.

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Professional football player McDonald Mariga was yesterday trapped in behind-the-scenes infighting for the soul of ruling party Jubilee ahead of a looming by-election in Nairobi’s Kibra constituency.

The fight, which began on Monday, pits Jubilee party camps allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Dr Ruto’s camp - which favours Mr Mariga’s candidature - sensationally claimed that their rivals in the ruling party, led by Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, had hatched a plot to field a weak candidate for the Kibra election in order to help opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM candidate win.

The Uhuru wing of the party, however, insisted that it was in charge of party affairs even as it accused Ruto’s side of pushing for Mariga’s candidature through a fake list of candidates published on Monday evening to hoodwink the electorate.

A Jubilee operative who cannot be named because he is not the party’s official spokesperson said the controversial list of five had come from Ruto’s office and not from the party’s head office.

DP William Ruto greets McDonald Mariga during the Wanyama Roya Charity Cup at St Mary's School on 21 July 2019.

Contentious list

“It was meant to give the impression that selection of the candidate for Kibra by-election would be fair while the truth is that four aspirants on the list were mere pawns who would pull out at the last minute in favour of the footballer.”

The contentious list, which the electoral commission acknowledged receiving, went into circulation on Monday shortly after Mr Tuju invited Jubilee members interested in vying for the Kibra seat on the party’s ticket to apply.

Yesterday, an MP close to the DP insisted that Ruto would supervise the nomination process, which they insist will at the least take the form of an electoral college (select delegates) to decide the party’s flag bearer.

“We will not accept board room interviews announced by Tuju,” he said.

The intrigues escalated yesterday even as it became clear that Mariga had not made up his mind to contest.

Ruto and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale were said to have approached Mariga and asked him to run for the seat left vacant following the death of Ken Okoth but the football star was yet to respond to the request.