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Risk of playing second fiddle to potential losers

By By Okech Kendo | July 12th 2012

Potential presidential running mates should play shy to seduce into shaky tickets. They know it is not just the fly that has no one to advise it that follows the corpse down the grave; even the one with advisors can sink just as deep.

So far, the only potential running mate, who has been fingered publicly, Matuga MP Chirau Mwakwere, knows there is more to winning the presidential race than chest-thumping by those inebriated by ambition. Mwakwere would rather eye the Kwale County Senate than being drugged into a ticket with a double-edged potential.

Even though the new Constitution puts high premium on the presidency and entry-point integrity for public leadership, it would appear some presidential aspirants aren’t getting it. They seem to believe they can still use extinct baits.

Presidential ticket has become so tight it can only contain two. When stretched, there can be three top-tier positions. And you must work extremely hard to put the possible third position within reach.

There is president, and deputy president, who must also be qualified to be president. The third possibility for a potential ruling party is the leader of majority in Parliament. This is a post-election possibility, but even briefcase parties are scouting for teams so they can hang together when the prey is lost.

The requirement that a presidential ticket wins at least 50 per cent-plus-majority vote, and at least 25 per cent in 24 of 47 counties is a search for a ‘national president’. This is beyond pretenders whose agenda may be to round up tribal votes for bargain. And power brokers have crowded the presidential race, with an eye on hay from sponsors.

Between 2002 and 2007, it was possible to build a presidential ticket around promises of sharing high offices after the win. Then the president could still dish out Cabinet positions, State corporation directorships, and constitutional commission jobs.

The anchor for the National Rainbow Coalition in 2002 was the possible goodies when the hunt was done. Which was why Narc attracted a constellation of political stars that included Mwai Kibaki. The man would be president for ten years, even though he had promised his allies he would take five to make the ticket attractive to fellow hunters.

If they won, which they did, they promised to change the 1963 Constitution to accommodate president, prime minister, and two deputies for each. There was also a proposal for a co-ordinating senior minister. The like-minded gang of 2002 had shared greed, and goodies to dish. The gang split when the President and his inner circle then called ‘Mt Kenya Mafia’ reneged on power-sharing deal. They did not deliver a new Constitution within 100 days of winning.  The gang stopped being ‘like-minded’.

By the 2007 General Election, presidential aspirants could still bait with promises of top offices to attract and maintain allies.

It worked like a charm for ODM through the Pentagon – of Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Charity Ngilu, Joe Nyagah, and Najib Balala, with Prime Minister Raila Odinga as ‘The Captain’.

The new Constitution reduces the High Table to two official positions – the President and the Deputy President. Yet presidential aspirants, especially in the G7 Alliance, still want to use the 2007 template. The new Constitution has blocked this road to State House.

Ticket to oblivion

The game no longer requires brokers who can round up tribal vote to manipulate polls. There are no more Cabinet positions for power brokers. The President can no longer co-opt financiers into the trimmed Cabinet that shall consist of professionals. A multi-party Parliament, and other institutions of public governanceshall vet these bureaucrats for entry-point integrity into the lean Cabinet of 14, but not more than 20.

What may have worked for Raila in 2007 or for Kibaki in 2002 is a dead template. It may not even attract running mates, leave alone tribal political lords. The stakes have reduced, and the risks of abusing State power have tripled. 

Fifteen politicians by the last count had admitted they suffer from uncontrollable presidential ambition. Only one ticket will succeed President Kibaki.

Better still, presidential aspirants can only run for one office, and hold one public position at a time. Fourteen presidential aspirants and their running mates shall fall by the wayside. Voters shall be looking for a mass grave for careers of 28 presidential election losers. That political parties can nominate presidential election losers, and their running mates, is not guaranteed. So, if a politician decides to run, they should first figure out the direction of the race before buying a ticket to oblivion.

The man who calls himself ‘Zipapa’ would like you to treat anything you have heard about him being anybody’s running mate as a rumour. And it is easy to understand Mwakwere’s caution. It is a reality-check.


Someone is teaching ‘Mr Clean’ Kalonzo Musyoka new tricks in the name of changing tack. They want the VP to hit harder, and the Mwingi North MP has started rebranding as a rough rider. The VP says Prime Minister Raila Odinga should have been taken to The Hague in 1982.The VP also wants Kilome MP John Harun Mwau to tell him why ‘The Boss’ is considered a rich man as to splash development in his constituency. It’s never been so easy to teach old hands new tricks.

The writer is The Standard’s Managing Editor Quality and Production.

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