Jubilee vice-chairperson David Murathe’s endorsement of ODM leader Raila Odinga as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s successor has ignited a fresh political debate.
Yesterday, Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli joined Murathe in rallying support for Raila in succeeding Uhuru when he completes his second and last term in 2022.
“I have endorsed his proposal. Historically the person who has suffered for this country is Raila Odinga. I can tell you if he (Raila) agrees to run, by 10am he would be the president,” said Atwoli.
The Cotu boss described Raila as politically mature, and one who would not pursue political revenge against his detractors.
He said Raila’s international stature would make Kenya grow fast as he would easily woo both local and international investors.
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“Kenya is a democratic country and anybody can offer their candidature. But I can tell you that the only person who can unite this country is Raila; somebody who is politically mature and cannot think of political revenge is Raila,” said Atwoli.
“By 10am my ninth sense tells me Raila would have taken over Kenya. He is a man Kenya can easily sell both locally and internationally. His international stature will make Kenya grow fast compared to electing someone who is only known in his county,” he added.
He went on: “Raila is the only person with supporters across the country. He can be our (Nelson) Mandela to transform this country politically before handing it over to new leaders."
But Deputy President William Ruto’s allies dismissed the pronouncement as politically inconsequential and claimed it was only meant to cajole Raila’s support base to continue backing Uhuru’s government.
Led by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, the Tangatanga camp of Jubilee claimed the outburst by Senate Majority Leader Irungu Kang'ata that the region would reconsider its position on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) because of the county revenue standoff had strained the political relationship between Uhuru and Raila.
“This is what we call village gossips and hold no water. These are messages being sent to calm Raila and his supporters after Kang'ata’s outburst that failure to support the formula, Uhuru’s camp would reconsider the handshake and BBI,” said Cherargei.
“This is to ensure Raila remains peaceful. Us who support William Ruto, the comments are a walk in the park if Raila will be the opponent,” he added.
But Murathe yesterday insisted that Raila was better placed to succeed Uhuru and steer the country to economic growth and political stability.
“We know our friends and Raila is one of them. Some have been lying to us that they are our friends but really hate Mt Kenya,” said Murathe, in a thinly-veiled attack against Ruto.
“In the current standoff on the revenue sharing formula, Raila whose core base stands to lose, stood with Mt Kenya, as his Nyanza senators voted alongside us. (Kipchumba) Murkomen, in solidarity with those counties purported to lose stood with them, despite his own county gaining,” said Murathe.
“When Murkomen speaks you can link the dots. From our end, we know the senator speaks for him. Let him (DP) deny he didn’t tell him to speak. There is a general feeling that Mt Kenya is benefiting, which is not true,” he added.
Murathe had in an exclusive interview with KTN on Sunday said it was time to reward Raila for all his struggles and sacrifices for the country’s democratic growth and progress.
“We think it’s time Kenyans rewarded the years of struggle of Raila Amollo Odinga. They owe it to him. It’s like Mandela, and 2022 will be a Mandela moment. And we would also like to tell him (Raila) to be a transitional president who will then nurture the young generation to take over in 2027,” he said.
“What I can confirm is that in 2022, we will have a poster. And in that poster there will be a portrait of the handshake. Assuming we go by the formation unveiled at Bomas, we will probably have a prime minister coming from Mount Kenya. You may have a deputy prime minister coming from Coast and the other possibly from the Rift Valley,” Murathe added.
It has also emerged that a group of leaders from Mt Kenya region has been holding meetings to present a different view from what is being fronted by Murathe.
The group is composed of former Cabinet secretaries who served in President Mwai Kibaki's government.
The group, led by at least three governors regularly hosted at the home of a sitting senator from Mt Kenya, feel the region should support someone else and not Raila.
“They have been holding meetings to front different candidates. Time will tell because we understand they fear Raila for what they did to him then,” said an insider who is aware of the happenings but did not want to be named.
Another group allied to President Kenyatta has also been holding meetings to firm their support for Raila.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu – a vocal supporter of Uhuru – also disagreed with Murathe, terming his remarks as premature.
“Both Uhuru and Raila are on record that this is not the time for 2022 campaigns. I want to believe he is not speaking on behalf of anybody, but just giving his personal opinion,’’ said the MP.
“Personally, I would have avoided making such a statement at the moment because we cannot tell people to stop campaigning for DP Ruto but on the other hand start 2022 campaigns for another person,” he added.
MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Cornelly Serem (Aldai) and Kimani Ichung'wa (Kikuyu) said it is the people of Kenya who will decide as the era of political endorsements were long gone.
“Kenya is not a monarch, whoever wants to be president can only be elected by popular vote. Murathe is a fella who Kenyans should ignore,” said Barasa.
He also questioned why no disciplinary action was being taken against Murathe for endorsing Raila, who is a member of another political party.
“How do you endorse someone who is in another political party? Raila has not ditched ODM for the Jubilee vice chair to endorse his presidential bid. As a party we have spent a lot of money to build our party to rival the Communist Party of China, and it would be unfortunate that an official can break all the rules governing political parties in making,” he said.
Serem said the ruling party had not met to make such a decision to back Raila, stating that the party will have to pick its candidate competitively.
“Jubilee has never met as a party and taken a decision. What we know is that the party will hold a competitive nomination process to pick its presidential candidate. We are going to subject all those interested to a competitive process,” said Serem.
Ichung'wa said it is the people of Kenya who will determine who becomes their next president after Uhuru.
"The people will determine their own destiny guided by God, not man. The people will elect a president based on one's ability and capacity to push forth an agenda that carries the people’s aspirations, not as a reward to an individual," he said.
He added: "Murathe can reward Odinga with his goats or sheep for whatever he wants to reward him for. This is the problem of entitlement you will always find with this coterie of power brokers who seek to use political power for their own selfish ends."
ODM politicians yesterday declined to comment on the development.
Amani nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said Raila does not need an endorsement by an individual, but by the people of Kenya.