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Battle for running mate post sets stage for fresh alliances

Former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri (right) with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria in Laikipia West last year. [File, Standard]

With the list of presidential aspirants having taken shape a year to the General Election, a group of politicians is now angling for the coveted running mate position.

Some Cabinet secretaries, first- and second-term governors and politicians are jostling to get the eye of presidential contenders.

Already Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi have put their best foot forward in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta whose term ends in August next year.

Although the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) spearheaded by President Kenyatta and Raila has proposed the expansion of the Executive to include the position of prime minister and two deputies, it is not clear if the process will be complete and take effect before the polls.

Now, aspirants jostling to be the presidential contenders’ running mates have increased their political activity as they seek to impress them.

Last week, Tangatanga leaders in Mt Kenya region formed a committee that they hope to use to bargain for positions in exchange for their support for Ruto’s presidential bid.

Top on the list of those being prompted to be the DP’s running mate in Mt Kenya includes former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, former Justice Minister Martha Karua and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

Other names that have been mentioned are Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.

MPs in the region believe that having produced three presidents, Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru, they could take a back seat in 2022.

Kirinyaga Woman Representative Wangui Ngirici said the region was not ready to have a presidential candidate and a majority of the politicians could not pull a crowd outside their areas of representation.

“I am yet to see a Mt Kenya leader who can pull a crowd outside his constituency or county. What we have are county kingpins and I believe that is what pains the president. The region wants a diplomatic and fearless man but many leaders in the region offering themselves for presidency lack those qualities,” said Ms Ngirici.

MPs Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga) and Peter Kimari (Mathioya) concurred with the woman rep that the region is not ready to produce a presidential candidate, but said the Head of State will determine which political direction the region takes.

Mr Kimari said: “We have the numbers, we may not produce the president but our numbers are enough for us to produce a deputy president or another senior position that will be created by the proposed BBI Bill.”

Politicians, including Laikipia Senator John Kinyua and Nyeri Woman Rep Rahab Mukami, have put their faith in Kiunjuri, insisting that apart from Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Karua, he is the senior-most politician in the region.

Mr Kinyua said the former CS is a seasoned politician who is widely acceptable across the larger Mt Kenya.

“He has what it takes to not only be the running mate but to also run for president,” he said.

After he was sacked from President Kenyatta’s Cabinet in January 2020, Kiunjuri launched The Service Party (TSP).

“The Service Party of Kenya wants to be a grassroots national party that will not only be the voice of mwananchi wa kawaida but also that will approach politics differently,” he said.

But Kiunjuri will have to contend with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru who is nursing bigger political ambitions, if her recent moves are anything to go by.

On Wednesday, Waiguru met with Raila in what was seen as endearing herself to the ODM leader.

In Western and Coast, a section of leaders is working to catch the eye of presidential candidates.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has been on a charm offensive and has in the last three weeks met Ruto, Raila and Kalonzo – the three top presidential contenders.

Oparanya, who is serving his final term as governor, has thrown his hat in the ring for ODM presidential ticket alongside his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho.

He admitted meeting Ruto several times to discuss 2022 politics.

“You can be his enemy, but the deputy president is my friend. Kenyans should allow leaders to express themselves and talk freely,” Oparanya said.

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi is set to launch a party next month, which he seeks to use to bring together the Coast region and to bargain at the national table.

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