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Raila plan to pick Central Kenya partners scuttles reunion talks with OKA

By Moses Nyamori | November 1st 2021

Ford-Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula, President Uhuru Kenyatta, ANC Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and Wiper Democratic Movement Leader Kalonzo Musyoka at the memorial service of Late President Daniel Arap Moi at Kabarak in Nakuru on February 04, 2021. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

The push to have ODM leader Raila Odinga settle on a running mate from Mt Kenya is a stumbling block in the quest to unite him with One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals. President Uhuru Kenyatta and strategists behind Raila’s candidature have reportedly settled on having a running mate from Mt Kenya so as to tilt it in favour of the ODM leader as well as deny Deputy President William Ruto numbers.

But the arrangement now threatens to stall Uhuru’s quest to have OKA principals rally behind Raila, as it rules out any of them taking up the Deputy President slot.

OKA principals are Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula.

On Saturday, the President summoned Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and Kalonzo in yet another bid to prevail upon them to drop their presidential ambitions in favour of Raila.

It was the third time Uhuru was meeting the OKA principals to have them forge a united front to face off with Ruto. Uhuru believes that the opposition camp risks losing in the polls if they run separately.

The Standard has established that Kalonzo’s side has since softened on its earlier position of not playing second fiddle to Raila again.

The team has, however, raised concerns over the Wiper leader’s position in the arrangement, since the running mate slot has been earmarked for the Mt Kenya region.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said previous talks had stalled because of the arrangement that leaves Kalonzo without a major role.

Mutula Jnr, however, admitted that the opposition leaders had no option but to unite ahead of the August 9, 2022 General Election.

“It is not a question of softening their position; the fact is they are courting between a rock and a hard place. The only problem in the discussion is that the position of Kalonzo in that proposed arrangement is not settled at all,” said the Senator.

“The discussions that we have had, even the number two slot has been given out. Some of these things are natural. The discussions will be easier when the formations are very clear. The formations are not clear at the moment,” he added.

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli told OKA principals to unite and form the next government so they could revive the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to accommodate more leaders.

He expressed confidence that Uhuru would bring the leaders together since they had worked together before. “All these people – from OKA and Raila side – are the people who supported the BBI. Anybody who supported BBI is a handshake-friendly person. For them to agree is not a big a problem. But even if they don’t agree, Kenya is a democracy,” said Mr Atwoli.

“They should support Raila and bring BBI back with all the proposals that will have them as part of the government. They should focus on the bigger picture of forming the government. It is better to be in a winning team than be a striker in a losing team,” he added.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the main consideration in picking a running mate was about numbers. He said it would be counterproductive to pick a running mate from a region whose numbers do no match those of Mt Kenya region. The region is the largest vote basket with more than 5 million voters.

“The argument should not be about number two, but about the government they are going to form. Uhuru’s interest is about creating a formation that will form the next government,” said Mr Wambugu.

He said the fact that OKA principals had been meeting Uhuru was a sign that they were willing to engage in fielding a single candidate in the succession race.

“It is about who has capacity to deliver the seat. You must have capacity before you seek support elsewhere. The issue of who we are ending up with is not about preference but reality. He (Raila) has proved that he has capacity to mobilise the numbers,” said Wambugu.

Mudavadi had at the weekend declared they would not be coerced into backing a particular candidate, citing sustained pressure and intimidation to have them back down in favour Raila. “This habit of people calling others at night and dictating to them on which political coalition to back must end. Let this be noted,” said Mudavadi.

ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula and Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo (Wiper) said they would remain defiant and ensure one of the OKA principals goes for the top seat.

Mr Savula said Mudavadi disclosed that the discussion was about unity by the opposition leaders. “The party leader did not share details, but it was about call for them to unite. But we want it to be clear that we will defy such attempts,” he said.

“Mudavadi has to go all the way to the ballot. We cannot allow Mudavadi to be betrayed once again. In 2013, he was labelled madimoni. In 2017, we were promised Prime Minister, which was not even in the Constitution, but we agreed. If Raila wants to support Mudavadi, that is okay. But we are not ready to back down for Raila,” he added.

Mr Maanzo said of the unity calls: “If we are coming together for Raila to support Kalonzo, that will be okay because that is the expectation of Wiper.” He said that the fact that running mate will go to the Mt Kenya leaves them with no option but to go for the top position.

“Since the running mate will be from Mt Kenya, Wiper community will only be comfortable if it is Kalonzo running for the presidency,” he added.

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