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Jubilee event that could give Raila his running mate

POLITICS
By Oscar Obonyo | November 21st 2021
Ruling party expected to pick deputy party leader many think might run with ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Samson Wire. Standard]

When ruling Jubilee Party holds its National Delegates Conference (NDC) on November 30, ODM leaders will be keenly watching the proceedings.

Sources have intimated that Jubilee will name a deputy party leader at the conference, with President Uhuru Kenyatta expected to retain party leader’s position.

Analysts say the man or woman identified as Uhuru’s deputy could be ODM leader Raila Odinga’s next year’s presidential running mate on a joint ODM-Jubilee ticket.

Should this be the case, Raila may not have a freehand to choose a preferred deputy with whom he enjoys a political chemistry but rather that choice will be made for him by members of Uhuru’s party. Although the proposed Jubilee-ODM pre-2022 poll pact envisions a joint presidential bid, it is silent on how a running mate shall be identified.

Jubilee’s identification of a deputy party leader next Tuesday will be a loaded statement to their Orange partners. And in there lies subdued displeasure among some of Raila’s key allies, who would want their presidential candidate to have a latitude in identifying members of his team.     

Uhuru’s allies, however, view it differently. Coming from a political pact between Uhuru’s The National Alliance (TNA) and Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) of 2013, Jubilee expects to nominate its own person for the deputy leader position who can protect party interests. Ideally, they envisage a partnership of distinct partners under one coalition.

“We do not know where the notion of a merger is coming from as this has never been discussed. The idea and way forward has always been a coalition,” said Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.

Well aware of the emerging clash of interests, National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, who is ODM’s director of elections, has cautioned against second-guessing Jubilee partners.

“I am not sure they plan to select a running mate for my party boss. However, the best thing to do at the moment is to leave Jubilee to organise its house then we can meet later and iron out some of these things,” said Junet.

Jubilee party Headquarter building in Pangani along Thika Super Highway. [File, Standard]

Delicate issue

Nonetheless, he maintained that it is not prudent to name a presidential running mate at this stage, arguing that the issue is delicate and should best be handled in the later stages of the campaign, after taking into account various factors, including the popularity and acceptability of such a nominee to both parties and the electorate.      

Presidential ticket is not the sole area of a possible hiccup in the Jubilee-ODM pact.

The Nairobi governor seat, according to politicians allied to the two parties, is among the top three electoral posts to be negotiated.

The candidature of Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi, in particular, sticks out in the relations between Uhuru’s Jubilee Party and Raila’s ODM.

And there is no denying that the ODM MP’s quest for the coveted capital city CEO’s seat could be the first practical test to the Jubilee-ODM pact.    

While Wanyonyi enjoys the support of his party leader, who fell short of publicly declaring the MP as Orange party’s nominee during Thursday’s meeting with women leaders from across the country at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), some politicians allied to the president are of the view that the Nairobi slot should be occupied by a member of Jubilee Party.

“We cannot possibly support Baba (Raila) for president and at the same time his party member for the lucrative and influential political slot of Nairobi governor. The ideal situation in this give-and-take arrangement is to have a joint ODM/Jubilee ticket for the presidency and similarly for Nairobi governor seat, with ODM deputising a Jubilee candidate,” a Kiambu politician, who requested anonymity for fear of being reprimanded, told The Sunday Standard.   

The subject of hiccups surrounding the Jubilee-ODM pact is a sensitive one. Most legislators contacted by The Sunday Standard shied away from the topic, including vocal Kieni MP Kanini Kega and National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore, who had initially promised to talk about the subject.

Junet was similarly guarded in his response: “I cannot second-guess our partners on whether or not they plan to select a running for my party boss. They are at liberty to proceed with their internal affairs next Tuesday.”

Possible running mate

Jubilee’s Dennis Waweru, a former Dagoretti South MP, is among those eyeing the Nairobi governor seat, as well as former Gatanga MP and 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, whose name also features as a possible running mate of Raila.     

With Raila largely expected to pick a running mate from Mt Kenya region, the desire by Jubilee to take charge of the city would hand the region an additional top-flight position, at least going by the current list of aspirants.

However, Junet maintained that ODM would field a candidate for the position of governor in Nairobi, which it considers its stronghold, “unless there is a compelling reason against it”.

“Nairobi is the face of Kenya. We will have to share out available elective slots carefully to ensure a good balance among communities residing in the city. Only then shall we be attractive to the rest of Kenyans.”

Former Teso North MP Arthur Odera concurred: “This is a tricky one, even for Jubilee, and their pact with ODM notwithstanding, Wanyonyi’s candidature, for instance, ought to be viewed beyond his political party because he scores very well on the ethnic consideration, not to mention his performance record, having cumulatively served Nairobi for 15 years as a nominated councillor and MP.”

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