Ruto, Raila allies in battle of wits as race gathers pace

Defections have started, pointing at the making of a two-horse race between Raila Odinga and William Ruto. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

This is the year of the battle and already the major actors duel have given hints of what to expect.

The tempo has been set in what is promising to be a no-holds-barred battle.

Strategists of Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga are engaged in the game of outwitting each other.

From lofty promises like Sh6,000 monthly cash transfer to the poor, a Sh29 billion hustlers fund and a promise of a running mate from the populous Mt Kenya region, the next seven months will be interesting, if not entertaining.

Ruto has somehow succeeded in winning sympathy by claiming he was being edged out of the government he helped form while depicting Raila as a State project.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila are also seeking to change the law to facilitate formation of a Coalition Party in a wider scheme to crush Ruto at the ballot.

The Sunday Standard has established that the handshake partners are considering several strategies to stop Ruto from gaining new political grounds outside his Rift Valley stronghold.

The game plan is to have parties backing Raila’s presidency under Azimio La Umoja Movement field candidates in areas they enjoy substantive backing.

Friday’s defections from ANC and Jubilee to ODM lifted the lid on the political scheme that will see the Raila-led outfit the only party to field candidates in Nyanza and Western under a movement that will transform into a coalition party.

The party enjoys backing in the area more than any other political outfit.

Coast will also be zoned off for ODM with Jubilee expected to take up Mt Kenya in the arrangement.

National Assembly Majority whip and Navokholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe are some of the leaders who announced their plan to join ODM.

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi and Teso North MP Oku Kaunya all of ANC have defected while ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula joined the umbrella movement.

Yesterday, ODM chair John Mbadi intimated that they were considering zoning the country or fielding candidates jointly.

He, however, said that such decisions will be made after consultations among parties backing the movement.

“We still don’t know how many parties will be in Azimio. Once we have the Political Parties (Amendments) Bill, 2021 passed to allow formation of a coalition party, then the various parties can decide to join,” said Mbadi.

“It is at that point that we will agree whether to have joint candidates. Many of us feel that we should not have multiple candidates because it will compromise the strength of the coalition party.”

He said that people have to accept that certain parties are more popular in some areas.

“We also have to accept that we have our colleagues who fear to be part of those dominant parties maybe because of past experience," he said.

"But we have to make it clear that our first goal would be to have our presidential candidate win and also to get numbers in Parliament."

Defections have since started, pointing at the making of a two-horse race between Raila and Ruto.

While other defections are fueled by fears of being rigged out in primaries, many of them are indications of political realignments.

Yesterday, Ruto’s camp indicated that it expects at least two of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals to join the their hustler nation.

OKA is made up of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Baringo Senator and Kanu boss Gideon Moi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula.

The DP's allies made the revelation a day after ANC Senator Cleophas Malala hosted Ruto in Mumias, where he indicated his willingness to work with Mudavadi and Wetangula.

“Our strategy is to collapse OKA and save them from political conmanship of Raila,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa.

"At least two if not three OKA principals will join Ruto soon."

Further, the two camps are also scheming to gain more votes by mobilising people to turn up and enlist in the planned mass voter registration exercise by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The last such exercise witnessed voter apathy and politicians from the two camps are seeking to mobilise people in their areas to enlist.

Jubilee vice chair David Murathe yesterday said apathy in voter registration will hurt Ruto’s bid more than any other presidential candidate since his campaigns largely targets the youth, who are not keen to register.

“People who will suffer from this apathy from the registration are the hustlers because it is them who are largely relying on the young people,” said Murathe.

He dismissed Ruto’s attempt to paint Raila as a State project, arguing that it is the DP who is running his campaigns using State resources.

“This guy is incumbent but he behaves as if he is in Opposition. He takes credit for successes of Jubilee but runs away from its failures. They are trying to make Raila look like the system candidate,” said Murathe.

“Nobody becomes president unless they have experience of being leader of official Opposition. For someone to think that they can come from nowhere to be president, that is a dream.”

Francis Atwoli, the Cotu secretary general who convened a political meeting at Bukhungu on Friday, said it will be a waste of time for any other politician to make forays in Western.

He claimed that the region will vote for Raila to the last man.

“The entire country has accepted Raila. It is a political wave that will sweep every corner of this country,” Atwoli said yesterday.

“Western made a declaration and it is will be behind Raila. The region is already mobilised and I will move from one county to another to ensure the region votes for him to the last man." 

Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group secretary Adan Keynan said only the ODM leader can guarantee continuity of the development projects started by Uhuru.

"Odinga under his Azimio la Umoja represents a formidable movement of national unity. This country, now more than ever, needs the said political unity to progress the national social-economic transformation agenda witnessed under President Uhuru Kenyatta. Of the candidates so far in the race, only Odinga appears to safeguard this," said Keynan.

"The tranquility and eco-friendly political environment we have enjoyed for the past three years is a product of the Kenyatta-Odinga handshake, which nobody can downplay. He as the partner in that initiative best understands how best to advance the same after 2022.” 

Aldai MP Cornelly Serem said they are confident of ensuring a Ruto presidency by pushing United Democratic Alliance bottom-up economic model.

“We already have our model in reviving the economy. The promise to give sh6,000 is unsustainable. The country is in debt and there can never be money to dish out,” said Serem.

Serem called on IEBC to facilitate young people to enroll as voters by allowing them to register wherever they are without requiring them to enlist at the polling stations where they plan to vote.

“With the technology we have, our people should be allowed to register where they are and still be allowed to vote in the preferred polling stations," he said. 

"Telling Kenyans to travel to register will disenfranchise them.”