Raila Odinga's presidential campaign team takes shape with Ndiritu Muriithi as the chair


Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Raila yesterday announced the formation of his campaign board, seven months to the election, an early start compared to his previous attempts at the presidency.

Among the high-level appointments was that of Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi as chairman of the campaign board and that of former Commissioner of the Domestic Taxes Department at Kenya Revenue Authority, Elizabeth Meyo, as Chief Executive Officer and secretary to the board.

Mr Muriithi, a nephew of retired President Mwai Kibaki, has been a leading figure in Raila’s campaigns and has been touted as a probable running-mate.

A first-time governor, who won his Laikipia seat as an independent candidate in 2017, brings leadership and management experience. The former Laikipia West MP and Kibaki-era assistant minister for Industrialisation will be instrumental in shaping Raila’s strategy to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Muriithi heads the Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs Committee of the Council of Governors (COG), a position he has held since January last year.

“Upon his election as governor of Laikipia in 2017, he embarked on radical reforms of the county public service to make it professional and globally competitive. These efforts have been rewarded with unmatched growth of the county’s own source revenue, which has doubled since the 2016/2017 financial year,” a letter by Raila announced.

Mrs Meyo will implement the board’s strategic and key decisions, head the campaign secretariat and make all vital decisions besides acting as the “sole campaign spokesperson”.

“During her tenure at the KRA, Elizabeth was pivotal in the KRA’s policy and strategy development for the country. She spearheaded the rollout of iTax, which has revolutionised revenue collection in Kenya,” Raila wrote of her appointment.

Part of their job includes planning and coordinating rallies, developing a communication strategy as well as overseeing the formulation of Raila’s election manifesto.

At the board level, Ndiritu will be chairing a larger team comprising of among others, Governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), James Ongwae (Kisii), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Hassan Joho (Mombasa). All these are retiring governors, except for the chair.

“The aspiration of every politician is to reach the apex of a country’s political leadership. I am flattered at this suggestion of running mate, but I think it only makes my campaigns in Laikipia all the more interesting. We have work to do to ensure Raila becomes the fifth president, but we also have unfinished business in Laikipia,” Ndiritu said of the running mate claims.

He said the work of constituting both the board and the secretariat is a “work in progress” and more people will be joining at the right time.

Others likely to be included in the team are law scholar Makau Mutua and Royal Media Services owner and founder Samuel Macharia.

Former anti-corruption Czar John Githongo is also being mentioned as among those set to join the board. However, he told The Standard Raila had not approached him yet. He nevertheless admitted that Raila is his “special friend”. Others like Suna East MP Junet Mohamed is expected to be an automatic member of the team on account of his role as Raila’s point man and ODM’s director elections ODM. 

Former National Super Alliance (Nasa) CEO Norman Magaya foresees that the board will be divided into departments that will address thematic areas.

“In Nasa we had teams for grassroots mobilisation, political mobilisation in Parliament, a team that mobilised county assemblies, a media relations team and a legal team. Our legal team won 26 cases related to the 2017 elections,” he said.

In the past, the earliest Raila formed such a dedicated team was three months before an election.

In May 2017, Musalia Mudavadi was elected chair of Nasa’s campaign committee. Similar committees were formed in December 2012, when Raila vied on a Cord ticket.

This time, he has gone beyond timing of the team’s formation. His choice of strategists is instructive of his plan for the August 9 polls. The two members have wide experience in strategy in their respective fields, and signal a departure from the politician-dominated campaign teams of the past.

By appointing the Laikipia Governor to head the board, Raila has also revealed his intentions to court the Mt Kenya region. That and the fact that he is open to coalitions, given that Muriithi is a member of the Party of National Unity – one of the 10 parties that could form the Azimio la Umoja Movement once Parliament finalises the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill.