Who'll be Deputy President? Raila and Ruto spoilt for choice
| Jan 28th 2022 | 5 min read
Apart from fringe aspirants, the Mt Kenya region will not have a serious presidential candidate for the first time since the advent of multi-party politics in 1992.
Roles have been reversed and from producing kings, the region now has six men and three women being considered for running mates, in effect making them kingmakers.
This unprecedented scenario has made Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga keen to bag the five million votes up for grabs in the region. As a result, the two leading contenders are going flat out in wooing prospective running mates.
Similarly, should OKA's Kalonzo Musyoka be on the ballot, he is likely to pick a running mate from the same region, seeing that he has been working closely with businessman Jimmy Wanjigi, who had initially expressed interest in running for president under the ODM party. He is also close to Martha Karua of Narc Kenya, who will be hosting him for a rally in Kirinyaga this weekend.
And just like a man seducing a woman for her hand in marriage, all the front-running presidential contenders are promising the position of Deputy President in the hope that this will increase their chances of ascending to the top seat.
President Uhuru Kenyatta's term ends after the August 9 General Election and the region has been adrift as Uhuru has no clear heir-apparent from his backyard.
With the more than five million registered voters in Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Laikipia counties and parts of Nakuru, the Mt Kenya region - which traditionally votes as a bloc - will determine who becomes the fifth president.
Word on the lips of most of the politicians in the region is that the DP position is their preserve despite the options of credible and suitably qualified candidates from other parts of the country.
"There is no doubt that the DP post is reserved for Mt Kenya region," Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura told The Standard.
His view reflects that of many other politicians from the region.
There is a list of politicians that the two main presidential contenders Raila and Ruto are considering and if the current political arrangement holds, one of the eight will occupy the DP's official residence in Karen, Nairobi after the elections irrespective of which ticket wins the presidential race.
Last year, Ruto indicated that he would pick a running mate from the region after a meeting with 47 MPs allied to UDA party, of which he is a leader. He gave the pledge during a meeting held at Aberdare Prestige & Royal Cottages in Nanyuki.
Among those being considered as potential running mates are former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
Raila also has a wide field to choose from, starting with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, former Justice Minister Martha Karua, Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi and former Assistant Minister Peter Kenneth, who will be among the leaders hosting him when he holds a rally in Murang'a this weekend.
Early this week, Waiguru asked Ruto to pick a woman as a running mate and went ahead to declare that she would be glad if he settled on her.
"Indeed, Ruto will pick his running mate from Mt Kenya region because the area has a high number of votes to propel him to power. The only thing we are expecting is the issue of where that running mate comes from. I will be glad to deputise him," she said.
Unlike other politicians, Waiguru - though with eyes fixed on her re-election as Kirinyaga governor - has indicated that she was open to serving as deputy president.
Kiunjuri is an experienced politician and a good grassroots mobiliser who would bring to Ruto's team his networks, experience and oratory.
The 53-year-old leader of The Service Party (TSP), who first entered politics in 1997 as MP for Laikipia East, was seen as a perfect pick as Ruto's running mate. The two initially enjoyed political camaraderie but have appeared to drift apart in recent months. However, he could be Ruto's hidden card.
Recently while in Mathira, Ruto hinted at picking Gachagua as his running mate.
"I want to ask you for one favour. Allow Gachagua to accompany me to other parts of the country so that we can be able to win this seat. Free him so that he can engage in national politics. I want him to help me seek for votes across the country," Ruto said.
It was not clear if his request was for the Mathira constituents to not tie down their MP with campaigning for re-election and just vote for him when the time comes or he would elevate Gachagua by picking him as running mate.
Gachagua, a former provincial administration officer in President Moi's government, has attended nearly all of Ruto's events across the country. The MP has been seen as a clear favourite for the running mate slot. He was President Uhuru Kenyatta's personal assistant and close ally up to 2013.
Asked about the running mate position, Gachagua said the priority now was to tighten Ruto's economic agenda for the region.
"We are busy on those key agendas. We will cross the running mate line at an opportune time," he said.
Some politicians have been calling for Kandara MP Alice Wahome to be considered for a running mate too.
Besides her, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi is also considered among the contenders after his elevation as the region's spokesperson. However, he too has declared interest in the presidency, which he will be seeking on a Democratic Party ticket. He has also been critical of the DP.
In Azimio la Umoja Movement, Laikipia governor Muriithi is among those considered credible running mate positions, just like his Nakuru counterpart, Lee Kinyanjui. Muriithi was appointed chairman of Raila's presidential campaign, elevating his status in national politics as well as his visibility.
A source told The Standard that government officials and Mt Kenya tycoons are split over who should be picked between former Gatanga MP Kenneth and Agriculture CS Peter Munya. However, a section of technocrats allied to Raila have been pushing the view that Muriithi and Karua are also suitable candidates.
Kenneth would bring a new dynamic as he is from Murang'a, which has not produced a president, unlike the neighbouring Kiambu and Nyeri. Kenneth has been a permanent fixture in Raila's rallies, fuelling speculation that he was the preferred running mate.
Karua is one of the most experienced politicians in the region, having served as MP and later Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister in the Kibaki government. She is also one of the principals in the Mt Kenya Unity Forum where she has teamed up with Kiunjuru and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
Kuria is on record asking either Raila or Ruto to consider Karua.
"Most of the candidates going for the presidency including Raila, Kalonzo, Musalia and Ruto, are risky for the country, Karua is the most suitable anti-risk factor. We are safe in the hands of Martha Karua as Deputy President," Kuria said.
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