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Kalonzo’s confidence in running mate position unsettles Mt Kenya

Wiper Party officials led by Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka(3rd right) in a dance during the party aspirants NEC meeting at Bomas of Kenya on April 6, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

As the Azimio la Umoja- One Kenya alliance makes major strides to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, the more complicated the political arithmetic at the top becomes.

The entry of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua into the coalition gave new impetus to ODM leader Raila Odinga’s journey to State House.

This development, however, complicated the arithmetic of picking his running mate. Before Mr Musyoka joined Azimio, three Ukambani governors were getting considerable airtime during rallies and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu’s appeared to have Raila’s ear. Things have since changed.

In Mt Kenya, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya were considered as possible running mates, but the Wiper leader’s entry has complicated the equation.

From sitting arrangements, pecking order in terms of addressing rallies and inviting Mr Odinga, the leaders who were ‘in charge’ seem to have been replaced and their roles assigned to Mr Musyoka.

The Wiper leader negotiated his way and forced the coalition to change its name from Azimio la Umoja Movement to Azimio la Umoja One Kenya to accommodate his One Kenya Alliance (OKA). OKA comprises Kanu (led by Mr Gideon Moi) and Cyrus Jirongo’s UDP among others.

Even after winning round one of his demands, Mr Musyoka is not done yet. He is planning to clinch the running mate position, a move that has rattled Jubilee leaders from Mt Kenya.

And to assert that he is the automatic running mate, the Wiper leader — who spoke yesterday during the launch of the Wiper People Living with Disabilities organ in Nairobi — said it was obvious the position should go to him.

“We are eyeing the running mate position. We don’t want to talk about the obvious,” he said.

In a move to psychologically prepare Mt Kenya that the running mate post will not be given to the region or purely to test political waters, Jubilee Party vice chairperson David Murathe said the seat was not important because it does not have responsibilities.

While equating the Deputy President’s with the Deputy Governor’s post, Mr Murathe, an ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, said what was important was a fair share of government commensurate with the votes that Mt Kenya will deliver to Azimio.

He explained that choice of the running mate was the prerogative of the presidential candidate and they must have chemistry. He also noted that demographics, regional, gender and ethnic balance were other considerations that need to be looked at before settling on a running mate.

“As Mt Kenya, all we need is our fair share of government commensurate with votes we will deliver to Raila. It’s not a must for him to pick a candidate from this region,” he told The Standard on phone.

Prof Peter Kagwanja, a governance expert and Jubilee Murang’a senatorial aspirant, said Mt Kenya running mate candidacy could be a liability to Azimio la Umoja One Kenya. He claimed that most leaders scrambling for the position lack national appeal and grassroots support.

According to the scholar, although the region has numbers, it has weak candidates who may cost  Azimio victory. He described the campaign to have the region produce the running mate as overzealous.

“We have the numbers but we must insist on a strategy that will make us win not using the demographic aspect to claim for the position. We should never worry because our interests are being taken care of by the President who is the patron and financier of Azimio,” he said.

However, Jubilee elected leaders are reading from a different script. They have maintained that Mr Odinga must pick a running mate from the populous region. MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga) Peter Kimari (Mathioya) and Mt Kenya Jubilee MCAs caucus chairperson Charles Mwangi maintained that the running mate position must be given to a politician from Mt Kenya.

Mr Wambugu said Mr Odinga has been garnering 44 per cent of votes in his quest for presidency with the support of Kalonzo and he must do something else to raise his votes, which means catering to the Wiper leader’s interests and picking a running mate from Mt Kenya.

“The running mate position must go to the region that is a swing vote so as to attract the electorate to vote for Raila. It is of essence to note that this region has never voted for Raila and this means that they need to be given a reason to do so,” the MP said on phone. “He (Kalonzo) has been the running mate for Raila twice and they did not get to where they were going. It is difficult to imagine that if he becomes the running mate again they will get to where they are going,” Mr Wambugu said.

Mr Ngugi concurred with the Nyeri Town MP. He said that their aim was to help Mr Odinga garner 40 per cent of the votes in Mt Kenya, which translates to about two million votes.

“Kalonzo’s region has only 1.6 million votes while we have 5.9 million. This means that even if they were to give all the registered voters to Raila — which is not possible — while we give 40 per cent, we shall have done better than them,” he said.