Fresh complications for Azimio-One Kenya as Governor Mutua wants to be running mate

Machakos Governor Alred Mutua (left) is the latest hopeful to offer himself for consideration as a running mate. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The push and pull over who should deputise Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga continues to rock the coalition party ahead of the August election.

Yesterday, Machakos Governor Alred Mutua became the latest hopeful to offer himself for consideration as a running mate.

He said the Azimio ticket will need the combination of a tried and tested leader like Mr Odinga and the agility of a young deputy who can rise to the challenge “chap chap”.

Mr Mutua’s offer complicates the math for both Mr Odinga and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who has also expressed interest in the seat. Mr Musyoka recently said he was the natural candidate for the position.

However, Mr Odinga is widely expected to pick a running mate from Mt Kenya region.

Indeed, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui yesterday said the Mt Kenya region expects nothing less than a Deputy President position in Mr Oding’s government.

Speaking during a college graduation ceremony, Mr Kinyanjui said Mr Odinga must pick a running mate from the populous region.

“It does not matter who it is, it does not matter from what region but our interests must be incorporated,” he said.

In what looked like a swipe at the Wiper leader, Governor Kinyanjui said the entrants in Azimio should not dictate the coalition party’s affairs.

“We started this journey but other people who came the other day want to call the shots,” he said. “We are not there by chance, but by choice and we shall demand our rightful position.”

His sentiments were echoed by Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege who said the region should not shy away from asking about its stake in the next government.

Ms Chege said the vote-rich region should not be ignored.

“I am seeing some people talking of positions. As the mountain (bloc) we need to know our stake.”

Mr Musyoka’s fight for acknowledgment in the coalition led to the change of name from Azimio la Umoja to Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya.

Mr Musyoka’s close allies have been campaigning to have Mr Odinga pick Mr Musyoka as his running mate.

Presidential candidates have until mid next month to announce their presidential ticket.

Mr Mutua’s entry into the arena escalates the difference that he and two other Ukambani governors have with Mr Musyoka.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Governors Mutua, Charity Ngilu and Kivutha Kibwana have been in Azimio longer than Mr Odinga and had given ultimatums to him to declare his stand before he eventually joing the coalition.

Yesterday, Mr Mutua said he was ready for a handshake with Mr Musyoka, the most senior politician from lower Eastern.

Besides the two, others who have been considered as possible running mates for Mr Odinga are former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Agriculture CS Peter Munya and former Gichugu MP Martha Karua.

Addressing the press in his Nairobi office yesterday, Mr Mutua said he was a better choice for the running mate position.

He said of Mr Odinga; “I know together we will work hard enough to make Kenya another Singapore or Malaysia where people have more money in their pockets.” 

The Maendeleo Chap Chap leader said he was ready for a ‘handshake’ with the former Vice-President and called on Mr Musyoka to forge forward as a team to secure Mr Odinga’s victory in the presidential race.

“Yes, we are competitors in a country yearning for generational change, but this should not blind us to the task at hand,” Mr Mutua said.

Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto are front runners in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The President has already endorsed Mr Odinga as his preferred successor. His Jubilee Party, a partner in the Azimio coalition party is also in the running to produce a running mate for Mr Odinga.

Mr Mutua, a second-term governor reiterated that his Maendeleo Chap Chap party fully supports Mr Odinga’s bid.

ODM leader Raila Odinga. [File, Standard]

“I have seen the document by Azimio, I have read and re-read it and presented it to my team and we are satisfied. Maendeleo Chap Chap will work together with all other Azimio parties to campaign.”

Mr Mutua’s sentiments contradict his utterances barely a week ago when he expressed a lack of confidence in the Azimio coalition. He accused Jubilee, ODM and Wiper of taking advantage of the smaller member parties and said there were other options available to the party.

With interest in the running mate seat growing, all eyes are now on Mr Odinga who last week said the announcement on his running mate will be made at an appropriate time.

A statement signed by his campaign spokesperson, Prof Makau Mutua, indicated that the partner parties will first deliberate on the matter.

“The matter of a running mate will be decided in consultation with partner constituent parties at the appropriate time,” read the statement.

The running mate headache is also a big issue in Kenya Kwanza alliance, which is backing Dr Ruto’s candidacy. The entry of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi into the coalition also complicates the choice of running mate for Dr Ruto who, like Mr Odinga, is expected to pick one from the Mt Kenya region.

Mr Muturi has been criticised by elders from the region, who have accused him of going against their wishes and the President’s by joining hands with Dr Ruto.

Reported by Kipsang Joseph, Caroline Chebet and Winfrey Owino.