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Done deal: Uhuru Kenyatta's wild card in Raila Odinga deputy search


President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga consult after attending the first Azimio council meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta at KICC, Nairobi on April 21, 2022. [David Gichuru, Standard]

It is exactly a week to the deadline of naming running mates and the kitchen is getting hot in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition. 

The decision by Jubilee Party to present the names of former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Murang'a Women Rep Sabina Chege for the running mate slot is a game-changer in the now-crowded field.

According to the Azimio political deal, President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Party was to produce the running mate while the Raila Odinga-led ODM, the flag bearer.

Based on the deal, Jubilee's side took 12 out of 19 slots in Azimio's National Executive Council, which means President Kenyatta has the political joker card on the running mate choice.

The Azimio National Coalition Executive Committee comprises Jubilee Party vice-chairperson David Murathe, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Eldas MP Adan Keynan, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, lawyer Ken Nyaundi, Pokot South MP David Pkosing, Lucy Nyoroka Mworia, Garissa Senator Abdul Haji, National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore, Isabelle Githinji, Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu and Solomon Kuria.

Raila's wing of the coalition is represented by Oparanya, Junet, Likoni MP Mishi Mboko, Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who has staked a claim to the running mate post, has two allies in the committee— Makueni Woman Rep Rose Museo and Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua.

On Thursday, it emerged Jubilee Party's National Election Board (NEB) chairman Stephen Wandeto had written to the Committee of Eminent Persons tasked with finding a suitable running mate.

“We refer to the above subject matter and forward herewith names of persons proposed by Jubilee Party for consideration as the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Deputy President Nominees.. I) Peter Kenneth II) Sabina Chege,” said Wandeto.

With the ODM and Jubilee political arrangement, the fronting of Kenneth and Chege technically narrows down the running mate choice between the two and makes the entire process a political hype. 

Despite pressure from Kalonzo, Azimio has repeatedly indicated it would go for a running mate from Mt Kenya.

This comes as the party is set to sign an MoU with Azimio la Umoja in support of Raila's presidential bid

Speaking during an interview at a local TV station, Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni said they will support the ODM leader but will field candidates in all other positions and would seek the running mate position.

“We in Jubilee shall have our candidates in all positions except for the presidential, but we will seek to have the running mate position,” he said last month.

Two weeks ago, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the region expects to get the deputy president slot.

"No one should expect us to be blind followers, as a region of Mt Kenya expects nothing short of the running mate post regardless of who it will be. On that one, we are not taking chance,” said Kinyanjui.

Yesterday, Junet said the seven-member advisory panel will make public the report of the running mate position on Tuesday.

"Let us be patient, the selection panel will present its report on Tuesday and this will inform the picking of the person to deputise Raila," he said in Nairobi where he had accompanied the ODM leader to resolve the dispute between Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and the constituency ODM aspirant Michael Gumo. 

Apart from Kenneth and Chege, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya are among the names that have been touted as potential running mates.

A source in Jubilee Party indicated that one of the party's nominees in the Ndeto letter will become Raila deputy.

"The president's party was to produce the DP. We have presented two names we are confident one will be picked. We did our due diligence and evaluated their suitability. We are waiting. The names had the President's endorsement and clearance," said the source that sought anonymity. 

Kenneth, 57, has a chequered political career having served as a two-term MP for Gatanga, an Assistant minister of Finance and even threw his hat in the ring for President during the 2013 General Election.

During his term as MP, he was once voted as the best in the utilisation of the County Development Fund (CDF) monies. Chege has been a two-term Murang'a Woman Rep.

She recently withdrew from the Murang'a governor race and instead said she will concentrate on national politics.

According to political analyst Dismas Mokua, a Jubilee nominee is likely to be a front runner for running mate given that the position is for President Kenyatta to pick.  

“Kenneth’s national politics and legislative experience give him a head-start as Raila’s running mate. Raila will need a deputy with a strong understanding of how the National Treasury works if he wants to hit the ground running and deliver on his economic agenda. He fits the bill from an economic leadership perspective. The same cannot be said of Sabina Chege who has only 10 years of legislative experience," said Mokua.

He said Chege needs more time to understand the complexities of government and earn peer recognition and respect.

"Giving Sabina the running mate position is throwing her to the deep end of a swimming pool while Kenneth gives the ticket peace of mind. He has demonstrated an appetite for national leadership, unlike Chege. Kenneth’s experience running for President is an asset in terms of comparing best practices with Raila and President Kenyatta," he said.

Mokua said the former Gatanga MP has a successful track record in managing CDF funds, pointing to a leader who respects the public purse. This experience will be useful in delivering Raila's grassroots economic agenda’

"Kenneth's candidature does not make Mt Kenya rank and file nervous. On the other hand, Sabina’s public policies are not well known and may need a little more Executive experience to be ready for the presidency," he said.