Ngilu drops governor bid as Raila firms up hold on Ukambani

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga with Governor Charity Ngilu during a past meeting. [Paul Mutua, Standard] 

Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu will not defend her seat as Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga consolidates his grip on Ukambani.

Instead, Mr Odinga endorsed the candidature of former Kitui Governor Julius Malombe who is contesting on a Wiper Party ticket.

“I will work with Ngilu in Nairobi and here you will choose Malombe. Is that okay?” Mr Odinga announced during a rally at Kalundu.

Mr Odinga had repeated the same message earlier at Mutha and Mutomo. Mrs Ngilu, who was present, hugged Mr Malombe and smiled while waving to the crowd.

Mr Malombe will face-off against former Senator David Musila.

“You will decide between former Governor Julius Malombe and Musila who will be your governor. I want to take mama to Nairobi,” Mr Odinga said.

According to Wiper insiders, party leader Kalonzo Musyoka had struck a deal with Mr Odinga to zone Ukambani for the party. This might explain why the former premier agreed to endorse Mr Malombe’s bid.

Mrs Ngilu has been sending mixed signals about vying for governor, with her close confidants saying she has her eyes set on a Cabinet secretary slot in Mr Odinga’s government.

The governor has not been campaigning in Kitui, and there is no single billboard or poster announcing her candidature.

The details emerged as the Azimio-One Kenya brigade continued its vote-hunt for the second day running in Ukambani where Mr Odinga led other coalition leaders in addressing rallies in several towns in Kitui South before flying to Kalundu and Kwa Vonza trading centres.

Ring-fence region

The presidential candidate was accompanied by Mr Musyoka, Mrs Ngilu, her Makueni counterpart Kivutha Kibwana and Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, among a host of MPs.

The last rally was held at Mwingi town where leaders urged the Kamba community to ring-fence the region for Mr Odinga.

Mr Odinga said that Mr Musyoka’s return to Azimio had given him confidence that he’d clinch the presidency in the first round.

Mrs Ngilu, Mr Kibwana and Mr Musyoka said Ukambani would deliver “maximum votes” to Mr Odinga, whom the community is supporting for a third time in his presidential bid.

Mr Musyoka told supporters that he had planned to “negotiate properly” on their behalf.

“You saw how I had a very firm stance because I wanted the community to benefit. Now you can rest assured we have negotiated well,” he said in Mutomo.

Mr Odinga said that after winning the election his administration would roll out a programme to improve Kenyans’ standards of living. His government, he said, would put in place an enabling environment to create jobs.