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Raila Odinga, William Ruto line up point men to boost voter turnout

ODM leader Raila Odinga shakes hands with Deputy President William Ruto during Jamuhuri Day Celebrations at Uhuru Gardens Nairobi on December 12, 2021. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

With just 45 days to the polls, presidential candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto have lined up point men to boost their voter turnout in the Rift Valley region.

While Raila, the Azimio coalition presidential candidate, has picked on many seasoned politicians, Ruto, the Kenya Kwanza Alliance flag bearer, has settled on upcoming politicians in the scramble for 5.3 million votes.

The former premier seems to value experience, especially of former civil servants, to shore up his campaign in a region largely perceived as Ruto’s bastion.

Some of Raila’s point men and women in the region are former Aldai MP Sally Kosgei, Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, Kipruto Kirwa, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanui among others.

On the other hand, youthful politicians like Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Susan Kihika (Nakuru) are leading the vote-hunt for Ruto, who is running under United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

Dr Kosgei, a former head of civil service and a key figure in Raila’s campaign team, is a career civil servant who also served as Minister for Higher Education and later Agriculture in the Grand Coalition government.

She was on Raila’s side in the group of eminent persons in the Koffi Annan-led negotiations that birthed the coalition that saw power-sharing between the late former President Mwai Kibaki and the former premier.

In Raila’s team, the point men and women appreciate the consistency and appreciation of each other's contribution in their agenda that has bonded them.

“Our team leader is clear and gives people space to think. Nobody is small or great because we work together and consult widely,” Kosgei said.

She said for a long time, Raila has remained focused and his team includes those who have worked in government and private sector.

Stephen Tarus, a former ambassador to Australia, says he doubts Kenya Kwanza’s potentials to run the country.

“Kenya Kwanza shuns experience and lacks a vision for the country. It is just manipulation. We in Azimio believe in reforming Kenya and we have been consistent,” said Tarus.

He said Raila, his running mate Martha Karua, Mukhisa Kituyi and others, have remained firm in pushing the agenda of the country.

“Apart from former vice president Musalia Mudavadi, former Cabinet Minister Moses Wetang'ula and Kindiki Kithure, the rest of Kenya Kwanza lack experience in governance,” said Tarus, who pointed out that Azimio has a history in the country’s reform agenda.

 “The country needs macroeconomic reforms and productivity and the only candidate to deliver is Raila. Those in UDA are being wasted and have nothing other than fighting for power.”

Kipruto Kirwa, who recently decamped from Kenya Kwanza to Azimio and Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, complained that power brokers had hijacked the operations of UDA party.

Raila’s lead campaigners in Baringo include Senator Gideon Moi, Tiaty MP William Kamket, former MPs Prof Hellen Sambili (Mogotio) and Asman Kamama (Tiaty).

Senator Gideon, who is a major partner in Azimio, played a major role in its formation and shelved his presidential ambitions in favour of Raila.

"Kanu is firmly in Azimio and there's no turning back. We are determined to bring everybody on board to ensure a resounding victory for Raila Odinga," Gideon said during a recent Kanu campaign coordination committee.

In Nakuru, Governor Kinyanjui, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama and Raymond Moi of Rongai are the leading point men for Azimio’s quest to control the vote-rich county.

Governor Kinyanjui, who is seeking a second term, was among those interviewed for the position of Raila’s running mate.

In addition to his personal campaigns, the governor has organised well attended political rallies for Raila and his running mate Karua across the 11 constituencies.

Kinyanjui has been against policies of Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua as he campaigns for Raila in a county that largely voted against former premier in the 2017 elections.

“Some people thought they had painted Nakuru yellow (Kenya Kwanza) but that was an undercoat. We are now painting the county with the final Azimio colour,” said Kinyanjui.

In Ruto’s camp, Nandi Senator Kiprotich Cherargey asserts that the UDA had not authorised the existence of political power brokers within its ranks.

“I am privy to high-level workings of the UDA party. There are no ordained political lords within its ranks,” said Cherargey, who claimed that Ruto had an open door policy on how he communicates with politicians in his party.

Senator Kihika, MPs Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) and Jayne Kihara (Naivasha) have emerged as the most vocal campaigners for Ruto in Nakuru County that has over a million registered voters.

[Reporting by Titus Too, Rael Jelimo and Kennedy Gachuhi]