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The battle plans in the Martha Karua- Rigathi Gachagua showdown

Running mates Rigathi Gachagua (Kenya Kwanza Alliance) and Martha Karua (Azimio la Umoja) engage during their debate at CUEA on July 19, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Deputy President William Ruto's running mate strode across the stage at a slow pace as the audience waited for him to settle.

Raila Odinga's running mate Martha Karua, the person he was going head-to-head with for the Tuesday night debate at the Catholic University of Eastern University, had alighted from her vehicle with her grandchildren in tow. Later, when the debate was over, they joined her on stage, wrapping her in a hug.

The two unrelated actions would be ignored were they not deliberate. One to establish dominance, the other to convey a sense of hope for the future.

The two had a strategy for tackling the debate. The strategies became apparent early as Mr Gachagua insisted on bringing President Uhuru Kenyatta's name and his administration into the debate.

Mr Gachagua said he was not fighting Uhuru but was holding him to account.

His statement introducing himself and his family was loaded with innuendo. Introducing his wife and children, he said the family was the basic unit of society and that strong families made strong nations.

In her opening statement, Ms Karua said she had been instilled with values of honesty, hard work, community and respect while young.

Clean and dependable

She presented the image of being clean and dependable. She threw subtle jibes at her opposition.

Ms Karua advanced the narrative that Kenya Kwanza was the corrupt coalition. She took every chance to put Mr Gachagua in defence over corruption accusations and to associate Dr Ruto with the Jubilee government even as the UDA candidate said it had failed spectacularly.

“Azimio, together with Kenyans of goodwill, is out to rescue this country from the stranglehold of corruption cartels. This country can't breathe; we cannot get the services that people do require because monies intended for public service are going into the pockets of corruption cartels who then become instant millionaires with huge bank balances. We intend to help this country, to help citizens get their country back and all the resources of this country will be utilised for the best interests of the entire nation, not a select few,” she said.

The Mathira MP was keen to get things started and dispense with the "trivialities". He said he was there to discuss real issues. “I look forward to a very objective debate (with) no trivialities. Issues, issues, issues so that the people of Kenya have an opportunity to interrogate what we plan to do for them," he said.

“It was about time we moved to the real issues that the people of this country need to know what is our plan we have talked to many issues and that is a good thing but the people of Kenya need to know what Rigathi Gachagua and William Ruto have for them," he said later.

Deputy's role

Another strategy employed by Kenya Kwanza was to hold Ms Karua accountable for some statements she had said in the past when she did not support Mr Odinga.

The former Cabinet minister had criticised the ODM leader and President Mwai Kibaki for their failure to deal with corruption. How could they work together?

Her response was they would be a formidable team.

Mr Gachagua claimed that the Azimio presidential running mate had received a bribe from BAT company and that she had acquired land in South Ngariama in Kirinyaga and allocated it to her relatives.

She shot back, saying she was not greedy with land acquisition, and that she had challenged the county government to take the matter to court.

This was Karua's relied-on strategy, she said that Kenya Kwanza was part of the fertiliser and maize scandals.

Gachagua also sought to paint Karua as a partner only around when things were good, but would run at the first sign of inconvenience.

But Karua explained that she had walked out on Kibaki respectively, without insults because this was the principled thing to do instead of earning a salary while not serving the people.

Mr Gachagua did not really say what kind of a deputy he will be.

Karua said she would be a "principled" deputy president, different from Dr Ruto.