Search for running mate hots up as loyalty queries take centre stage
| May 13th 2022 | 5 min read
Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance presidential nominee Raila Odinga is expected to announce his vice presidential pick within days after receiving a shortlist of three candidates.
The announcement aims to stick within the May 16 deadline imposed by the electoral agency. It will close a period of intense lobbying for and against the candidates as seen in the last few weeks.
A panel has narrowed down from a list of seven and now three candidates remain.
They include Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and Agriculture CS Peter Munya. Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth has also featured in several lists. There is also possibility of a wildcard, where the Azimio flag bearer could pick a surprise name for his running mate.
Mr Odinga’s deputy president search process has been secretive, highly scrutinised and full of red herrings and smoke screens.
The choice of running mate is now in Mr Odinga’s hands, but President Uhuru Kenyatta’s thoughts could play a role in the person picked.
The selection panel led by former Kwanza MP Noah Wekesa said it considered constitutional qualification, understanding of government, personality of the candidate, political acumen, compatibility and loyalty.
A statement from Mr Wekesa said the seven candidates had to explain their understanding of the key challenges facing Kenya and give proposals on what should be done and what the Azimio government should prioritise.
“Emphasis was laid on electability, capacity to mobilise votes, transformative leadership, political tolerance, and technical expertise.”
In the list of top candidates, only CS Munya has not run for President, although he briefly flirted with the ambition in 2016.
Mr Musyoka stands head above the rest as he has proven he is electable. He ran for President in 2007 and came third behind the late Mwai Kibaki and Mr Odinga. He has been Mr Odinga’s ticket mate in two elections and has been around government since 1985.
But questions have emerged about his dependability, especially after he showed reluctance to partner with Mr Odinga once again.
Mr Musyoka’s allies have suggested the former vice president could opt to go it alone with the hope of negotiating a post-election pact.
But his political acumen is not in question.
Despite being out of office, he has kept his Wiper party vibrant and the one to beat in Eastern. He has faced stiff resistance from governors Alfred Mutua, Kivutha Kibwana and Charity Ngilu who have tried to wrestle the political control of the region away from him.
Mr Musyoka has destabilised the balance in Azimio and made the coalition party untenable for his compatriots from Ukambani. Mr Mutua left the party as Mr Kibwana questions his place in it.
Going by their history, Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka are easily the most compatible pair. They have strong showings in two elections to show for that. However, the jury is out on whether Mr Musyoka’s loyalty to Azimio can stand the test.
The most alluring factor about Mr Musyoka is the close to two million registered votes in his political base.
Ms Karua, like Mr Musyoka, is a veteran who has been around politics since 1990s. She is a reformer who came into politics from the civil society.
Ms Karua and Mr Odinga were both involved in the second liberation. She was Gichugu MP until 2013 when she ran for President.
Uncompromising and a champion of ethics, Ms Karua’s personality has won her many admirers. She has, however, not been the best of friends with President Kenyatta.
The source of their relationship can be traced back to 2008 when upon the formation of the grand coalition government, former President Kibaki appointed Mr Kenyatta as the Deputy Prime Minister, a post widely expected to have deservedly gone to her.
But the mutual respect between the two is evident. When Ms Karua ran for Kirinyaga governor in 2017, President Kenyatta did not endorse the Jubilee candidate in the race, keeping his voice out of it to avoid tilting the race against Ms Karua. The case for a Karua running mate is helped by a growing concern that women need to break the glass ceiling, and her origins from Mt Kenya. Agriculture CS Munya was a late consideration for Mr Odinga’s ticket mate. Nonetheless, insiders believe he is the one most favoured by State House.
But despite reports that CS Munya is being seriously considered, the window could have closed on the former Meru governor.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) clarified that any person under consideration for the running mate position must have resigned by February 9.
An April 22 letter by the IEBC explained that candidates are barred from picking civil servants as their running mates.
Mr Munya’s biggest advantage, and he said it himself, was that he came from Mt Kenya. “I believe where I come from, Mt Kenya region, is a big vote basket that would contribute to the candidate winning.”
Mr Kenneth stepped out of the Azimio interview beaming with confidence. He said: “I belong in Azimio because I believe in the social protection programme for our people.”
Dr Oendo Onantwa, in an opinion piece published by The Standard, made a case for Mr Kenneth.
One of the reasons he has remained a favourite, he said, is his ideological congruence with Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta.
“He has remained a loyal servant of the Handshake partners. The former Gatanga MP has been steadfast in his defence of President Kenyatta’s track record.”
Dr Onantwa added that Mr Kenneth is not controversial and polarising. “He is a gentle, level-headed, highly electable person who can be trusted with secrets.”
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