Boost for Raila as Kalonzo opts to rejoin Azimio
Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka yesterday dropped his presidential bid and pledged to support Raila Odinga, the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition presidential nominee.
After keeping his supporters guessing for two weeks, Kalonzo accepted his nomination as Chief Cabinet Secretary if Azimio wins the August elections.
Kalonzo’s move comes as a major boost for Raila, who has been aggressively courting the lower Eastern region’s voting bloc as he gears for the State House duel with Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
The two are considered front runners in the race for State House. They are scheduled to be cleared by the electoral commission this weekend. Already, two other candidates have been cleared, including George Wajackoyah of the Roots Party, who was cleared yesterday.
Kalonzo was to have a date with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) tomorrow.
Two weeks ago, a disgruntled Kalonzo pulled out of Azimio and declared that he would contest for the presidency after Raila overlooked him and settled on former Justice minister Martha Karua as his running mate.
Announcing his move in Nairobi yesterday, Kalonzo said he had reached the decision after “introspection” and wide consultation with the leadership of the Wiper Party, the clergy and professionals.
He later joined Raila for a rally at Nairobi’s Embakasi constituency where he declared that he had accepted the offer of being Chief Cabinet Secretary in Raila’s administration should Azimio win.
He said Kenya was only safe with Azimio and described Ruto’s and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua’s ticket as an “unthinkable and unacceptable mistake”.
While at the Kalonzo Musyoka Command Centre in Nairobi earlier in the day, Kalonzo said: “After deep introspection, I have today deferred my dreams to run for president of the Republic of Kenya in the forthcoming General Election.”
This will be the third time Kalonzo will be supporting Raila for the presidency, having been his running mate in the past two elections.
“I would also wish to congratulate Martha Wangari Karua on her nomination as the deputy president nominee of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party and I assure her of my unequivocal support,” Kalonzo said, and committed to take part in Azimio-OKA campaigns.
Sources say Kalonzo used his “time in silence” to broker a deal in which his party will be assigned key dockets, including Foreign Affairs, Energy, Water and Health ministries among other appointive government posts.
During yesterday’s rally, Kalonzo was joined by governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) who have been pushing him to return to Azimio.
He maintained he had not ditched Azimio but only took a one-week break to seek God’s intervention.
“I was resting but I am now back to play my position and ensure that we win the August elections,” said Kalonzo.
Even as his counterparts in Azimio were celebrating his return, Ruto and his allies claimed that Kalonzo had been duped.
“He is claiming that he has been given some ministries but he is being cheated,” said Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua.
Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula was more conciliatory: “We wish Kalonzo Musyoka well but must caution him that he has joined leaders who don’t mean what they say,” Wetang’ula said in Makueni, where he was accompanied by leaders from the region. People Daily has learnt that President Uhuru Kenyatta reached out to Kalonzo and prevailed upon him to reconsider his decision to mount his own presidential run.
Kalonzo is considered the political kingpin of the lower Eastern region, which has over 1.6 million voters. His influence in the region is sufficient to sway the outcome of a presidential election. Kalonzo has been using that power to bargain for a bigger share of government should Azimio win the August election.
Yesterday, he said he had already forwarded over 66,000 signatures from people in 33 counties who supported his candidature to IEBC, but had changed his mind after consultation.
With that declaration, he effectively stepped down from the presidential race.
“I came to the realisation that the future and well-being of our nation is squarely on our hands. Our true measure lies in our ability to discern when the nation is bigger than an individual,” he said, explaining why he had opted to return to the Azimio fold despite being denied the running mate position.
His return complicates the vote hunt math for Ruto. Had Kalonzo remained in the race, he would have denied Raila a large chunk of the lower Eastern vote. His endorsement of Raila has, however, changed the political matrix in that region.
Before he made his move, there had been high-level efforts to lure him back to Azimio. One pointer was the presence of Baringo Senator Gideon Moi in the press conference where Kalonzo made his announcement.
According to some sources, Gideon had been assigned the task of keeping close tabs on the Wiper boss to ensure he did not bolt out of Azimio.
“Moi, you have redefined the meaning and essence of brotherhood,” Kalonzo said. “You have been with me in the best of moments and the darkest of hours. You are a gentleman. Receive my heartfelt gratitude.”
Kalonzo had ruled out working with Raila again despite entreaties by the President who is also the chairman of the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition Party.
“It will be unthinkable to support Odinga for the third time,” Kalonzo had said in June. “I will be the most stupid person to once again support his bid without a measure of reciprocity. I’m open to working with all, but tell me why I should support Odinga for the third time.”
He also challenged the former Prime Minister to support him instead.
“I don’t see any person convincing me to support him. I’d rather go back to Tseikuru (his rural home) than support him again. At the age of 67, this is my moment. I must run,” he said.
In the end, he passed up the opportunity, boosting Raila’s chances of winning the August contest.