Uhuru’s speech reveals his hand in Karua’s choice
From his Madaraka Day speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta could barely disguise the fact that he was instrumental in the choice of Martha Karua as Raila Odinga’s running-mate.
Besides being the Jubilee party leader which is a key member of the coalition, Uhuru is the chair of the Azimio Council, the alliance’s top decision making organ.
It is certain that President Uhuru is keen to secure votes for Raila, especially from his Mt Kenya backyard with Karua’s seen as his biggest and last gamble.
Uhuru’s Madaraka Day address was made as the race for the August 9 election enters the homestretch. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is scheduled to clear all presidential candidates by the end of next week.
“In August this year, if it is the wish of the electorate, we have a chance of a woman shattering the glass ceiling by assuming the second highest office in our Republic, the Office of the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya,” Uhuru said at the event attended by Karua.
In a past interview, the Raila Odinga campaign spokesman Makau Mutua told People Daily that, besides compatibility, the issue of numbers was a major consideration in the choice of Azimio’s running mate.
Makau has described the Raila-Karua ticket as “historic and inspired.”
Makau, the Raila presidential ticket had to project the face of Kenya and accommodate other variables such as gender.
“But the most important is that the running mate must bring votes into Azimio so that the candidate can win with a good margin.” Uhuru’s support for Raila began on November 1, 2018, while standing atop his official car as he was making his first development-cum political tour of his backyard for the first time since the 2017 repeat presidential election. It was during that tour that he declared that he would actively participate in his succession.
“They have been thinking that my silence is because I cannot talk, they will be shocked,” he declared in an apparent reference to Ruto and his allies.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli, one of Ruto’s critics, says the nomination of Karua as Raila’s running mate was a game-changer.
“Since Karua came on board, we have witnessed so many developments favourable to us. Apart from playing the gender card, Karua has added the flavour of integrity and determination to tackle graft,” Atwoli told People Daily from Geneva, Switzerland.
It is a position shared by Herman Manyora, a political analyst and a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He believes that Karua’s entry into the Raila camp has completely changed the political landscape.
“If there is anything that the Azimio camp dearly needed, then it was Karua. She has not only brought energy into the Raila campaign team, but has also made people to engage in debate about running mates by comparing her credentials to those of Ruto’s pick...Rigathi Gachagua,” says Manyora.
He says Karua’s pick as a Raila’s running had excited women across the country who say it had given them an opportunity to push one of their own to the high table of the country’s politics.
“It was a sure bet by both Uhuru and Raila. It has made majority of the women to rethink their political stand. To them, this a life time chance to have one of their own rise to become the second in command,” says Manyora.
ODM chairman John Mbadi says Uhuru had a hand in the choice of Karua.
“As the chairman of the Azimio top council, he had a hand in the whole process. And you can see how her nomination has been received positively,” says Mbadi.
But Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who is eyeing the county’s governorship on UDA ticket, says Uhuru’s actions are inconsequential, and not even Karua’s entry into Azimio team would affect Ruto’s gains in Mt Kenya.
“People moved away from this government a long time ago. No amount of camouflaging through Martha will help. Central Kenya is just waiting for voting day to express itself,” the lawmaker said.
From the March 9, 2018 handshake, the failed Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a crackdown that saw the DP’s allies ousted from government and parliamentary positions, the President has done everything possible to shape the direction of his succession.
From the deployment of Mt Kenya Foundation and State officials to vouch for Raila as his best successor, crafting of Azimio La Umoja, to endorsing Karua, Uhuru, like a chess player, has been pushing political rooks in favour of Raila’s bid.
But Soy MP Caleb Kositany, who was de-whipped as the Jubilee deputy secretary general says, though Uhuru and Raila had all along denied that their relationship had any link to the 2022 election, every course the President took was a bet in favour of who would succeed him.
According to Kositany, the BBI which was later rejected by the Supreme Court, was the most lethal card that Uhuru had placed on the table against them.
“From the Handshake, everything was about transition and how Uhuru’s preferred heir would win,” Kositany said.
History Professor Macharia Munene thinks that Uhuru’s decisions are significant in his succession plan.
“Those actions that Uhuru has been taking cannot be ignored. But whether they will have a substantial impact in the succession game is something to watch. Martha has made forays which are very exciting and cannot be ignored by either side and so what they will be doing is counter-checking each other as they measure their weights.”
But the DP team, Kositany says, was able to detect that Uhuru was making a political gamble in favour of Raila.
He says the DP side moved fast to counter Uhuru’s actions by unleashing cards that would send them back to the drawing board every time. Kositany says had the DP been weak, he would have been politically finished.
But Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri observes that by initially dismissing Uhuru as a lame duck, Ruto underrated the President’s potential in his succession game plan.
“We have learnt from Uhuru that in this game, it is not just about tactics. Strategy and timing are also very important. Maybe, had the things Martha is doing now happened two months ago, they wouldn’t be as effective as they are now. Every card Uhuru has unleashed has been working, and the Karua’s card seems to be bringing everything into place,” Wambugu told People Daily.
Since she was picked, Karua has addressed several roadside rallies in Kirinyaga, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Embu, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Laikipia and Nakuru counties.
Since Karua’s nomination, Ruto has been forced to return to Nyeri, Murang’a, Embu, Kiambu and Nyandarua, where the former Gichugu MP had toured, and on Sunday, the DP was in Kirinyara where Karua had started her campaigns two weeks ago.