Jostling for Raila running mate’s post intensifies
Fierce infighting has erupted within ODM leader Raila Odinga’s camp in Mt Kenya region over his possible running mate in the 2022 presidential election.
Already, four camps have emerged in the vote rich region, each fronting its preferred candidate for the Number Two slot in Raila’s presidential ticket.
Among the front-runners for the position are Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyajui, his Laikipia counterpart Ndiritu Muriithi, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.
Also being mentioned, though nominally, are Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua.
With more than five million voters spread across Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia and Nakuru counties, the Mt Kenya region is a major battleground for leading presidential candidates in next year’s election with Raila, Deputy President William Ruto and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi pitching tent in the region.
Raila, in particular, has intensified his forays in the region with his political fortunes rising, largely buoyed by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s perceived support for his candidature.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, a staunch Raila supporter, says that though competition among the four has become “stiff over the past one month,” Kenneth stands head and shoulders above the rest.
“First, the people of Murang’a, starting from the Mau Mau days to Kenneth Matiba, have suffered a lot for this country.
Secondly, Murang’a is the only county in Central Kenya that has been actively and openly involved in Baba’s (Raila) campaigns,” Kamanda told People Daily, lifting the lid on the viciousness of the war over the position.
Sources said that Ndiritu, Kinyanjui and Kenneth had emerged as frontrunners, having hosted Raila a number of times in the region while Kagwe, who is reportedly working on launching his presidential bid to advance his fortunes, and Karua, have been ambivalent on their support for the ODM leader.
Munya, on the other hand, is said to be in a dilemma over whether to go for his former Meru governor seat, currently occupied by Kiraitu Murungi, or position himself for a national post.
Mt Kenya region has so far produced three presidents – Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru.
With the region having no established politician to succeed Uhuru, presidential hopefuls have been dangling the running mate slot in exchange for their support.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu says whoever is chosen to be deputy president in the next government stands a big chance of succeeding Uhuru as the region’s kingpin.
For that reason, jostling for the running mate’s slot is expected, Wambugu says.
“There is a general consensus that a running mate should come from the region, whether it is in the DP’s camp or Raila’s.
So you will see many people jostling for the position, including fighting each other.
But whoever gets the post is likely to be automatically accepted in the region, and must be trusted by the people and the President,” the MP said.
Kenneth is said to enjoy the support of the influential Mt Kenya Foundation as well as Uhuru’s confidantes such as Jubilee vice chair David Murathe and Kamanda.
The Murathe-Kamanda group insists that a running mate must come from Murang’a County since it has neither produced a president nor a deputy president despite the significant role it has played in the country’s history.
Kenneth has been accompanying Raila to most rallies across the country.
Last week, he was present in Nakuru and Laikipia counties and on Monday, he was among those who flanked the ODM leader during his tour of Meru county.
He also accompanied Raila during his meeting with the Mt Kenya Foundation at Safari Park hotel.
Those pushing for Kenneth argue that he has put his personal resources at Raila’s disposal, a move that his perceived competitors are said to be uncomfortable with.
“As the people of Murang’a, we have not been lucky because two leaders have come from Kiambu (Uhuru and his father Jomo Kenyatta) and the other one hailed from Nyeri (President Kibaki) and now we are saying that as the people of Murang’a we offered our support (during Mzee’s time), we did the same during the second liberation (through Kenneth Matiba) and now we have our own brand Peter Kenneth,” said Gatanga MP Ngugi Nduati.
Yesterday, Kenneth told People Daily: “We have not reached the stage yet but if the boss decides to pick me, who am I to turn down such an offer. But for now, we are concentrating on marshaling support for Raila.”
Kagwe, who has in the recent past enjoyed wide media coverage over his behind the scenes move to launch his presidential bid under the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) has, however, avoided political talk.
He has been holding strategy meetings with leaders among them former Dagoretti South MP Denis Waweru, former Mathira MP Peter Weru and a section of elders at a hotel in Nairobi to lay down strategies on his possible candidature.
“The presidential bid is basically meant to help him raise his profile. The ultimate target is to be Raila’s running mate,” said a source who has been part of the meetings.
Munya has been receiving backing from a section of Meru community leaders that he be picked as Raila’s running mate, with his proponents insisting that Mt Kenya East has for long stood with Central Kenya and it is time for the latter to reciprocate.
The CS recently claimed to be the Mt Kenya spokesperson, saying he was the chair of Cabinet Secretaries from the region.
“If you don’t know, I am the chairman of senior government officials, among them Cabinet Secretaries, from Mt Kenya in government,” he said.
Speculation about the probability of him going for a national position became rife after Raila brokered a truce between him and his political nemesis Murungi.
Laikipia Governor Muriithi, a nephew of Kibaki, has been on an overdrive to market Raila, accompanying him during his various tours of the region, with the most recent being a visit to Gatanga where the ODM leader met local musicians.
A week ago, he hosted Raila in Nanyuki for three days where his administration demonstrated ways of tackling economic issues through small and medium enterprises and stimulus programmes.
He later led Raila in a road show that saw them address eight stop-over meetings.
The following day, he accompanied him to Safari Park hotel for a meeting with wealthy businessmen from the Mt Kenya region and later hosted him for a rally in Nyahururu Town.
The Party of National Unity (PNU), which he is associated with, has also struck a coalition agreement with Raila’s ODM.
On Tuesday, the Devolution Empowerment Party associated with Governor Murungi, announced it had endorsed Muriithi to be Raila’s running mate.
Party Secretary General Mugambi Imanyara yesterday said the party will hold a National Executive Committee meeting to endorse Muriithi for the position.
“The Laikipia governor fits the bill for a running mate in our view,” Imanyara said.
“He is technically qualified as an articulate and respected economist who has demonstrated governance and leadership acumen as assistant minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s government and as governor,” he stated.
Reached for comment yesterday, Muriithi said he is at the moment focusing his energy and resources on serving the people of Laikipia.
“Though it is nice and interesting for people to float my name, the prerogative to nominate a running mate remains with Raila,” he said.
Kinyanjui became the first county chief in Mt Kenya region to host Raila during the launch of Azimio la Umoja.
Kinyanjui, who has lately appeared to lead a group of governors from Mt Kenya that support Raila, was among leaders who accompanied him in Nanyuki and during the caravan to Nairobi via Nyeri, Murang’a and Kiambu counties.
His dalliance with Raila and the Mt Kenya group has caused jitters in the cosmopolitan Nakuru, with his critics accusing him of attempting to “annex” the county to Central Kenya.
Political pundits argue that Kinyanjui’s political dalliance with Raila and Mt Kenya is a slap in the face of pro-Ruto’s allies in the county, who argue that Nakuru should stand shoulder to shoulder with other counties in the Rift Valley.
Reached for comment, Kinyanjui said: “Decisions around who is a running mate is a broader conversation that will involve many other stakeholders. A position based on trust and confidence, not just raw ambition.”