Why Raila settled for Governor Ndiritu to lead his Azimio

Thursday, January 6th, 2022 08:45 | By
ODM leader Raila Odinga and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi. PHOTO/Timothy Njenga

The appointment of Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi as head of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga’s campaign board has reaffirmed the central role Mt Kenya leaders will play in the State House push.

Raila, who on December 10, 2021, declared that he would make another stab at the presidency, yesterday announced that Muriithi had “been nominated and accepted to become chair of the board of the Raila Odinga 2022 campaign.”

In what is being widely interpreted as efforts to ensure fiscal discipline in the campaign, Raila appointed financial guru Elizabeth Meyo as the chief executive officer and secretary to the board.

Meyo is the immediate former Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) head of the Domestic Taxes department and currently a consultant for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Meyo, who during her tenure at KRA was pivotal in the institution’s policy and strategy development, spearheaded the rollout of iTax which has revolutionised revenue collection. She will implement the election board’s key strategic decisions and make all critical decisions.

Macharia Munene, a former professor of History and International Relations at the United States International University (USIU), yesterday said that while Ndiritu’s appointment was “an image management issue” it was intentional and tailored towards reinforcing the perception that Raila has been gaining ground in Mt Kenya region where he previously faced hostility.

“The appointment sends a very strong message that solidifies the impression that Raila has the backing of Mt Kenya because the governor is one of the high-profile politicians from the region, and the move is very strategic,” he said.

Munene added: “There has also been a notion that Raila is surrounded by cartels that create a buffer around him, but now there is Ndiritu holding a powerful position in terms of campaign strategy… this will suppress that notion and make Mt Kenya feel that it is part of the campaign.” 

He noted that Ndiritu being a nephew of retired President Mwai Kibaki will also give the impression that the former Head of State supports Raila.

“Whether this is true or not is not important because Kibaki will not come out to confirm or deny it, which is good for the former Prime Minister’s candidature,” Macharia said.

Political ambitions

Yesterday, the governor through his communication chief Muchiri Gitonga, said the appointment does not affect his political ambitions which is seeking re-election on the Party of National Unity (PNU) which is among the outfits that are backing Raila’s presidential bid, adding that being picked for the job signals the confidence the Azimio La Umoja team has in him.

“We are firmly in the race, we are seeking re-election in a PNU ticket, and about his appointment by the former Prime Minister, he is equal to the task. He will perform the two roles ably, and his appointment to that position demonstrates the level of confidence they have in him as well as the leadership of Laikipia,” Muchiri told People Daily in a telephone interview.

This will not be the first time Ndiritu will be playing a key role in a presidential campaign, having worked for Kibaki’s Democratic Party in the 1992 and 1997 elections.

Volunteer in NARC

He was also a volunteer in the 2002 election in which Kibaki won with a landslide under the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).

Reacting to Ndiritu’s appointment, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria while congratulating the governor, said:

“Now my request is that you use your new positions to also push for peace and security in the Ol Moran area of Laikipia County where you grew up and ensure an immediate cessation of killings of the Kikuyu and Kisii communities there.” 

Ndiritu has been working with the Mt Kenya Foundation, a group of business leaders from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard, who in November endorsed Raila as their preferred candidate for State House.

Though there are seven governors from Mt Kenya backing Raila – Ndiritu, Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Martin Wambora (Embu), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), pundits argue that the choice of Ndiritu has its political implications.

In September last year, Ndiritu who has been on an overdrive marketing Raila in Mt Kenya,  made a bold move when he became first governor from the region to host the ODM boss in Nanyuki for three days, and accompanied him on his return trip to Nairobi.

While making the announcement yesterday, the Raila team heaped praises on Ndiritu, saying that “as an economist and financial markets expert, Governor Muriithi, has over 29 years’ experience in leadership and management in Kenya, South Africa, Canada and Australia”. 

They added: “Governor Muriithi was instrumental in the drive to have the derelict Nairobi-Nanyuki and Gilgil-Nyahururu railway lines rehabilitated.”

More on News