Quiet but vicious jostling and lobbying is rocking ODM boss Raila Odinga’s camp as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s key Mt Kenya allies fight to be his running mate.
Outside Mt Kenya, there is growing pressure for Raila to pick Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka for the third time as his second-in-command.
Despite revelations of quiet negotiations between Raila nd Kalonzo, the Wiper leader insists he will be on the ballot.
The Star has established that political heavyweights angling to succeed Uhuru as the Mt Kenya political leader are fiercely fighting to be Raila’s choice for running mate in next year’s polls.
It is widely believed that whoever makes it to be the opposition chief’s running mate next year will automatically succeed Uhuru as the region’s political kingpin.
In the list of those touted as Raila’s possible running mates are ex-Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Laikipia Governor Nderitu Muriithi, his Nakuru counterpart Lee Kinyanjui and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
Others are Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who was also being mentioned as Raila’s possible running mate, has decamped to Deputy President William Ruto’s Tangatanga wing.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega, a vocal Raila ally, told the Star that the President will have the final say on who will be Raila’s running mate, lifting the lid on Uhuru’s massive influence as the region’s kingpin.
“People who are trying to position themselves are putting the cart before the horse. It is the President who will ultimately make the final decision,” Kega said.
However, Kega insisted that the region will not be hoodwinked into voting blindly without looking at what the presidential candidates have in safeguarding Mt Kenya interests in 2002 and beyond.
“Raila has already passed the test because he has been fighting for the Building Bridges Initiative,” the MP said.
With the President having already signaled that he prefers Raila to succeed him and the region being the single largest voting bloc – with over six million votes – it is almost a given it will produce Raila’s running mate.
On Thursday, nominated MP Maina Kamanda who has been campaigning for Raila in the region admitted that various politicians have intensified lobbying to catch the attention of the ODM boss.
The former Starehe MP who has endorsed Raila for President, however, cautioned that the opposition chief should be allowed a free hand to pick whoever he prefers.
“Let nobody impose a running mate on Raila. Let him pick a person with whom he has a chemistry to avoid scenarios like the ones we have seen with William Ruto rebelling against his boss,” Kamanda said.
The infighting among Raila’s Mt Kenya allies is so fierce that camps have now emerged as the politicians push to outdo each other in the race for the coveted post.
There are reports that at least factions have emerged among Mt Kenya leaders who are pushing Raila to pick his running mate from there.
There is a Murang group that argues that it’s time that the county – home to most Kikuyu tycoons and wealthy businessmen – produced the second most powerful post given that there will be no presidential candidate.
It is also clear that the Mt Kenya East-Meru, Embu and Tharaka – is piling pressure to have Raila pick a running mate from the region arguing that it is time their West brothers returned the favour.
Another camp wants the position to go to Kagwe of Nyeri while another wants the post to go to Kirinyaga’s Karua.
Kagwe is said to be planning to launch his presidential bid in the coming months as part of his plan to raise the stakes.
Last month, political analyst and Uhuru’s technical advisor Mutahi Ngunyi suggested that Raila would win the 2022 presidential race if he picked Karua as his running mate.
“At this rate, Raila will have to work very hard not to become President. Especially if he runs with ‘happy birthday’ Martha Karua. This #rarua ticket is the one. Think about it,” he tweeted on September 22.
Governor Muriithi, a nephew of retired President Mwai Kibaki, has come out forcefully to mount aggressive campaigns to market Raila in Mt Kenya, portraying him as the country’s economic saviour.
He hosted Raila in Laikipia two weeks ago and accompanied him in a mega roadshow tour from Nanyuki to Nairobi as the ODM boss pulled huge crowds along the way. Muriithi has taken over the Party of National Unity in what is seen as a plan to negotiate with Raila.
Last week, the Devolution Empowerment Party associated with Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi backed Muriithi to be Raila’s running mate.
Party secretary general Mugambi Imanyara said the party will hold a National Executive Committee meeting where they will endorse Muriithi to the position.
“The Laikipia governor fits the bill for a running mate in our view,” Imanyara said.
He went on, “He is technically qualified as an articulate and respected economist who has demonstrated governance and leadership acumen as assistant minister in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s government and as governor.”
Then there is Lee Kinyanjui who hosted Raila’s first Azimio la Umoja campaigns in Nakuru and who is seen as Uhuru’s key confidant in the 2022 succession race. The governor is said to have formed his own Ubuntu Peoples Forum party.
The governor has also been accompanying Raila in his Mt Kenya trips in efforts to turn the tables on Deputy President William Ruto.
Kenneth, a former planning minister and one-term Gatanga lawmaker, has been close to Raila amid talk that most of the ODM boss’s allies prefer him for the running mate post.
Last year, he led a delegation of Kikuyu elders to Raila’s Bondo home in what was seen as a gesture to thaw the Luo-Kikuyu ties that were ruined by the Jaramogi and Kenyatta political rivalry after Independence.
Kenneth is said to enjoy the backing of the powerful Mt Kenya Foundation club of wealthy businessmen as well as the influential nominated MP Maina Kamanda.
The foundation is expected to endorse Raila as Uhuru’s successor next month.
Munya is also being mentioned although there are reports that he has been edged out of the matrix.
Kega said it is possible that among the big names that have been floated, nobody will make it to be Raila’s running mate.
“Maybe David is in the bush herding cattle,” he said.
Kamanda insisted that the running mate must come from Mt Kenya because of the region’s numerical strength and as part of a deliberate plan to address voter apathy.
“Mt Kenya has more than six million voters and for them to turn out and vote they must see that one of their own is in the ballot,” the MP said.
Without a clear Uhuru successor, Raila and Ruto are dangling the running mate slot to woo the region’s voters ahead of next year’s presidential duel.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said whoever is chosen to be the running mate and becomes deputy president would succeed Uhuru as the Mt Kenya kingpin.
“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,” he said.
Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said Mt Kenya’s numerical strength compels all presidential candidates to dangle the offer in order to win over their hearts and souls.
“The region has numbers and it is used to voting as a bloc. The fact that the region is not fielding a presidential candidate, or does not have a strong candidate for that matter, makes it a critical bloc in the polls,” Wamalwa said.
By The Star