Uhuru will have a hand in who Raila picks as running mate – Experts

The choice of a running mate will in all likelihood have an effect on who wins the August 2022 presidential race, keen observers now argue.

The two leading presidential candidates – Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga appear fully conscious of this assessment and are evidently treading cautiously over the matter. While they both enjoy ‘solid’ voting blocs, pundits argue that the duo will pay close attention to each others’ picks for deputy in their mission to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“If you pick the right person, people would be happy and it will not erode your votes. If you pick the wrong person, some votes might disappear.” Renowned historian Professor Macharia Munene said in an interview with KBC Digital.

In the last two presidential elections in 2013 and 2017, Raila settled for Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka as his running mate. This time around – his fifth stab, analysts hold the view that President Uhuru Kenyatta will, by reasonable assumption, have a say on who Mr. Odinga picks as his second in command.

Having closed ranks and started working together since the famous ‘Handshake’ in 2018, President Kenyatta is expected to endorse Raila’s candidature and, as part of their pact, talk is rife that Uhuru, who is serving his second and final term in office, will get a candidate of his choice to partner the former Prime Minister.

“It is a valid argument because they are buddies now. They are brothers and it’s only advisable for the Presidential candidate (Raila) to seek advice from his brother (Uhuru),” Prof Macharia says

Even though, ultimately, the decision on who his running mate will be is Raila’s to make, the Professor of History and International Relations at the United States International University (USIU) opines that before the former PM makes the decision “he will consult quite widely and he will pay a lot of attention to what Uhuru has to say.” “That is a given,” he reiterates.

He adds; “He (Raila) will do well not to appear to ignore anybody’s advice, especially that of his buddies.”

Mt. Kenya Transition

Prof. Munene is not the only one subscribing to this school of thought. Wilfred Muliro from the Technical University of Kenya (TUK) holds a similar view. Other than the fact that President Kenyatta will have a say in Mr. Odinga’s pick, Muliro believes that running mate is most likely going to come from the vote-rich Mt. Kenya region.

“I think, for Raila Odinga, it is almost 90 percent skewed that he has to get a running mate from Mt. Kenya. And it will be a negotiated agreement between his promoters in Mt. Kenya, himself, and his followers on the person they will have,” says Muliro, a political and international relations expert.

He argues that Raila has to negotiate and agree with his promoters in Mount Kenya led by the President on who will be the running mate.

“I think President Uhuru Kenyatta and promoters like the Mt. Kenya Foundation (MKF) and opinion leaders have a stake in governance. Kingmakers don’t just make you a king before their stake. The stake of Mt Kenya is to have a running mate for Raila Odinga so that you are looking at the future,” argues Muliro

He adds that; “this is the only transition time that they (Mt. Kenya) do not have a strong candidate for the Presidency, but he can be built like a running mate. The President cannot keep off. He is also a Kenyan; he has his choices and is also strongly following how Raila Odinga’s chances would be,”

In the opinion of the two political experts, appointing someone from Central Kenya will give the region assurance that within the grand scheme of power and politics, it has not been ignored. And this perception is important for the reason that it might be decisive in the way voters turn out when elections are called.

They further observed that the Mt. Kenya leadership has excelled in terms of strategy by creating an impression that any one of the leading Presidential candidates keen to get the lion’s share of the region’s huge vote basket ought to pick a running mate from the region.

“This is also for the preservation and survival of Mt. Kenya people having been in government for more years, they cannot just be totally out,” says Muliro

An Ambitious Deputy

The two dons were, however, quick to point out that even though whosoever the ODM leader picks as running mate must benefit his candidature, he will need someone who cannot be seen to be a threat to him both now and in the future.

“If whoever he picks appears to want his job, that’s a threat and no person would want somebody near him who is salivating for his job. Anyone who appears to salivate for his job, either quietly or whatever is considered to be a threat.” Professor Munene, also an Associate Fellow at the HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies says.

“Looking at history and if Raila will have an input on who will be his running mate, then you can be sure that it cannot be somebody who is over-ambitious.  This is one of the lessons learned from the Uhuru-Ruto alliance.” Muliro added

With the President’s backyard seen as most likely to produce this candidate, former Presidential candidates Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth are seen as leading contenders.

“Karua and Kenneth have name recognition. People know them but whether there is any value-added to that is another matter. But the candidate will decide on who will add value and would have compatibility.” says Prof Munene

Muliro agrees that going by public indications, Kenneth would fit the bill because he has once contested for the presidency. This is coupled with his impressive track record as a lawmaker. But he says Kenneth may not be the one because “he has not been so much among the crafters and kingmakers around President Uhuru Kenyatta.  He is almost like an outsider.”

What about Kalonzo?

They, however, argue that it would not be a surprise if Mt Kenya produced a surprise candidate to deputize Raila, including someone from outside the region but who represents their interests.

And this is why Muliro believes Kalonzo should not be ruled out. With blessings from President Kenyatta, the TUK lecturer thinks Kalonzo can be made a running mate for Raila and that this will pose no problem in Mt. Kenya if the head of state was to make a case for such a candidature, especially now that former co-principals in OKA have cast their lot with DP Ruto.

“It is one of the cards on the table even including the President’s legacy strategy for Raila Odinga. It could have been the long term program, with a view of one of OKA leaders being groomed to join Raila,” says Muliro

He however cautions that such a move may not be as viable as it would have been the case if the other former NASA principals were to be part of the Raila-led Azimio la Umoja.

“Kalonzo will be good if the other parts such as Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (KANU), Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya), and other regional kings are in the fold. This is the time when NASA (the National Super Alliance) would have performed very well in my view, with Kalonzo as running mate. Without those other people, the only option in the mathematics of numbers is the Mt. Kenya.”

“Kalonzo may have to join Raila with a view of getting some share of the government and is left to have his numbers in his constituency (Ukambani),” observes Muliro

This view resonates well with that of Prof. Macharia Munene who believes Raila may be forced to look beyond Kalonzo in favor of someone who has some influence and who could bring in some votes.

He argues that this trajectory will favor persons holding elective office and who have shown they can win. This could perhaps explain Raila’s dalliance with three governors from Kalonzo’s political tuff.

“Where is this thing coming from that Raila has to have Kalonzo? It’s farfetched. Kalonzo does not have much weight, especially when governors from Ukambani; Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

“These are elected people. Kalonzo is not elected anywhere. Yes, he has some influence in Ukambani, there is no question about that, but maybe that influence is overrated. Raila does not have to have Kalonzo,” Prof Munene argues

Professor Munene and Muliro’s arguments give credence to the theory that Raila’s running mate position will most likely go to Mt Kenya and President Uhuru Kenyatta will have a say on who will partner the ODM leader for the Azimio la Umoja ticket to take on Kenya Kwanza Alliance in the August 9, 2022, General elections.

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