This is the best method to pick Raila’s running mate

Raila Odinga

ODM party leader Raila Odinga makes his remarks after he was unveiled as Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate during the coalition's National Delegates Convention on March 12, 2022 at KICC, Nairobi.


Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Raila Odinga must choose his running mate with dexterity.
  • Azimio should be the first political party in history to adopt the papal conclave. 

I go to funerals.

I go to earthquakes. 

(Nathan Rockefeller, VP to President Gerald Ford)

On or before April 28, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) awaits the names of presidential candidates and their running mates. 

On this day, we will know which of these political parties are village merry-go-round platforms or serious national outfits. Some careers will be upended, others ended and some build up. 

Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition and Kenya Kwanza Alliance would either have done a political master-stroke or engaged in harakiri. Let’s travel back in time.

Having a vice President, in historical terms, is a recent occurrence. During the US constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, the delegates decided, as an afterthought, to have a vice President. 

Initial thought was to have the person with the second highest votes in presidential elections be the automatic vice President. 

The intention was national harmony as the winner and the runner-up represented two conflicting choices. 

This was the original handshake. Later in 1804, the US constitution was amended to allow the President pick his nominee with whom they would run together on a joint ticket. 

The rest of the world, including Kenya, followed suit.

The role of the vice President was to assist the President. Over time, the role of VP has morphed from one who is there but not seen or heard to one who is a principal assistant. 

Adopt the papal conclave

Our constitution attempts to give some semblance of power to the office. 

But does it really have? The power of a VP depends on the holder of the office, his chemistry with the President and how much power the President wants to delegate him. Without much delegation, a VP will be bereft of any power save being send by the President to attend state funerals and emergencies, locally and abroad.

Calling one a vice President or deputy President are pure semantics. As William Shakespeare said: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” 

At the end of the day, the holder of the office has a big title but, without the goodwill of the President, a high school principal has more power. 

A vice President or a deputy President, whatever name you fancy, is only important for optical perception during campaigns and on election day. After the presidential elections, the deputy can literally be ignored and the sun will still rise in the morning.

But because of this perception, Raila Odinga must choose his running mate with dexterity. Azimio should be the first political party in history to adopt the papal conclave. 

Being an experiment in coalition politics, a perceived mistake in choosing the DP can lead to Azimio careening off the cliff. When a Pope dies or abdicates, the new Pope is elected in a simple process steeped in mystery. All cardinals qualifying to vote are locked up in seclusion with limited facilities, no technology or communication with the outside world and minimum food.

The cardinals choose the Pope by consensus or vote. Once the new Pope is chosen, fumata bianca (white smoke) is seen on the chimney of the cardinals seclusion and an announcement is made to the world of Habemus Papa: We have a Pope.

Made to sign in blood

For Azimio, I suggest that Raila Odinga rallies all pretenders to the Office of Deputy President and takes them to a remote place in those Laikipia or Kajiado Conservancies. 

Kalonzo Musyoka, Peter Munya, Peter Kenneth, Lee Kinyanjui, Martha Karua, James Mwangi et al should be made to sign in blood that forswears them to secrecy, unity and loyalty. 

Once they have taken the oath, they should then be locked up in this secluded place and only be allowed to come out once they have chosen one of their own to be Baba’s running mate. Once the nominee is chosen in the conclave, all the others must fall in line and support the Azimio presidential candidate and the running mate with utmost loyalty.

Such a method of choosing the running mate, forestalls any fallout and insulates Baba from politics of intrigue and subterfuge. 

The losers in the conclave won’t be able to backtrack but will have to abide by the results. Each of them will go back to their people and tell them about the nomination process and that they are obligated to abide by the results. 

With such megaphone in sync, the only thing that will stand between Raila Odinga and State House will be his shadow.

The 2022 General Election is the most pivotal since Independence. The two leading presidential candidates have given Kenya clear bifurcated choice: a hopeful future or a dark past. This choice can be compromised by how the running mate is chosen. We shouldn’t allow an office that relies on the goodwill and generosity of the President to derail a future of hope, promise and possibilities.

With humility and clarity of thought, I implore Raila Odinga to convene the conclave with urgency and immediacy. We await the white smoke. With the white smoke, River Jordan parts and clears the way to Canaan.

Donald B Kipkorir Advocate of the High Court of Kenya; [email protected]