With the 2022 presidential election campaigns in full swing, it has shaped up as a two-horse race between Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
What of voters not enamoured of either of the two front-runners? Many voters may yearn for a wider selection to choose from beyond the ‘opposition candidate’ Ruto on the UDA ticket and ‘establishment favourite’ Odinga carrying the ODM flag.
There are a dozen or so others who have been sending feelers or even launched their campaigns but remained mostly invisible. The media has been accused of concentrating on the two noisy front-runners but it is hardly its job to unearth and promote political contestants who do not go beyond mere declarations of intent.
Of the motley ‘others’, it is so far only former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi who is showing serious intent. The ANC leader may not be as active as Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga but, so far, he looks like the only credible alternative prepared to go all the way, especially as he has been much more visible than his rivals for the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) ticket, another former VP, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi (Kanu).
An evident emerging phenomenon is the extent to which all the main candidates are wooing, and claiming, the large central Kenya vote that is up for grabs with the imminent departure of President Uhuru Kenyatta. It seems to be the consensus, both within and outside the region, that this time the populous bloc must let another community have a bite at the cherry.
That is pragmatic and sensible. Kenya can hardly claim to be a united nation of equal opportunity if one ethnic grouping will forever monopolise power and the attendant benefits. Democracy is, of course, about votes, but what the Jubilee machine trumpeted as it’s ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ can ultimately be counter-productive and a threat to democracy and nationhood.
Majoritarian tyranny breeds resentment against the dominant group, fuels feelings of alienation and doubts about the democratic process and ultimately leads to rebellion and even secessionist tendencies.
Wide recognition of this reality is one of the great developments in Kenya’s democratic evolution. That is probably why even the declared presidential aspirants from the Mount Kenya region are not catching much traction despite the community having a history of always voting solidly for its own.
Auditions for Deputy PresidentDNation bodytext ragged : Indeed, it seems that the likes of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and businessman Jimi Wanjigi are not actually running for president; they are running for running mate. Their campaigns are auditions for Deputy President if they can demonstrate capacity to deliver the massive central Kenya numbers.
It has become almost a truism that a serious presidential candidate must have a central Kenya running mate if he (no women is visible in the fray yet and my favourite, Ms Kingwa Kamencu, seems to have surrendered) is to have any chance of winning.
Now, being running mate in Kenya too often comes with the promise of a first stab at the presidential succession. Any Kikuyu DP will expect to be next in line, as of right.
That creates a dilemma: If we agree that central Kenya has had more than its fair share of State House (and we could add another story on the Kikuyu-Kalenjin baton exchanges), why then craft arrangements destined to perpetuate the injustice after intermission?
Especially troubling is the arrival of central Kenya brokers pretending to have authority to hoist running mates on the candidates or demanding a reserved quota of jobs in the next government.
Dr Ruto, Mr Odinga, Mr Mudavadi and others surely have the intelligence and wisdom to select their own running mates.And even if they opt for the region, they don’t need pressure and blackmail from self-appointed community representatives of dubious political mandate and clout — like the elitist Mt Kenya Foundation led by Equity Bank tycoon Peter Munga or the Mt Kenya Unity Forum fronted by Mr Kiunjuri, former CS Martha Karua and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
This should be the time to banish the myth that one ethic bloc has a larger stake than the others or that community interests can only secured by producing the president or deputy.
What all should be demanding is a leadership that will care for all of Kenya with policies and programmes geared towards economic and social development for the entire country rather than just our narrow, bigoted interests.