Having Senior Counsel Martha Karua deputise Mr Raila Odinga and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua anointed as the running mate for presidential candidate William Ruto for the August polls presents an intriguing political race, but also defines most starkly what the aftermath will be for governance and politics.
The choices confirm what has been generally accepted for some time – the centrality of the Kikuyu vote in deciding which tribe will govern the country in the medium term.
The Mountain community has placed a firm beacon on that position by ensuring that they will not only be central during the immediate agenda, but that they will be in the driver’s seat whenever the next succession race will be.
The rationale is simple – tyranny of numbers and adept play of the advantage that history has given them. Colonialism hurt and but also advantaged them, placing them at the centre of politics and the economy when other communities were still very peripheral.
Three presidents later, they have built a numerical and economic advantage that puts them in the driving seat of any discussions about the political and direction that the country takes.
Other communities must just accept that they will continue to play a ceremonial role even when occupying the presidency unless they do what the Kikuyu do not necessarily have to do – seriously seek alliances with other communities cemented on a desire to achieve long-term political objectives. Or until such a time that tribe diminishes its role as the primary driver of voting patterns and the architecture of taking and managing political power is shifted away from the 50-plus-one rule that advantages communities with large numbers.
Until then, characters with interesting past or present potential like Musalia Mudavadi (now with Ruto’s UDA), Kalonzo Musyoka (of Wiper Party), and others occupying leadership positions in their communities will keep the political revolving doors busy as they hop from one to the other seeking validation elsewhere that they should first win in their communities, defining long-term political ideologies and relentlessly promoting this within their communities and outside.
Raila Odinga may be enjoying a rare moment of political support from the state, but it is a position he has earned by being very consistent in his stand and approach to politics. Of course he is ruthless when confronting any threat from his backyard but he has the legitimacy to command the fanatical respect the Luo Nyanza community accords him. It has also won him the widespread national administration that he enjoys.
For now, he has the presidency to win and he has a very good chance to win it. His running mate, Ms Karua, is a steady hand, well tested, highly respected in her community and nationally, and reliable when team values are aligned. She is an excellent choice though it remains to be seen if she will provide the strong pull factor that brings the Kikuyu vote in the numbers Raila hopes to see.
I expect their governance style to be different – pretty accommodative because of the broad alliance that is driving the ticket, but also practical because of the formalism that Ms Karua as deputy president would bring. The political rhetoric about empowering the disadvantaged with loans, subsidised health services, etc. would be muted quite quickly because there just isn’t enough money around to do these things.
A lot of Kenyans would expect this presidency to be tough on corruption – the one scourge that is universally seen as the bane of Kenya’s development potential. There is no reason why this should not happen though the Azimio bus is populated by a diversity of interests, some hugely contradictory.
The Ruto/Gachagua ticket is a fascination as it brings together a combustible dynamic of driven ambition, attractive rhetoric and an amorphous promise to change things because they empathise with the poor, weak and marginalised dwellers at the bottom of the food chain. But they are also burdened by suspicions of corruption, intolerance and overbearing characteristics not suited for a democratising environment keen to entrench the very liberal 2010 Constitution.
I expect that they too would very quickly dial down the populist electioneering rhetoric when confronted with the reality at our National Treasury. Would that reality inspire a review of strategy or harden the resolve to clamp down on corruption? With the sense that they might not be as hard on corruption as could be expected, it would be interesting to watch.
The deputy presidents designate have defined the characteristics of the camps very finely indeed. Pragmatic versus forceful, thoughtful versus bullish. That is the choice Kenyans have.
The writer, a former Editor-in-Chief of Nation Media Group, is now consulting. [email protected]; @TMshindi