Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (second left) with Mr Peter Kenneth (right) are joined by governors James Ongwae (left) and Amos Nyaribo during a campaign rally at Nyamira Primary School on March 3, 2022.

| File | Nation Media Group

Battle of the Peters: Jubilee wrangles over Raila deputy

What you need to know:

  • Peter Kenneth and Peter Munya the frontrunners of possible running mates for Azimio presumptive flagbearer Raila Odinga.
  • Within Jubilee, divisions have emerged on the recent changes in the party leadership with the Young Turks taking on the old guard.

The appointment of new officials in the ruling Jubilee Party has exposed the different factions trying to position themselves in the succession race, with the biggest prize being the running mate slot. 

This comes even as former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya emerge as the frontrunners in a crowded field of possible running mates for Azimio La Umoja Movement’s presumptive flagbearer Raila Odinga.

Already, the Party of National Unity (PNU) has demanded that the running mate slot be given to Mr Munya. The former Meru governor is said to enjoy a lot of goodwill from President Kenyatta.

During the Sagana III meeting in Nyeri last month, the President singled out Mr Munya as one of the top performers in the Jubilee Cabinet, while hitting out at Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.

“They (political opponents) have been in charge of the Agriculture ministry and did little. But within a year-and-a-half of Munya being in charge, we’ve seen reforms. There are better coffee prices, dairy farmers have a minimum guaranteed price for their commodity and pyrethrum and rice farmers are getting better returns.

“Should Munya continue with the good work? Do you want these reforms and such competence to continue or not?” the President asked. The crowd answered in the affirmative.

The CS has never shied away from defending President Kenyatta’s agenda and is seen as his point man in Mt Kenya East. By shelving his political ambitions in Meru, analysts see it as part of negotiations for Mr Munya’s placement in the next government. 

During the PNU National Delegates Conference, the CS expressed optimism that he would be picked as Mr Odinga’s running mate given his track record.

“All I ask of you is to join Odinga and Kenyatta in forming the next government. As you have said, I’ll be your party leader and by the will of God and your prayers, I believe I’ve all it takes to represent your interests at the top level of government,” Mr Munya said.

But some insiders believe it may not be tenable to have Mr Munya deputise Mr Odinga since Mt Kenya East already has two heads of arms of government — Chief Justice Martha Koome heads the Judiciary while Mr Justin Muturi is the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mr Kenneth is already riding on a recent opinion poll by Trends and Insights for Africa (Tifa), which indicated that he stands the best chance, in terms of popularity, of being Mr Odinga’s running mate from the region. He was favoured by 48 per cent of those polled, followed by Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua of One Kenya Alliance (OKA) at 29 per cent.

Wrangles within Jubilee

Governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) polled 4 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.

Mr Kenneth has been visible in Mr Odinga’s campaigns and has on several occasions been favoured in protocol.

Mr Kenneth enjoys support from of Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta’s allies. Many say he has a national profile, having run for president in the 2013 General Election.

Gatanga MP Ngugi Nduati said the people of Murang’a have sacrificed a lot for other counties in Mt Kenya, hence the need to give them the DP slot.

“If you remember Kenyatta 1, it’s Murang’a that sacrificed for him to get the Kigumo seat. If you get a person from Murang’a, it’s going to influence Nairobi because a majority of people who live in Nairobi are basically from Murang’a and Kiambu counties,” he told the Nation.

Should Murang’a get the running mate slot, he said, “it will finish the careers of Alice Wahome, Irungu Kang’ata and Ndindi Nyoro”, DP Ruto’s supporters.

Within Jubilee, divisions have emerged on the recent changes in the party leadership with the Young Turks taking on the old guard. President Kenyatta’s supporters, however, say the fresh line-up was meant to revamp the party by giving it a new look.

With many big names missing from the list the National Delegates Conference endorsed, the President’s intention was to give the party fresh energy as it positions itself to produce a running mate in Azimio.

Factions have now emerged within the ruling party with one backing the youngsters to be in the frontline while another group is pushing for veterans to have a say in the Kenyatta succession.

Yesterday, Jubilee deputy secretary-general Joshua Kutuny (Cherang’any) told the Nation that some leaders who had been trusted with assisting Mr Odinga to get Mt Kenya votes had failed, casting doubts on their political muscles to deputise the former Prime Minister.

He said President Kenyatta was paying keen attention on the activities of Mr Kenneth, CS Munya, Mr Muriithi and Ms Karua to see if they could mount strong campaigns to neutralise his deputy’s influence.

“The position of deputy president had been zeroed down to Munya, Karua, Kenneth and Muriithi, but it now appears that these people are not living up to the expectations of the President and the people. 

Mr Kenneth was given an opportunity during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to be very close to Raila but he has not proven that he has the muscle and political spine to mobilise locals,” he said.

“Mr Muriithi was appointed the chairman of Raila’s campaign board. Everybody was optimistic but he hasn’t taken off. If anything, he is still struggling in his backyard. No new programmes, no changes. Ms Karua dropped along the way. Mr Munya became non-committal.”

But Mr Muriithi told the Nation that he was supporting Mr Odinga without any condition, arguing that he was appointed as chairperson of the campaign board because of his bold and brave step to rally behind the ODM chief’s State House bid early when others were still waiting for the President’s direction.

“I support Baba without conditions. I think I was asked to be on Baba’s board because I had the balls to come out in support of Baba when others were cowing behind the President waiting for his lead. In any case, I’m focused on my re-election as Laikipia governor,” he said.

DP Ruto is using Mr Nyoro (Kiharu), Ms Wahome (Kandara), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) and Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) in his Mt Kenya forays.

The President has been relying on MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Sabina Chege (Murang’a) and Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) to counter the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) wave. Both Mr Kanini and Mr Kioni have been elevated to party positions as director of elections and secretary-general, respectively.

With the DP likely to pick his running mate from either Murang’a or Nyeri, Azimio is also scouting for a suitable person from the same counties. 

Mr Nyoro, Ms Wahome and Mr Gachagua have been touted as DP Ruto’s running mates. 

Mr Kutuny said talks are ongoing within the party to front either Mr Kega, Mr Kioni or Ms Chege as Mr Odinga’s running mate. Mr Kega and Ms Chege have criss-crossed the country drumming up support for Mr Odinga. Mr Kega first accompanied Mr Odinga to roadside rallies from Laikipia to Githurai and has never missed any.

“Is Uhuru trying to prop up a new team? It’s almost likely that Raila’s deputy will come from Central. We’re looking at Mr Kioni, Mr Kega and Ms Chege,” Mr Kutuny said.

“There’s a feeling among many people that it has to be either from Murang’a or Nyeri. Mr Kega has been very vocal of late and he appears as somebody that the President trusts. There is a likelihood he will be the running mate for Mr Odinga,” he added.

Those fronting Mr Kenneth argue that he would complement Mr Odinga as he’s not combative, has financial muscles capable of oiling presidential campaigns and cultivated the image of a performer as Gatanga MP. 

But critics say he lacks political clout to rally Mt Kenya region and it doesn’t help his cause either that he is perceived to go silent after elections. 

Yesterday, Mr Nduati said Mr Kenneth has played a huge role in Mr Odinga’s forays in the Mt Kenya region, saying, a certain clique of leaders within Jubilee are scared of the former MP’s rising star.

“In Murang’a, we’ve had over five meetings to consolidate the county. We’ve been meeting opinion leaders and on Monday, we will be back to Murang’a. We have also had meetings in Nairobi,” the Gatanga MP said.

Mathioya MP Peter Kimari said those fighting Mr Kenneth have little to prove themselves for the position.

“Mr Kenneth is resonating well with Kenyans. You’ve seen what opinion polls are saying about him. Some of these people who are fighting him have done nothing,” he said. 

“We will not put pressure on Mr Odinga to pick him. We want him to pick someone he would be comfortable with. We, however, pray that he settles on Mr Kenneth,” he added.

Mr Kega told the Nation that he is not aware of any talks to have him deputise Mr Odinga. His core mandate is to revamp the party and sell Mr Odinga’s agenda, he said. “My responsibility is to consolidate our party and sell our presidential candidate, but if it comes with other added advantages, I am ready.”

“We are committed to his cause and that of our people. We’ve been consistent and loyal. Basically, we’ve been given the opportunity to prove ourselves. Beyond reasonable doubt, leaders have seen that we are equal to the task.”

Best to deputise Raila

East African Legislative Assembly MP Mpuru Aburi insisted that Mr Munya is the best person to deputise Mr Odinga.

“Every visionary leader grooms and mentors new leaders. It would be the greatest gift the President can give to his region,” Ms Chege said.

Mr Wambugu said the President is out to mentor them to move the region forward. “Uhuru was himself mentored by the leaders who had come before him,” he said.

Mr Kega, however, said it was almost certain that Jubilee would produce the running mate in the coalition.

“The presidential candidate is from ODM and the other major party forming Azimio is Jubilee. So any person eyeing the seat of deputy president should come from Jubilee,” he said.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua, however, said Mr Odinga will have to rely on President Kenyatta’s influence to bag Mt Kenya votes, not his running mate.

“The only reason why he (President Kenyatta) will be going to campaign for Azimio in Mt Kenya is that among the leadership there, none has the capacity to turn the tide (against the DP) and so the President himself must take the bull by the horn,” Mr Mokua said.

He said that was the reason a majority of the DP’s lieutenants have been dissuading the Head of State from taking control of his succession.

“It might take a bit of time to turn the tide against the DP but it’s not too late because the President has got access to a lot of information, has got economic power and amazing social capital to do that,” added Mr Mokua.

Mr Wambugu said the President’s move to back Mr Odinga in Mt Kenya and secure his running mate from the region had rattled the DP and his allies.

“They are scared and that’s why they have been spending a lot of time trying to dissuade the President from going to Mt Kenya. 

“If he goes there, the percentage they have been claiming to have will evaporate,” Mr Ngunjiri said.

Mt Kenya region has 10 counties with a total of 5,824,020 registered voters.