Gachagua, Karua take over bosses’ campaigns

Martha Karua

Martha Karua (left) and Rigathi Gachagua.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The running mates of the two top candidates for President have taken charge of their bosses’ campaigns as the August 9 polls draw closer.

Kenya Kwanza’s Rigathi Gachagua and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya’s Martha Karua were selected by Deputy President William Ruto and his main challenger Raila Odinga, respectively, from the Mt Kenya region to help catapult the candidates to State House

With Mt Kenya having no horse in the race and President Kenyatta set to retire, the Mathira MP and the Narc Kenya leader are flexing their muscles in hunting for votes for their teams.

Immediately after she was unveiled as Mr Odinga’s running mate, Ms Karua hit the campaign trail, starting with her home county of Kirinyaga. She has since traversed all Mt Kenya counties with the message that Raila-Karua is the safest ticket for the country and the region. 

“This is the time … we ask ourselves, what do we believe in and who can we trust with this nation?” said Ms Karua in Kirinyaga alongside President Kenyatta’s lieutenants.

According to an itinerary released by Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign secretariat, Ms Karua was in Makueni and Kitui counties yesterday drumming up support for the ODM chief.

This morning, as her boss will be in Makueni, she will be combing Murang’a and Nyeri counties, while on Sunday, she will be in DP Ruto’s backyard of Uasin Gishu and Mr Odinga will be in Machakos.

Mt Kenya’s 10 counties control nearly a third of the country’s votes – Meru (780,858), Tharaka-Nithi (234,618), Embu (337,627), Nyeri (492,046) and Kirinyaga (378,580). Others are Murang’a (628,416), Kiambu (1,293,309), Laikipia (265,842), Nyandarua (362,357) and Nakuru (1,050,367). This adds up to 5,824,020 votes.

Meanwhile, Mr Gachagua was in the Rift Valley, the political bastion of his boss, with the message that Kenya’s second in command is determined to implement his “bottom-up” economic model if he is given foot soldiers who subscribe to his ideology.

“For this programme to succeed, we vote in Ruto then give him foot soldiers who subscribe to his bottom-up economic model, because in case you vote in independent aspirants and they fail to do what is promised, who will you ask?” he said in Nandi. 

Trying to undo Ms Karua’s wave while in Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties, Mr Gachagua dangled Cabinet slots in an attempt to counter Mr Odinga’s announcement that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya would retain his position in an Azimio administration.

While in Nyandarua on Tuesday, the Mathira MP dismissed the impact of Ms Karua in turning tables in Mt Kenya in favour of Mr Odinga.

“Let Odinga know that even if he clings to Karua, and sends her to Mt Kenya to campaign for him she will not get him any votes from this region. Therefore, he should be prepared to go to his Bondo home and rest,” said Mr Gachagua.

Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board chair Ndiritu Muriithi yesterday told the Nation that the qualities of Ms Karua cannot be compared to those of Mr Gachagua. He said she is the only person who has the integrity to unite the entire region behind Mr Odinga.

“We were looking at integrity because Baba’s (Mr Odinga’s) government is not going to be tainted by crooks,” Mr Muriithi said.

“We also looked at the issues of principle and Martha Karua on many occasions has demonstrated that she thrived on principle not the political wings of the day. Thirdly, we pride ourselves on intellectual rigour. We do not come to leadership to steal the wealth of this country.”

Ms Karua “is a killer card that is giving those thieves, deceitful, greedy and uncultured competitors sleepless nights owing to her track record against corruption and mediocrity in public service,” added former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

Pundits argue that President Kenyatta’s succession has been framed as a battle between Mr Gachagua and Ms Karua because their region is critical to both DP Ruto and Mr Odinga.

“We are amused that the Kenya Kwanza brigade have completely been outfoxed in the choice of a running mate where Karua has national appeal whereas Gachagua only resonates with Nyeri voters,” Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati said.

He added: “Raila-Karua is a perfect ticket which our opponents cannot dare deal with. This is a lethal ticket against our competitors.”

Mr Nduati said Ms Karua is appealing in and outside Mt Kenya, arguing that Mr Gachagua’s arrogance puts off many leaders from both camps.

"As Jubilee, we are fully behind Martha Karua. She is going to unite the region unlike Gachagua. Gachagua cannot call a meeting for all Mt Kenya leaders because of his arrogance and that is why many did not vote for him and opted for Kindiki," Mr Nduati told the Saturday Nation.

Jubilee director of elections and Kieni MP Kanini Kega yesterday told the Saturday Nation that after Ms Karua was selected as Mr Odinga’s deputy, they are now banking on her to get votes for their presidential candidate.

“The person who is higher in the hierarchy now in the region, and it is obvious, is Martha Karua. She is the person whom we are going to oscillate around as the boss (President Kenyatta) exits,” Mr Kega said.

Prof Masibo Lumala of Moi University said that although DP Ruto’s group dismisses Ms Karua on her ability to bring in votes in the Mt Kenya region, her constituency goes beyond that.

“Karua’s constituency now is not about Mt Kenya. It goes beyond Mt Kenya and is now about women’s empowerment. A woman in Mombasa, Busia, Bungoma, Kirinyaga will most likely want to vote for this ticket to see Martha Karua become the first female Deputy President. That for me is an important element in this race,” Prof Lumala argued.

“She may not be so popular in Mt Kenya but she becomes iconic when it comes to the national level. She may not necessarily be representing the interests of the Mt Kenya region as a person but her pick has obviously ignited some excitement.”

University of Nairobi don XN Iraki argues that as Ms Karua and Mr Gachagua take over the campaigns of their camps, this will work in favour of Mr Odinga, saying the Mathira MP does not resonate well with many Kenyans and the State House race has now narrowed down to ‘Karua versus Gachagua’. 

Prof Iraki says Mr Gachagua is not appealing to a large constituency of voters in Mt Kenya and the rest of the country.

“Rigathi Gachagua is less known. Karua has a natural advantage because she is the embodiment of many people, including women,” he said.

But Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni Wamuchomba told the Saturday Nation that Mr Gachagua understands the woes facing the country.

She said the Mathira MP was in the front line pushing for the one man, one vote, one-shilling mantra and this means he cares about Mt Kenya.

“We believe that Gachagua is going to be an effective administrator having been a public servant for a long time. To represent the interests of the Kikuyu community, matters of business are critical and we need someone who understands the business circles and understands how politics interferes with business,” she said.

Political commentator and governance expert Javas Bigambo argues that both Mr Gachagua and Ms Karua bring to their respective tickets historical baggage but this election could offer them a platform for redemption.

"Gachagua is bogged down by the perception of being a tool in the hands of the Kanu regime who was instrumental in causing human trauma to some people. Karua carries with her the perception that whenever she is dissatisfied or disgruntled, she always opts to walk away from the high and mighty," said Mr Bigambo.

Prof Lumala opines that although Ms Karua’s appointment has brought some excitement across the country and her integrity is not questioned like that of Mr Gachagua, the ghosts of 2007/8 might haunt her.

He argues that Ms Karua does not have the image of a regional leader to help boost Mr Odinga’s fortunes in Mt Kenya but her national image might supersede her unpopularity in that region.

“At some point, Karua came out as not having [received] the regional (Mt Kenya) backing but now, people will critically analyse how her record has been. She was tough during the 2007 disputed elections, which precipitated a grand coalition government,” said Prof Lumala.

Mr Bigambo says that Ms Karua’s position in the frontline of Mr Odinga’s campaigns is likely to work in his favour because it takes away the establishment tag peddled by DP Ruto’s team.

“The Uhuru baggage will be more of a burden to Raila than Karua, due to the handshake. Karua, therefore, could be Raila's saviour or political sanitiser in the Mt Kenya region,” he said.