Kinyua, Kioni in the Azimio team 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

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chief Raila Odinga have tasked a small team of lieutenants to assist in identifying the right person from the 26 constituent members of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition to be the running mate in the August poll.

The five-member team, which consists of technocrats and politicians, is operating outside the coalition’s known structures and is supposed to develop data that will guide the alliance in picking the person to deputise Mr Odinga should he form the next government.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua is a member of the team that also includes Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni and his predecessor Raphael Tuju who is now the Azimio executive secretary.

It also has a nominee of Wiper Party, whose identity, the Sunday Nation could not immediately establish.

Prof Makau Mutua, who is the spokesman of the Raila Odinga Presidential Campaign Secretariat is believed to be a member.

The committee is to be assisted by two staffers from Mr Mutahi Ngunyi’s State House office who will act as secretariat.

To ensure the successful candidate fits the bill, an officer from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has been incorporated into the team.

The team, which has been operating discreetly, has been directed to conduct a scientific poll that will determine the popularity of those interested in the position.

It will also establish their suitability for the position that has traditionally been considered to be a heartbeat away from the country’s presidency.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said discussions for the formation of such a team have been held at the top echelons of the coalition.

He, however, declined further discussion regarding the committee.

“We have discussed the team but I don’t know anything else,” Mr Mohamed said.

Mr Tuju and Mr Ngunyi declined to be drawn into the discussion.

The Sunday Nation has, however, learnt that the team’s existence recently came up at a meeting of Mr Odinga with his aides on Thursday afternoon.

Some of the aides knew of the team’s existence for the first time during the meeting.

According to a highly-placed source, the panel has another unenviable task that involves establishing the acceptability of suitable candidates across the 26 parties that make up the coalition.

“The team is supposed to gather data that will assist the Coalition Council (Azimio’s political decision-making organ) in making a decision on who will deputise Mr Odinga at the poll,” said the source, adding that President Kenyatta is keen on having a less polarising figure as the country’s number two.

Mr Kenyatta chairs the council. Mr Odinga is the party leader and a member.

Other members are Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya as the chairman of the party while Mr Mohamed is the secretary-general.

The council is also made up of Mr Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Gideon Moi (Kanu), Ms Martha Karua (Narc Kenya), Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho (ODM), Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege (Jubilee), Taveta MP Naomi Shaban (Jubilee), Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu (Narc), Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi (DAP-K) and Mr Abdi Noor Omar Farah.

The question of who becomes Mr Odinga’s running mate has become a sore thumb in the coalition.

“We are eyeing the running mate position. We don’t want to talk about the obvious,” Mr Musyoka said during the launch of the Wiper People Living with Disabilities organ in Nairobi.

While while saying he could speculate on the team, Mr Musyoka yesterday insisted that he deserves the position.

“That issue has not been resolved. But clearly having dropped my presidential ambition – and by the way, I was very ready – it is a legitimate expectation that I should be the running mate. Even then, it has not been decided. It has not even been discussed,” Mr Musyoka said.

 A critic of the Wiper leader, Governor Mutua made his interest public after a meeting with his party’s National Governing Council on Sunday.

“With the urging of my party members, I present myself for consideration for the position of deputy to Mr Odinga,” the Machakos county boss said, as he challenged the Wiper leader to support the coalition.

Others linked to the position are Ms Karua, Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Murithi, his Nakuru colleague Lee Kinyanjui and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

Mr Murithi and Mr Kinyanjui, however, do not appeared keen on the position and have concentrated their efforts on getting re-elected as governors.

Agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya’s name had also been mentioned but the fact that he did not resign from his government position by February 9 when public officials intending to participate in the forthcoming elections were required to have quit complicates his candidacy.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chief Executive Hussein Marjan told the Sunday Nation that potential running mates who did not resign by February 9 cannot be cleared to run.

“The qualifications for candidates apply equally to their running mates. Only a sitting ward representative, MP, governor, women representative, senator and president including their deputies are exempt,” Mr Marjan said.

In a recent interview with the Daily Nation, Mr Kenneth declined to stake a claim to the position, stating that it is up to the presidential candidate to pick a person with whom he feels most comfortable with.

“The running mate position is not contestable. It is personal to the candidate. I do not know what is in the candidate’s heart about who he will decide on. It is best left for him,” he said.

Ever since he endorsed Mr Odinga as his preferred successor, President Kenyatta has left no doubt that he is keen to remain actively engaged in politics even when he retires at the end of his second and final term in office.

After he endorsed Mr Odinga, Azimio insiders believed  that the President’s role was to pick the running mate for Mr Odinga, possibly from Mt Kenya.

In the coalition’s structure unveiled last week, Mr Kenyatta is listed as the chairman of the council, the 11-member entity that is the alliance’s top organ, which it has been speculated will pick the running mate.

The coalition has in the past made it clear that Mr Odinga’s running mate will be decided in consultation with Azimio constituent parties, a position that has been opposed by Wiper and Mr Musyoka.

Until late February, it was given that the position was welded to Mt Kenya as it has emerged as a key battleground for Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto who leads the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

However, with anti-Kenyatta sentiments soaring in the region as residents cosy up to his deputy, influence peddlers from Mt Kenya have gone back to the drawing board to determine whether it still makes statistical sense to offer the seat if the outcome from the region will not be commensurate.

With Mt Kenya still adamant about Mr Odinga, observers argue that Mr Musyoka offers the best alternative because of the numbers he brings to the table.

The Wiper leader is said to controls nearly two million votes strewn in Machakos, Kitui and Makueni as well as natives of the regions living in other counties.

Early in the week, senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) and Kitui’s Enoch Wambua said iper would not to settle anything less than running mate.