Opinion polls to guide choice of Raila’s deputy, council says

Uhuru Kenyatta

Narc-K leader Martha Karua, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege, Wiper Party boss Kalonzo Musyoka, and former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio leader Raila Odinga during the inaugural Azimio Council meeting in Nairobi on April 21, 2022.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • IEBC has set April 28 as the date presidential hopefuls should present names of running mates.
  • Azimio council resolved to appoint an advisory panel to recommend nominees to the presidential candidate.

Opinion polls to gauge popularity of potential nominees will be used to pick a running mate for Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance Coalition Party presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga, a meeting of the outfit’s top organ chaired by President Kenyatta resolved yesterday.

This is a radical departure from the initial position that the choice of the deputy President nominee will be a preserve of the presidential candidate. It has emerged that the decision was informed by the need to take the pressure off Mr Odinga, who is increasingly faced with competing demands by various interest groups within the coalition party.

Yesterday, the Azimio council resolved to appoint an advisory panel to recommend nominees to the party’s presidential candidate. 

The apparent stalemate on the selection of the candidate to deputise Mr Odinga explains why Azimio has disputed the April 28 deadline imposed by the electoral commission for presidential hopefuls to nominate their running mates.

The electoral agency has set April 28 as the date presidential hopefuls are set to present their names, insisting that should also include running mate nominees.

In a letter to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Mr Odinga’s camp argues that names of running mates should be submitted between May 29 and June 6, suggesting a push for more time to put their house in order.

Yesterday, Azimio Secretary-General Junet Mohamed, who read a statement after the council’s inaugural meeting, said the panel will be tasked with getting suitable candidates who would be presented to the council for consideration.

“The council resolved to appoint an advisory panel to recommend candidate’s to the party’s presidential candidate regarding the nomination of the party’s deputy presidential candidate.”

“It also mandated the National Coalition Executive Committee (NCEC) to immediately recommend to the council suitably qualified individuals to be appointed to the Coalition Elections Board, Coalition Elections Appeals Board, National Disciplinary Committee and Dispute Resolution Panel,” Mr Mohammed said.

Sources privy to the discussions held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi said popularity of a potential deputy presidential candidate would be a key attribute the advisory panel would be looking for. 

It was, however, not immediately clear how the team will arrive at a shortlist, whether prospective candidates will be asked to apply or the coalition already has names to be subjected to the surveys for approval ratings. The advisory panel will also consider compatibility of the nominee with the presidential candidate as well as regional balance, according to the sources.

“In terms of compatibility, from the knowledge of hindsight regarding President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, it will only be prudent to offer Baba an individual they have chemistry with to avoid running a government with internal opposition as we witness today,” another source revealed.

“Regarding popularity, this will be informed by the pollsters and ability of the nominee to stage not only regional but also national campaigns.”

The source noted that, since Mr Odinga comes from Nyanza, that would automatically lock out candidates from Nyanza, Western and possibly Rift Valley from consideration for the position. 

The panel will also analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the potential candidates.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege have been floated as possible nominees.

On concerns whether those mentioned would accept the outcome of the process, particularly the Wiper group that has insisted the post is not negotiable as it’s reserved for their party leader who has had to back Mr Odinga for a third time, another source remarked: “That was the council’s decision and they have no option but to be bound by the outcome.”

During yesterday’s council meeting, tensions about the jostling for the position by rival factions within the coalition played out when one of the participants reportedly raised concerns about Wiper party’s public statements and “ultimatums that the position has to be preserved for Mr Musyoka.”

Last Sunday Mr Musyoka dismissed suggestions the running mate must be picked from Mt Kenya, saying, such talk was promoting tribalism.

“Let me tell you that I am tired of corruption, manipulation, deceit, and self-interest. What else can a man do beyond saying my brother Raila Odinga tosha mara ya tatu? What else am I supposed to give? Give me my neck? I am campaigning for Raila because he will make a better President than William Ruto,” Mr Musyoka said.

Having been Mr Odinga’s running mate for the past two elections, Mr Musyoka said he was the best man for the job.

“Can you imagine a better ticket than the one that according to us won twice? So why do you want my brother Raila to end up being President and his running mate for the last two elections is out?” Mr Musyoka posed.

Yesterday, the Wiper leader, who arrived after the President, is understood to have defended himself and his party about the running mate discussions.

The former vice President is said to have responded that it was unfair to put him on the spot yet, recently women leaders led by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, also publicly demanded that Mr Odinga names Ms Karua as his running mate.

As the meeting progressed, Mr Odinga is reported to have made minimal contribution, leaving President Kenyatta to speak.

The Head of State is said to have reiterated calls for unity within the coalition, cautioning that public utterances that portrayed divisions were not healthy for their cause.

“He stressed on the need to present issues of concern to the council, the National Coalition Executive Committee or even the secretariat led by Azimio Executive Director Raphael Tuju for internal deliberations and amicable solutions without washing our dirty linen in public,” a source revealed.

With the opinion polls given priority in selecting Mr Odinga’s running mate, it was also not clear whether the team will use recent poll results or it will commission fresh ones.

Mr Mohammed yesterday told the Nation that the advisory panel would be constituted immediately.

“We are also developing the timelines it will operate within,” he said.

The Trends and Insights for Africa opinion polls conducted in February put Mr Kenneth ahead of the pack with 41 percent against Mr Musyoka’s 18 per cent, Ms Karua (13 percent) and Ms Ngilu (five percent).

However, at the time, Ms Karua had not yet formally joined Mr Odinga’s camp.

As for the suitable running mate for Mr Odinga from Mt Kenya region, Mr Kenneth polled 48 percent against Ms Karua’s 29 percent. 

Mr Kinyanjui and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi polled four and one percent, respectively.

Yesterday, the Azimio council meeting directed the NCEC to immediately prepare a campaign strategy to ensure that Mr Odinga wins the August 9 presidential election. 

“We want to ensure that Azimio La Umoja One Kenya forms the next government, forms the majority in Parliament and in all 47 county assemblies,” said Mr Mohammed.

Apart from President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka, Mr Tuju and Mr Mohammed, other council members who attended the meeting were Ms Ngilu, Ms Karua, Ms Chege, Gideon Moi (Kanu), Wafula Wamunyinyi (DAP-K), Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, MP Naomi Shaban, Abdi Noor Omar and Azimio Executive Director Raphael Tuju.