Power struggle fears in Ruto, Raila running-mate choice

Raila Odinga and William Ruto

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left) and Deputy President William Ruto.

What you need to know:

  • The Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza coalitions are on the horns of a dilemma.
  • Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga have until May 16 to submit the names of their running mates to the IEBC.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga are on the horns of a dilemma.

They need strong running-mates to strengthen their presidential contests by helping to mobilise voter bases, yet they do not want influential deputies who could upstage them and create a parallel power centre once elected into office. 

The country’s front runners in the August 9 presidential race have seen the years of power struggle in the Jubilee administration after DP Ruto bolted from the ruling party, and they are trying to avoid a repeat of the same in their governments.

There is a general, unspoken unanimity that DP Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza and and Raila’s Azimio coalitions should avoid picking aggressive and combative running mates who may end up fighting for power, instead of helping in the running of government.

This caution has seen the duo delay in naming their running mates, to the extent of seeking from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) an extension of the nomination deadline.

“As long as the president and running mate are tied at the hip by the constitution, we still run the risk of squabbles witnessed today,” said Prof X.N Iraki of the University of Nairobi in an interview.

Prof Iraki said other factors such as the number of votes a potential running mate will bring to the ticket as well as their loyalty appear to have been made secondary to the power struggle consideration. 

DP Ruto’s unbridled ambition to succeed his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, coupled with the perception that he contributed equally to their 2013 and 2017 electoral wins, has been cited as the main cause of their spectacular fallout that has made the Jubilee administration dysfunctional.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition has Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Agriculture minister Peter Munya, among others.

In total, there are 20 individuals who have their names submitted to an advisory panel tasked with identifying a running mate for Mr Odinga.

In DP Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, MPs Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) form a pool from which he will pick his running mate.

The two presidential hopefuls have until May 16 to submit their names to the IEBC.

Analysts see Mr Musyoka as having a solid backing of Ukambani voter base of about two million, which would come handy in Raila’s winning formula.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua – who is from the Kikuyu mainland – is also seen as great vote mobiliser with deep pockets. The attributes are seen as a plus to Ruto’s bid in achieving the mandatory 50 per cent plus one vote.

But Ruto and Raila allies perceive the two as being too ambitious in their future bids to be the country’s president. Ms Karua’s abrasive style of politics is also seen as her major undoing. A Raila-Karua ticket might, however, excite voters because no female has ever held such a position.

Some pundits reckon that the war between President Kenyatta and his deputy – the first two holders of the offices of the President and deputy president under the 2010 constitution – will almost certainly inform the next choice of DP for both the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio political camps.

“Of course numbers in terms of the votes a running mate will bring will be a factor. But I foresee this as mostly a problem for the Azimio team. Ruto seems to have his numbers together because he has been on the campaign trail for long and has already become a brand,” says Prof Gitile Naituli of the Multi-Media University.

“Other factors would be a candidate that, in some way, can sanitise both DP Ruto and Mr Odinga, who have all faced integrity issues,” he added.

Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe says that Mr Musyoka and his allies have been making startling remarks that have made officials in Azimio raise doubts on the possibility of pairing him with Raila.

Immediately after Azimio unveiled Raila as the coalition presidential hopeful, Kalonzo retreated to his Ukambani backyard and told his backers to give him loyal MPs so that he could impeach Odinga should he betray him.

He added that he had learnt a lot from DP Ruto’s early campaign strategy, and would hit the 2027 campaign trail immediately they formed the government.

Mr Murathe said such a running mate would give Mr Odinga a hard time in office.

“We have learnt our lessons and it cannot be a forced marriage like that of Uhuru and Ruto, which was for convenience. We cannot expect someone who will give Jakom (Odinga) a hard time. He needs someone they have chemistry and someone who can help him fight corruption,” said Mr Murathe.

Kalonzo and his allies have insisted that for Raila to win, he has to pick him as the running mate.

Murathe said the Azimio coalition has a problem with the “attitude that he (Kalonzo) must be made the running mate, failing which, they say, Raila will lose the polls.

“He (Musyoka) can be the one but the way his handlers are threatening of consequences, we may just tell them bring it on because we cannot entertain another forced marriage like that of Uhuru and Ruto,” he added.

Mr Musyoka yesterday reiterated that only him, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga can break the running mate choice stalemate. He maintained his hardline stance that he is best fit for the position.

Speaking at political rallies in Changamwe and Tudor in Mombasa, he said the Wiper party secretary-general Shakilla Abdalla had submitted his name to the Azimio running mate selection panel.

He also thanked Kanu boss Gideon Moi and Cyrus Jirongo of United Democratic Party for standing with him in lobbying for the post.

“We have good, respectable and professional members of that panel. But there comes a time when we need to have political solutions to some of these problems. We don’t want confusion brought in between the political relation I have with Mr Odinga because when we come together, great things happen,” Mr Musyoka said.

Jubilee secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni said the coalition is looking for a character devoid of “negative traits we have seen with the current DP”.

“A person who can avoid all the negative traits; someone who will not start campaigning immediately they form the next government. He has to avoid someone who can easily go the slippery road that the current DP took,” said Mr Kioni.

But Makueni MP Daniel Manzo – a Kalonzo ally – and Lugari MP Ayub Savula differed, arguing that the focus at the moment is about how to get the votes and not about loyalty.

Mr Savula said the candidate has to look for a running mate that can add votes to the basket, to ensure a win.

“The strategy now is how to win the election; you want someone who will ensure a win. You cannot give the matter of loyalty now. The first hurdle is to get someone that adds value to your ticket even if it means getting a mad man,” said Savula.

Mr Maanzo said Mr Odinga should forget about presidency should he go for loyalty instead of numbers that he needs to assure him of a win.

“It is always about numbers. If Raila wants to be president, he obviously has to pick Kalonzo. It is really upto him if he wants to be president because if he wants to win he has to go for numbers,” said the lawmaker.

He said Musyoka did nothing wrong by declaring his plans to start campaigning immediately should they form the next government, since “Raila himself has said he will go for one term”.

A source within DP Ruto’s camp said there is a growing perception within Kenya Kwanza that Mr Gachagua’s ambition may blind him into using the position to take away Mt Kenya from his boss for a 2027 duel against him.

“They say Gachagua is too ambitious. There is fear that he is too ambitious to the extent that he can choose to run for president in the 2027 polls,” said the source.

“They feel he may cause instability immediately they form government, before eventually walking away with the Mt Kenya voters bloc,” added the source.

Some Ruto allies have, however, dismissed claims that DP Ruto was to be blame for the disintegration of Jubilee.

Murang’a senator Irungu Kanga’ta, a key ally of DP Ruto, says that UDA will settle on a candidate whose personality can gel well with that of the DP for the running mate position.

He, however, added that the current predicament facing the DP, who has been on a warpath with his boss President Kenyatta over the August succession race, was not a concern for UDA in selecting the deputy president’s running mate.

“Ruto is not Uhuru. We believe what happened had everything to do with the persona of Uhuru,” Dr Kang’ata said.

“We’re looking for a person who has integrity, focus, good education and oratory skills. An amiable person with good interpersonal skills. We also want a person hailing from a strategic region. A person who can help unite the country and undertake bottom-up economics,” he added.

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