The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party running mate selection panel has reportedly settled on Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka — in that order — as the most preferred to deputise the flagbearer, Mr Raila Odinga, in the August 9 elections.
The chairman of the selection panel, Dr Noah Wekesa, yesterday revealed that his committee had completed the task and would submit three names to Mr Odinga for consideration.
Dr Wekesa, who was flanked by the panel’s legal adviser, Mr Paul Mwangi, said the committee would, however, not divulge the names yesterday as Mr Odinga was away at the coast, promising to hand in its report today.
“We finished the job and we were ready to give the report today [yesterday]. Little did we know that the presidential candidate would be out of town. I only received this information this morning,” Dr Wekesa told journalists at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi yesterday.
He promised to give the time and place of the presentation of the panel’s report. It was not clear whether Mr Odinga would break from his Coast campaign tour to receive the report since his schedule runs until Saturday.
But, even as the debate rages on when the panel would hand in its report to Mr Odinga as per its terms of operation, the Nation established that the team had settled on Ms Karua, Mr Kenneth and Mr Musyoka as the best choices for the Azimio leader’s deputy.
“We shall give the names of Martha, Peter and Kalonzo to the candidate for his final decision,” a highly placed source told the Nation. The three names are likely to present a fresh headache for Mr Odinga, with the consideration of the Mt Kenya factor and Mr Musyoka’s Ukambani backyard still expected to play out.
Were he to choose from Mt Kenya and drop Mr Musyoka, the tall order will be on how to retain the nearly two million votes from the region, of which Mr Odinga got more than 85 per cent of the votes cast in 2013 and 2017.
On the flip side, choosing to ignore Mt Kenya for Mr Musyoka is a tricky choice because it might mean handing the 5.8 million votes to Deputy President William Ruto on a silver platter. Those backing the choice of Ms Karua and Mr Kenneth say it will help eat into Dr Ruto’s support in the mountain, with the hope that the team still retains Mr Musyoka’s Ukambani bloc.
There had been reports that the Wiper leader had been asked to take a proposed chief minister position that will reportedly be in charge of delivery and supervision of projects of Cabinet, were Mr Odinga to win the presidency.
Ten candidates were interviewed by the selection panel on Monday and Tuesday before the committee settled on the three.
The others who were interviewed are ODM deputy party leaders Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya, Narc leader Charity Ngilu, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya (Party of National Unity), Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, National Liberal Party leader Stephen Tarus and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui (Ubuntu Peoples’ Forum).
Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi, who had also been shortlisted among candidates, backed out in favour of Mr Musyoka.
Even though Ms Karua, Mr Kenneth and Mr Musyoka emerged top, another source said: “It is not over until it is over,” probably suggesting the possibility of minor changes. On Tuesday, the Nation established that all the 10 candidates who had been shortlisted s could land plum ministerial and state jobs, with one of them as the deputy President should Mr Odinga win the August election.
Multiple interviews with insiders in Mr Odinga’s camp revealed that the candidates, including Mr Moi, will be given priority in appointments should the coalition party clinch the presidency.
“To avoid any possibility of a fallout, it has been proposed that the deputy presidential candidates will automatically land cabinet and plum state jobs after the elections as only one of them can be Baba’s [Mr Odinga’s] deputy,” said a highly placed source in Azimio.
Mr Munya, who appeared before the selection panel on Tuesday, said it was important for those who miss the opportunity to be Mr Odinga’s running mates to remain loyal to the cause, which is to ensure a win for Azimio.
“The intention is to get a [running mate] who will be able to complement the Azimio presidential candidate so that we can be able to win together and serve Kenyans,” added Mr Munya.
Ms Ngilu said a leader has to make tough decisions rather than sitting on the fence on matters of national importance.
“One of the hallmarks of leadership is making decisions. Being extremely decisive by saying what you mean and doing what you say,” the Kitui governor said.
Azimio Executive Director Raphael Tuju, in an interview on NTV on Tuesday, said Mr Odinga was not tied to the recommendations of the running mate selection panel and was free to name a deputy of his choice.
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“Nomination of a running mate is the prerogative and right of the presidential candidate. It is [Mr Odinga’s] right to appoint a running mate. So hecan still say no thank you and appoint a different person,” Mr Tuju said.
He added: “The committee cannot also dictate that the candidate picks the first nominee, he can even pick the last.”
Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe reiterated that it was the prerogative of the presidential candidate to choose his running mate, adding that “they must have a chemistry that will enable them to work together”.
Warning of what he termed as a forced marriage between President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, Mr Murathe said it was important for the country to learn from that experience.
“We were forced by circumstances to go with him [Dr Ruto] into the elections in 2013 and we could not change him in 2017. You cannot, however, remain in an abusive marriage forever. It is a lesson for other candidates to be careful about their choice for running mate,” said Mr Murathe.
“The candidate has to be sure that it is somebody they will have a connection with, not somebody who can undermine you or demand that ‘you must give me this or else …’ that is blackmail and it cannot work,” he added. “On that basis alone, that person should not be picked.”