ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto yesterday intensified campaigns for State House in Ukambani, the backyard of Wiper party chief Kalonzo Musyoka.
Dr Ruto was making his fifth trip to the region in just two weeks while Mr Odinga continued his Azimio la Umoja initiative.
With estimated 1.6 million votes, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the region which voted overwhelmingly for Mr Odinga and his running mate Musyoka in 2013 and 2017, is emerging a key political battle ground.
But Wiper party maintains that Mr Musyoka is still popular in the region. Wiper’s organising secretary and Kathiani MP, Robert Mbui, said Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga have made a mistake by failing to use Mr Musyoka in their hunt for votes.
“Wiper controls Machakos, Makueni and Kitui county assemblies. We have the majority of MPs in the region. All the senators are from our party,” Mr Mbui said.
Mr Mbui spoke on the day Dr Ruto addressed a series of roadside rallies in Kitui South as Mr Odinga met Ukambani governors, dozens of MCAs, business community and hundreds of grassroots leaders from the three counties for his Azimio la Umoja forum at Wote Town in Makueni County, before addressing road side rallies at Wote and Emali townships.
The DP promoted his UDA party and the bottom-up economic model, which sits at the centre of his presidential campaign. As this was happening, most of those who spoke at Mr Odinga’s forums in Makueni County trained their guns on Dr Ruto, whom they sensationally accused of slowing down President Uhuru Kenyatta’s development agenda. They also poked holes in Dr Ruto’s bottom-up economic model.
Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) as well as MPs Maina Kamanda (nominated), Junet Mohammed (Suna), Teddy Mwambire (Ganze), Richard Chonga (Kilifi South), Raphael Wanjala (Budalangi) and Caleb Amisi (Saboti) painted Dr Ruto as unsuitable to succeed President Kenyatta.
Mr Musyoka expects to fly the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) presidential ticket in the 2022 General Election. But he has been under intense pressure from various quarters to abandon his bid and support either Dr Ruto or Mr Odinga.
“We have resolved to join hands with Mr Odinga for the 2022 elections under Azimo la Umoja,” a joint statement signed by the three governors which Dr Mutua read said. “Although we are competitors with Mr Odinga we shall sit and agree how we shall work together,” Dr Mutua said.
The governors hailed Mr Odinga for being committed to working with the leaders in the region.
Mr Odinga elicited cheers when he delivered Mr Musyoka’s greetings at the rallies and said they had been in communication.