Raila holds talks with Kalonzo amid furore over running mate selection

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) and  Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka during a past event.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition flag-bearer Raila Odinga yesterday moved to quell tensions in his campaign when he held talks with restless Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka on the dicey matter of coalition running mate.

In a bid to accommodate competing interests, the former Prime Minister also petitioned the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to relax its stringent timelines on naming of a deputy.

In a letter to IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati on Tuesday, Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign spokesperson, Prof Makau Mutua, expressed reservations over the directive that parties submit names of running mates together with those of the principal candidates by April 28. He called for “relevant clarification... in order to comply with the ... Constitution and ... allay ... anxiety caused by the erroneous timeline issued”,Prof Mutua said, arguing that the actual timeline for submission of the names of running mates is between May 29 and June 6. He argued that the submission of names on April 28 will just be one of the qualifications for those who wish to run for the presidency.

The Nation has identified five factors that could be a hindrance in naming of a running mate in the remaining seven days as stipulated by IEBC.

They include loyalty, personal relations, ability to marshal support, competing interests in the broader Azimio outfit and gender equation.

IEBC has given political parties up to next April 28 to submit names of their aspirants. “The names of both principal and running mate are sent together. They are one package,” Mr Chrispine Owiye, the commission’s Director for Legal and Public Affairs, told the Nation.

Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka held talks on the sidelines of another meeting with county coordinators at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation.

“[Mr Odinga] reassured [Mr Musyoka] that he has no preferred person for the position and that the decision will be made by relevant Azimio organs,” a coalition source told the Nation.

The two leaders held talks just as Muungano Party boss Kivutha Kibwana accused Mr Musyoka of making it difficult to work together for the coalition in Ukambani region.

“ [Mr Musyoka] ... has wanted especially me out of all Azimio structures. I have no choice but to be at peace with this sad reality. History will ultimately judge all of us. May it be kind Raila Odinga,” Prof Kibwana posted on his Twitter handle. Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board chairperson Ndiritu Muriithi, however, downplayed the matter, saying, “in a coalition there are always issues that need to be managed”. “I’m sure the relevant coalition institutions will handle those issues. On the running mate, we are spoilt for choice,” he said.

Mr Musyoka, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua are the three front-runners for the position. Sources say that, whereas Mr Kenneth is “absolutely loyal to Raila and the two have good relations, his ability to rally Mt Kenya region remains in question”. “There are several factors that favour him, including his ability to oil the campaigns,” the source said.

Ms Karua’s abrasive style of politics is said to be her undoing, even though the gender equation favours her. On Monday, a group of women leaders in Azimio declared their support for Ms Karua. “[She has the ability to sway crowds towards a particular direction,” said Ms Rachel Shebesh, the Chief Administrative Secretary for Public Service, Gender and Special Programmes.

Those who vouch for Mr Musyoka argue that he is the sole candidate capable of rallying the numbers needed for victory. The Azimio National Coalition Executive Council deputy chairman, Mr David Murathe, said the running mate position is not a “preserve of Mt Kenya region”.

“[Mr Odinga] has to get somebody he is comfortable with,” he said. “Mr Musyoka is can lock Ukambani. In Mt Kenya, there is nobody in the landscape who can excite the vote except President Kenyatta, who will still deliver to Baba anyway. So I don’t think Mt Kenya is very keen on running mate; we only want our fair share of government.”

He said the ODM leader will await the choice of his opponent, Deputy President William Ruto, before he makes his move.

Narc leader Charity Ngilu said their main focus is the presidency, adding that other issues would be sorted out amicably.

“The vote we are looking for is the one that will send Baba to State House. So long as they are all Azimio parties, there is no quarrel,” the Kitui governor said regarding Prof Kibwana’s claims against Mr Musyoka.

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi Media University said if Mr Odinga settles on Ms Karua, it would complicate Dr Ruto’s choices. “If it’s about picking one from Mt Kenya, Ms Karua fits the bill. This is the only formidable candidate from the region who might unsettle Dr Ruto’s camp,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Odinga was yesterday on the defensive over his “six-piece voting” call he made to Nyanza residents. Speaking at Bomas while handing tickets to ODM candidates, Mr Odinga said the call was not meant to coerce anyone to only vote for ODM hopefuls.

“I was speaking to ODM members and told them to only vote for party candidates wherever they are. I was not speaking to everybody in the coalition. If I go Jubilee zone, I will say the same thing and if I go to wiper, I will tell them the same thing. I have not done any mistake,” he said.

Additional reporting by Mercy Simiyu


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