What you need to know:
- Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Jr said Azimio should present itself as an alternative government and declare its candidate early enough.
- Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua said the issue of unveiling Azimio's presidential candidate must be resolved before the end of this year.
The debate over Azimio la Umoja coalition's 2027 flag bearer dominated speeches at the burial of Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka's brother-in-law on Saturday.
Azimio leader Raila Odinga assured the Kamba community that he had no problem stepping aside and endorsing Mr Musyoka. He also explained that each party had a stake in the coalition and therefore needed to be carried along.
In a move aimed at pacifying the Ukambani region, Mr Odinga acknowledged that Mr Musyoka had contributed immensely to his quest for power and genuinely deserved the ticket, but called for patience.
The ODM leader said he wasn't a thankless leader to forget that Mr Musyoka had backed his presidential bid in three consecutive elections, but Mr Musyoka loyalists would hear none of it, saying he had been a victim of similar political machinations.
"What most people don't know is that my family is very close to Kalonzo's family, we have come a long way with him and our close friendship transcends the competition of our political parties," Mr Odinga said.
Mr Odinga was speaking at the burial of Mr Musyoka's brother-in-law Mzee Willy Muasya in Kasaala area of Ikutha, Kitui County on Saturday.
He, however, warned that the timing of the unveiling of the Azimio coalition's presidential candidate could prove counterproductive in the long run.
He argued that the Azimio member parties should start strengthening themselves and should not be pressured to announce their flagbearer in a hurry.
"Kenyans should not be worried when they see Wiper, ODM or any other political party engaged in separate political activities. A strong Wiper party contributes to a stronger Azimio coalition," he said.
The debate was opened by former Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who reminded Mr Odinga that Mr Musyoka, and by extension the Kamba community, had stood by him in the 2013, 2017 and 2022 presidential elections and it was time he reciprocated.
Mr Odinga said he had been misunderstood and often misquoted on the issue of endorsing Mr Musyoka for the presidency, saying that at the appropriate time, the issue would be dispensed with by the parties concerned.
"Even though I was the candidate, we are equal partners in the Azimio coalition and for instance, when I travel abroad, isn't it strange when I am greeted with calls from Baba while you were away, this and that happened? I am saying this because Kalonzo should be in charge in my absence," he stated.
He says he's urging caution because all the member parties want to produce the Azimio flag bearer and the issue can be politically exploited by their opponents to cause a break-up of the coalition.
"We will agree on a candidate eventually. I have only said that I have not retired from politics and there is nothing wrong with Kalonzo being our presidential candidate or me throwing my weight behind him, but I ask for your patience," he said.
His assertion drew swift and angry reactions from Wiper elected leaders who warned that Azimio was setting himself up for another defeat in 2027.
Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Jr said Azimio should present itself as an alternative government and declare its candidate early enough to allow him or her to campaign across the country.
Governor Kilonzo Jr said the only way to inspire hope and bring the country together is to ensure that we have a government in waiting with a presidential candidate who can take on the ruling party.
"This is important to us in the Wiper Party because we won't allow Azimio to wait until July 2027 to start another embarrassing process of calling candidates for interviews to determine the ticket a month before the elections," the governor said.
Mr Kilonzo Jr, who is the Wiper Party national vice chairman, said there was no candidate even within Azimio who was more qualified and acceptable to Kenyans than Kalonzo Musyoka.
"As the Wiper Party, we say enough is enough and the Azimio coalition must change its tune and do things differently. Never again will we allow our leader to be mistreated and disrespected as happened in the last elections," he said.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua said the issue of unveiling Azimio's presidential candidate must be resolved before the end of this year.
Mr Wambua said Wiper didn't just want Mr Odinga's endorsement but to ensure that their party leader was not disrespected and that Azimio adequately prepared to defeat President William Ruto in 2027.
Their comments were backed by Wiper MPs in attendance, with Kitui Woman representative Dr Irene Kasalu saying Mr Musyoka would embark on countrywide campaign tours to popularise his presidential bid.
"This time we are leaving nothing to chance and our party will present a candidate who has the experience and temperament to be the President of Kenya," said Dr Kasalu.
Mr Musyoka, who steered clear of the debate, begins a three-day tour of Embu and Meru counties on Sunday before heading to Gusii region.
Azimio leaders present included former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, George Wajackoya, Kitui Governor Julius Malombe and Kitui County Assembly Speaker Kevin Kinengo among others.