Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition has reportedly floated the post of Chief Minister in power sharing negotiations to forestall a fallout over selection of a running mate to presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga.
The post, whose holder is envisaged to supervise and coordinate government functions, is reportedly tailored to appease those jostling for the running mate position, including Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, should they not be picked.
This development points to the dilemma Mr Odinga’s camp is grappling with trying to satisfy competing interests in the selection of the deputy president nominee, even as the coalition party yesterday named a seven-member panel to select the running.
Mr Musyoka was Mr Odinga’s running mate in 2013 and 2017 elections, and he insists their joint ticket still has better chances of winning in the August elections.
But political realignments have seen President Kenyatta and the ruling party back Mr Odinga’s presidential bid, reportedly on the understanding that he will pick his deputy from Mt Kenya region.
On the day Azimio named the team to recommend a running mate to the coalition party’s top organ chaired by President Kenyatta, Mr Musyoka lamented the current dilemma was weighing him down and preventing him from hitting the ground to campaign for Mr Odinga.
“This issue of running mate is weighing me down and makes me want to just go home because I ask myself should I really be struggling for this?” Mr Musyoka told the Nation in an interview.
“I worked with Mr Odinga in 2013 and 2017 and everybody knows the results. In 2013, the Supreme Court disagreed that we did not win but in 2017 the Court said that we indeed won. I can assure that a Raila-Kalonzo ticket is a sure bet,” he said.
His political base, which he said came through for Mr Odinga in the two elections when he was running mate, was getting anxious and that there were murmurs among his allies on why he should be subjected to interviews.
“I have told them to stop talking about that issue and leave it to God but I know some of them are not happy that I’m going to be vetted. They are saying when I became Kibaki’s Vice-President there was no vetting, when I became Raila’s running mate both in 2017 and 2017, I wasn't vetted ... so I don’t know what has changed,” Mr Musyoka said.
According to Mr Musyoka, the matter of running mate should have been dealt with by him and Mr Odinga, but he was quick to point out that since he was among those who formed the team to look into the matter, he will offer his full support to the seven-member team.
“We all live in this country and we know the winning formula. The council should look at the data, demographics and scientific data to get the winning formula,” Mr Musyoka said.
Besides Mr Musyoka, others said to be in the front line for the position in Azimio are Ms Karua and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.
Sources suggest Mr Musyoka’s apparent hardline position and the need to accommodate him should he not be picked as running mate has prompted the proposal of a Chief Minister post to appease him or others. This is in addition to a number of Cabinet positions and other plum jobs.
Should the coalition form the next government, the position holder will have sweeping powers, including becoming the face of the government, something akin to the role Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has played in the second term of President Kenyatta after the fallout with Deputy President William Ruto.
“Azimio La Umoja shall establish the office of the Chief Minister for the purposes of inclusivity and smooth operation and functioning of government business. The government requires an office that coordinates its functions on behalf of the Executive for the proper execution of the day to day running of the government,” reads a strategy paper seen by the Nation.
According to an organogram in the strategy document, the position will more or less put the holder and the DP on the same level, except that the latter is enshrined in the Constitution and does not serve at the whim of the President.
The last time the country had such a position was when President Daniel Moi appointed Mr Simeon Nyachae Chief Secretary.
The Chief Minister will provide supervisory leadership through the delivery cycle of all national government programmes.
“(The Chief Minister) will supervise and coordinate government functions, chair all Cabinet sub-committees, liaise with Parliament in ensuring government business is achieved in both Houses and prepare accurate and timely reports for presentation to his excellency the President,” the paper states.
The holder will also take up other assignments as maybe given by the president from time to time.
Key allies of Mr Musyoka said they were not in the picture on the proposal.
“I am not aware of such a proposal,” Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua said.
Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance also finds itself battling similar challenges in the selection of a running mate.
This explains why while Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s camps rarely agree on anything, they united in resisting today’s deadline that had been imposed by the electoral commission to name their running mates.
So delicate is the choice that the two camps ganged up against the electoral commission to push the deadline by 20 more days, to May 16. And with just 103 days to the General Election, the choice of running mate, it seems, is not only dicey within the coalitions, but may influence their fortunes at the polls.
And so, the two men seen as the frontrunners in the race find themselves in a tight spot, each seemingly hiding their cards under the table hoping the other reveals theirs first to allow them plan better.
Yesterday, Mr Odinga’s Azimio unveiled a seven-member advisory panel to assist in the nomination of the running mate in a bid to forestall any fallout as a result of a unilateral decision by the candidate.
The team, consisting of clerics and politicians drawn from some of the 26 Azimio member parties, has until May 10 to submit the name (s) of suitable candidates to Mr Odinga for consideration.
The members are Bishop Peter Njenga, Archbishop (Rtd) Zaccheus Okoth, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, Narc Kenya Secretary-General Michael Orwa, former Cabinet Minister Noah Wekesa, Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Organising Secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa and Beatrice Askul Moe from Turkana County.
Azimio Secretary-General Junet Mohamed said the panel shall reach its decision through consensus and shall elect its chairperson while the coalition party’s Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Meyo will serve as its secretary.
Yesterday, Mr Mohamed did not reveal how the panel will arrive at possible candidates, whether it would advertise for the positions or ask those interested to apply.
“The committee shall develop its own terms of reference and begin their work with immediate effect. I don’t want to speak for them. They will have their sitting and come up with a way they want to do it.
“It is their mandate now, they will draw their terms of reference and look at what we have prescribed here, including fidelity to the constitution, respect for the people, dignity and integrity,” said Mr Mohamed.
He defended the process put in place by Azimio, arguing that it is the international best practice.
He pointed out that the deputy presidential nominee position was open, adding that those interested could even launch their campaigns for the post.
“Let everyone show interest and we shall know who is serious and who the media candidate is because it looks like the media also has its candidates in this,” said Mr Mohamed.
In the Ruto camp, the running mate question, it appears, is a battle of a voting bloc (Mt Kenya’s 5.8 million votes) and the national appeal that one of Kenya Kwanza Alliance’s founding members, Musalia Mudavadi, a former vice-president, minister,and deputy Prime Minister, brings to the table.
While Mr Mudavadi’s name is seen as more recognisable across the country, his backyard, seen as a battleground with Mr Odinga, currently lags behind in terms of numerical strength compared to President Kenyatta’s restive Mt Kenya.
Western region’s four counties have over 2.2 million votes.
Those said to be in the frontline for Dr Ruto’s Number Two post from Mt Kenya are National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Tharaka-Nithi senator Kindiki Kithure, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro and Kandara MP Alice Wahome.
But with Mr Mudavadi said to have shelved his ambition for Dr Ruto’s running mate position in exchange for 30 per cent stake in the government, this accords the DP a freehand to appoint someone from the Mt Kenya region as he intended all along.
An aide told the Nation that Mr Mudavadi was being realistic in giving up the push.
“It is better to form government than to lose as a running mate,” he said. This leaves Mr Muturi, Prof Kindiki and Ms Wahome and Mr Nyoro as the leading contenders.
Reporting by Justus Wanga, Justus Ochieng, Samwel Owino and Onyango K’onyango