As the 2022 General Election approaches, the two top presidency contenders — Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga — will have to work harder to avert splits in their parties.
Despite saying primaries would be free and fair, the nomination headache is already showing, with strong contenders and allies eyeing the same seats in counties.
The parties have attracted fierce competition for their tickets, leaving arch-rivals Ruto and Odinga with a dilemma on whether to embrace consensus or yield to democracy and allow hopefuls to battle it out for tickets.
The former option may avert a falling out but would leave many disgruntled, while the latter could mean a disruptive competition in which the leaders’ preferred aspirants may lose.
The DP and the Orange leader are not helping matters either as they endorse their preferred candidates. It is such endorsements that have seen the DP facing a rebellion in Coast.
His two latest visits to the region are threatening to split the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a party he is associated with.
Kwale governor hopeful Lung’anzi Mangale recently left UDA, reportedly unhappy with the endorsement of Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani.
The DP faces the same dilemma in Taita Taveta county where he appears to favour former Governor John Mrutu, angering Mr Dan Mwazo and Mr Stephen Mwekesi, who have threatened to leave UDA.
In Kilifi, the DP is fronting Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa for governor. He also campaigned for former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar who wants to succeed Governor Ali Hassan Joho.
During a meeting with UDA delegates in Mombasa recently, the DP said nobody would be handed a direct ticket “unless we only have one aspirant”.
Mr Ruto faces the same dilemma in Nyanza and his Rift Valley backyard.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and Senator Samson Cherargei are seeking the county’s top seat, while in Uasin Gishu, Soy MP Caleb Kositany, businessman Jonathan Bii, Nairobi Devolution executive Vesca Kangogo and Kenya’s envoy to Pakistan Julius Bitok want to succeed Governor Jackson Mandago.
Senator Aaron Cheruiyot will face Devolution Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter in the Kericho governor race.
The DP will meet Rift Valley UDA aspirants in a fortnight.
UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina said hopefuls from Kericho, Nandi, Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Bomet, Uasin Gishu, Samburu, Trans Nzoia, Turkana and West Pokot counties would meet on November 9.
They want to be assured that there would be no party favourites for gubernatorial, senatorial, parliamentary and civic seats.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who joined UDA on Tuesday, is likely to shake the political equation for the DP, whose ally, Woman Representative Purity Ngirici, has stuck with him and is eyeing the county top seat.
The apprehension by aspirants is that Mt Kenya MPs who have defied State pressure to stand by the DP — including Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) — would get special treatment.
Mr Odinga faces a challenge in Homa Bay, Siaya, Migori, Kisumu, Kisii and Mombasa counties where his allies want to be governors.
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o will face the man he succeeded — Jack Ranguma — former Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga, Senator Fred Outa and EAC Chief Administrative Secretary Ken Obura.
In Mr Odinga’s home county of Siaya, among those whose names have been touted to replace Governor Cornel Rasanga are Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, Deputy Governor James Okumbe, former police spokesman Charles Owino and former permanent secretary Carey Orege.
There was talk of a preferred line-up last week with the ODM chief’s blessing — Mr Orengo for governor, Eala lawmaker Oburu Oginga for senator and the incumbent for Alego Usonga MP.
The claim was dismissed by ODM, Dr Oginga and Mr Orengo. Mr Rasanga said there is nothing wrong with hopefuls crafting line-ups.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said the party is likely to explore consensus as part of its nomination but added that the National Elections Board is the only organ dealing with primaries.
“The party has not settled on anyone for an elective position. We acknowledge that consensus is one of the four methods ODM elections and nomination rules provide for but this can only be initiated by the NEB,” Mr Sifuna said.
Mr Odinga’s allies seeking to take over from Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti include Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata, ODM Chairman John Mbadi, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and County Secretary Isaiah Ogwe.
Asked if they would shelve their ambitions, Ms Wanga and Mr Mbadi dismissed the idea.
Mr Mbadi, who is also the Suba South MP, said it’s only fair to let individuals gun for whatever political seats they desire.
“It’s not the first time my party leader is going for the top seat. We have been standing with him, helping in strategy away from the glare of the public. That does not stop any person from contesting other seats,” he said.
Additional reporting by Onyango K’Onyango and Siago Cece