President Kenyatta helped to change Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s mind at the last minute to attend interviews for the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition running mate post.
It also emerged that those who are not picked would benefit from plum ministerial and state jobs should presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga win the August 9 elections.
Even though Mr Musyoka said his decision to appear before the panel was a personal decision, the Nation established that behind-the scenes manoeuvres could have influenced his change of heart. He’s said to have attended the interviews after consultations with President Kenyatta, the chairman of Azimio council and a push by Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi.
According to the source, President Kenyatta was concerned that Mr Musyoka skipping the panel date would send the wrong message as he (Mr Musyoka) was in the inaugural Azimio council meeting, which the Head of State chaired last month, and which had settled on using the panel to select Mr Odinga’s deputy.
“Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi, who has endorsed him for the position, implored him to attend so that it doesn’t look like both of them had ulterior motives against the panel,” a source privy to the developments told the Nation. “Gideon was calling Kalonzo after the President called him and told him to present himself before the panel.”
Mr Moi, who had also been shortlisted for the interviews that ended yesterday, backed out for Mr Musyoka.
“Hon. Moi is grateful to the committee of eminent persons for the consideration for the running mate position and stands by his letter endorsing Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka,” said Mr Moi’s press secretary Joseph Towett.
At the Serena Hotel where the interviews were being held, Mr Musyoka told journalists that the move to appear before the panel was meant to stop any attempts to use his absence as an excuse to lock him out from the position.
“I want to tell you that the decision to come was my decision because I realised we didn’t want to give anybody an excuse to say aligomea kukuja (I refused to turn up),” Mr Musyoka said.
Yesterday, Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said while the politicians in Mr Musyoka’s camp protested his move, “the think tank said since the interview is a formal process, it is only good for him (Kalonzo) to show up so that he does not give the panel any excuse to deny him the position”.
Initially, there was a feeling within Wiper that by appearing before the panel, then the stature of Mr Musyoka will have been reduced since he is supposed to be discussing matters of the coalition with President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
The seniority contest and a promise made at State House back in March just before Mr Musyoka declared publicly that he is supporting Mr Odinga’s presidential election was also another reason cited by the politicians around Mr Musyoka for him not to appear before the panel.
Mr Musyoka was the first to appear before the panel yesterday, followed by former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, National Liberal Party leader Stephen Tarus, Narc leader Charity Ngilu and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya of the Party of National Unity.
Yesterday, Mr Kenneth exuded confidence that the numerical strength of the Mt Kenya region whence he hails, would be taken into consideration in naming Mr Odinga’s running mate.
He maintained that his support for the Azimio leader was “passionate and not pegged on getting the DP post.”
“I’m from Mt Kenya and cut a national figure, but it’s important to realise that Mt Kenya is a vote-rich area. It is also important to understand that the opposition has had a field day there even though the Azimio candidate is on an upward trajectory,” he said.
Ms Ngilu said she is the best bet owing to her past experiences in government and having run for presidency in 1997.
“I’ve great networks and will bring in the women's vote, which is yet to be captured ... I said I’ll bring certain experience in leadership and cordial relationships and the fighting spirit of what is right. I’ll enhance team work as we’ve been in government together with Mr Odinga and even in opposition,” Ms Ngilu said.
Mr Tarus reaffirmed his decision to support Azimio even if he does not secure the running mate slot.
“My decision to work with Azimio is not in doubt. If the chance falls on my hands, I’ll be more than grateful and work with my competitors to campaign for Raila. This country must begin a new chapter. The names we’ve heard are common. With the candidature of Raila, he needs fresh blood and minds,” Mr Tarus said.
Mr Munya said he was best fit for the job over his public service record, and the consideration of the Mt Kenya East vote bloc.
“Given that there is no presidential candidate from Mt Kenya, if a running mate comes from there, then the possibility of winning the election is higher. If that candidate comes from Mt Kenya East, which has never produced a president, that would boost the votes,” Mr Munya said.
As the interviews concluded, the Nation established that all the 11 candidates who had been shortlisted could land plum jobs should Mr Odinga win the August polls. Multiple interviews with insiders revealed that the candidates, including Mr Moi who backed out of the race in favour of Mr Musyoka, will be given priority in appointments should the coalition clinch the presidency.
“To avoid any possibility of a fallout, it has been proposed that the deputy presidential candidates will automatically land Cabinet and other plum state jobs after the elections as only one of them can be Baba’s (Mr Odinga’s) deputy,” said a highly placed source in Azimio.
“From our interviews, virtually all the shortlisted candidates qualify for the job, but not all can be deputy President. So we shall be recommending to the council and the presidential candidate considers offering them appointments in the Azimio government after the August elections,” a source within the panel confided.
Dr Noah Wekesa, who headed the panel said: “We’ve completed the interviews and tomorrow (today) we shall give our report. We shall forward three top names to the presidential candidate from which he will name his preferred running mate.”