What you need to know:
- The Nation has learnt that Mt Kenya Foundation will also name Mr Odinga’s running mate in February 2022.
A group of influential and wealthy Mt Kenya leaders will today name Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga as their preferred presidential candidate, ahead of his anticipated declaration of a fifth State House bid on Friday.
Mt Kenya Foundation (MKF) has previously backed President Kenyatta and his predecessor Mwai Kibaki’s campaigns against Mr Odinga on three occasions.
Mr Odinga ran against Mr Kibaki in 2007 and challenged Uhuru Kenyatta twice for the presidency in 2013 and 2017, with today’s endorsement marking a remarkable turnaround in fortunes that has seen the opposition leader’s presidential bid finally embraced by a section of Mt Kenya.
The Nation has learnt that the group will also name Mr Odinga’s running mate in February 2022.
“After meeting with the possible contestants on the ‘Handshake’ team [supporters of the March 2018 political deal between the President and Mr Odinga], we have agreed to back Mr Odinga,” Mr Peter Munga, who heads the foundation, told Nation.
He said that after today’s meeting, the team will recommend Mr Odinga to the President as the most qualified to succeed him based on their assessment.
In September, the elite group said it had been tasked by the President to present a name of his possible successor picked from meetings with various presidential aspirants.
The group met Mr Odinga and One Kenya Alliance (Oka) chiefs Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (Kanu), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya) and Cyrus Jirongo of UDP.
But it did not meet Deputy President William Ruto, who has camped in Mt Kenya this week addressing numerous campaign stops, signalling the group is opposed to his quest to succeed President Kenyatta with whom he has fallen out.
The DP’s camp has downplayed the group’s political influence, arguing that Dr Ruto will appeal directly to voters. Today, MKF will host leaders from Mt Kenya for a luncheon at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi to discuss “pertinent issues touching on the region” according to a press invite.
In attendance will be some of the region’s politicians as well as leaders drawn from business, women, youth and religious circles. Yesterday, MKF vice chairman Titus Ibui said the group had completed the search for President Kenyatta’s preferred successor.
He suggested the group had considered Mr Odinga’s policies on Mt Kenya and settled on him as best-suited to secure the region’s interests.
The former prime minister will on Friday declare his presidential bid during the Azimio La Umoja convention at Kasarani Stadium, with organisers saying at least 30 governors and more than half of MPs have confirmed attendance.
Mr Ibui confirmed MKF members will attend the meeting. He said negotiations about what the region will get should Mr Odinga form the next government, which will be ring-fenced in a pre-election coalition agreement, will be led by the President and other stakeholders in a conference that will be held later.
Mr Odinga’s ODM is negotiating a pre-election coalition agreement with President Kenyatta’s Jubilee. Former Dagoretti MP Dennis Waweru, a member of MKF, said the region will be safe under an Odinga presidency.
“We will also be attending his Azimio la Umoja declaration meeting in Kasarani. We will enter into a political and economic covenant with him as the people of Mt Kenya. The meeting is all inclusive with all leaders in Mt Kenya invited to attend,” Mr Waweru said. Mt Kenya residents, he added, want Mr Odinga to assure them that their business interests will be protected should he ascend to power.
“We will ask that his administration ensures the continuity of President Kenyatta’s legacy including completion of projects. The memoranda will be handed over to him,” Mr Waweru said.
Those said to be involved in the planning of today’s meeting include Igembe North MP Maoka Maore and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, key figures in Mr Kenyatta’s inner circle.
The group plans to name Mr Odinga’s running mate, presumably from the region, after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) publishes a notice of the General Election and around the time public officers intending to vie for elective posts are expected to resign.
Sources say former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, former cabinet minister Martha Karua and Mr Kinyanjui are the frontrunners for the position. Former Maragua MP Mr Elias Mbau said: “We will lobby at tomorrow’s meeting to be given the strongest hint that the Odinga candidacy will factor Mt Kenya region for the deputy President position. “
“The national unity train has now left the station,” quipped Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia.