Kenya: Running Mate Headache for Political Bigwigs

President Uhuru Kenyatta hugs Opposition leader Raila Odinga as his Deputy President William Ruto (right) and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka cheer them at the National Prayer Breakfast meeting (file photo).

The fast-changing political landscape is putting more pressure on bigwigs jostling to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta as to their choice of running mate.

ODM leader Raila Odinga and Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka who ran on a joint ticket in 2013 and 2017, but fell out after the former's truce with President Kenyatta, have signalled a reunion with the dilemma on who will play second fiddle.

Mr Musyoka alongside fellow National Super Alliance (Nasa) leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang'ula have insisted Mr Odinga honours a deal sealed in the run-up to the last elections committing not to vie for the presidency again, but the former Prime Minister's allies believe he has the best chance yet.

A Jubilee governor told Nation that should President Kenyatta manage to whip a planned alliance behind Mr Odinga's presidential candidature, "then there is likelihood that he will pick his running mate from Mt Kenya region."

That will mean Mr Odinga will have to work out other ways to appease Ukambani, which has backed his candidature the two times he has run jointly with Mr Musyoka, as well as the western and Coast bases that have traditionally stood by him.

Two factions

Second term governors Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya, who had indicated they will challenge Mr Odinga for ODM's presidential ticket, have indicated they will not stand in the way of his campaign, signalling they would expect something in return.

The implosion in Mt Kenya, where Deputy President William Ruto has made inroads despite resistance by the Jubilee camp allied to President Kenyatta, also piles pressure on the DP to pick a running mate from the region, which alongside Rift Valley, largely contributed to Jubilee's victory in 2013 and 2017, for him to replicate the fete.

In Dr Ruto's camp, already two factions are emerging in Mt Kenya region.

Personal gain

Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is said not to see eye-to-eye with some of the DP's lieutenants who accuse him of presenting himself as his undisputed running mate candidate.

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri recently attacked Mr Kiunjuri, The Service Party (TSP) party leader, accusing him of "negotiating with DP for his own benefit."

"He (Kiunjuri) has his own dog (TSP) which he is using to hunt for his personal gain and not for the people of Mt Kenya. If he is serious with his support for the DP he should join one camp," Mr Ngunjiri said.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, who has been hosting DP's allies from the region, is also angling as his point man in the region.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro argued that the people of Mt Kenya region are futurist and that's why they have to start early succession plans.

"We plan ahead. When we voted for (Mwai) Kibaki in 2007, we passively voted for Uhuru in 2013, when we voted for Uhuru in 2017, we passively voted for William Ruto in 2022," Mr Nyoro said.

Dr Ruto is also courting new allies like ODM's Migori governor Okoth Obado who would come in with high expectations.

Political analysts say that one of the main qualities of a feasible running mate is that he or she must be "as competent as the candidate."

"A Deputy Presidential candidate should be as competent as the Presidential candidate. Women should compete for both the main seat and the Deputy seat," Prof Winnie Mitullah says.

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