Uhuru's domineering grip on the National Coalition Executive Committee means he will hold sway on who becomes Raila's running mate for the August polls.
- On Thursday, the President's chaired the council and gave NCEC the mandate to scout for the running mate team.
The composition of a key Azimio organ to pick the team that will identify ODM boss Raila Odinga's deputy could be President Uhuru Kenyatta's trump card.
This comes even as it emerged that the formula adopted by the coalition's supreme organ could radically limit Raila's freehand over running mate choices, confining him to a prescribed list only.
The President's domineering grip on the National Coalition Executive Committee means he will hold sway on who becomes Raila's ultimate running mate for the August general election.
The dominance will also give Uhuru advantage to control key decisions made by the Azimio La Umoja One-Kenya Coalition Party, including parliamentary leadership.
The President's men were able to force his Jubilee Party into a deal with Raila's ODM after he successfully managed to purge Deputy President William Ruto's allies from the National Executive Council.
Of the 19 members of the Azimio's NCEC, President Kenyatta has 12 allies, handing him a bigger say on the process of picking Raila's deputy.
The council, which is chaired by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, has the mandate from the coalition council to compose the advisory panel.
The panel is the team that will pick names of Raila's possible deputies.
But Oparanya downplayed the composition, saying NCEC will be "very objective to pick neutral people” who will identify the names of Raila's potential running mates.
“The stakes are very high but we are going to pick an apolitical team to give us the candidates for running mate,” the Kakamega governor told the Star.
The governor said NCEC is yet to meet to pick the names of the advisory panel.
Those touted to be Raila's possible running mates include Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Narc Kenya boss Martha Karua.
There were indications that the Azimio principals could identify the persons and forward the list to NEC for ratification before they are officially published.
With Raila jetting out of the country for a seven-day US trip and the parties being under pressure from the electoral commission to submit the names of running mates by April 28, it is likely that the process would be concluded in Raila's absence.
The former premier is expected back in the country after April 29.
The Star has established that the advisory team will comprise seven eminent personalities with the mandate to settle on two names.
The team, whose names are expected to be made public by Monday, will have to burn the midnight oil to ensure that the list would be out by set time unless IEBC extends the deadline.
On Thursday, the President's chaired the council and gave NCEC the mandate to scout for the running mate team.
President Kenyatta's confidants in NEC include Eldas MP Adnan Keynan, lawyer Ken Nyaundi, Jubilee Party vice-chairperson David Murathe, Pokot South MP David Pkosing and Lucy Nyoroka Mworia.
Others are Garissa Senator Abdul Haji, National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore, Isabelle Githinji, Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu and Solomon Kuria.
Raila's wing of the coalition is represented by five politicians: Oparanya, Junet, Likoni MP Mishi Mboko, Narok North MP Moitalel Ole Kenta and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.
Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka, who has laid stake to the Raila running mate post, has two allies — Makueni Woman Representative Rose Museo and Kitui Senantor Enock Wambua.
While Raila's allies believe that the setting up of the advisory panel would take the pressure off the ODM chief, there are jitters in Wiper that it is part of an elaborate scheme to corner Kalonzo.
On Friday, Kalonzo's allies rejected the proposal to constitute the panel terming it "unnecessary and diversionary.”
“The reality on the ground is that without Kalonzo, there is no Raila. We should stop the mouse games and face the reality,” Makueni MP Dan Maanzo, a close Kalonzo ally, said.
According to the MP, the best line up that would beat Deputy President William Ruto's-led Kenya Kwanza team would be to recast the 2017 team, with Martha Karua as Speaker of the National Assembly.
“It is a game of numbers. Kalonzo has the numbers while Karua has none, and the race is so tight that if we are not careful, Ruto is going to win,” Maanzo said.
Kalonzo, who deputised Raila in 2013 and 2017, has insisted that the same should be replicated in August to guarantee a decisive victory.
Wiper leaders said Raila and Uhuru are trying to renege on a deal they allegedly inked at State House and which makes Kalonzo the automatic Azimio second-in-command.
(edited by Amol Awuor)