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PICKING A RUNNING MATE

Raila's headache in drawing up winning 2022 matrix

Raila has Gideon Moi, Peter Kenneth, Anne Waiguru and Hassan Joho at the top of his game plan list.

In Summary

• Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe has publicly endorsed Raila as the most suitable and deserving successor to Uhuru.

• Raila's critics say it will be an uphill task for him to make inroads in Rift Valley and Mt Kenya.

Raila Odinga and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho at Mama Ngina grounds in Mombasa on August 22, 2017
RAILA AND Raila Odinga and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho at Mama Ngina grounds in Mombasa on August 22, 2017
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

ODM leader Raila Odinga is faced with an uphill task of crafting a winning matrix for the 2022 General Election.

The former Prime Minister has tried as much as possible to avoid discussing 2022 succession politics in public. Instead, he insists his focus now is on delivering the Building Bridges Initiative report arising from his March 9, 2018, handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Be that as it may, the planning activities by ODM and the public statements by his allies reveal that Raila is gearing up to face off with Deputy President William Ruto, among others seeking to succeed Uhuru.

Power brokers around Uhuru — Raila’s handshake partner — such as Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe and Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli are pushing for Raila to run in 2022.

Murathe, a fierce critic of the Deputy President, recently let the cat out of the bag when he publicly endorsed Raila as the most suitable and deserving successor to Uhuru.

“We think it is time Kenyans rewarded the long years of struggle by Raila Odinga. They owe to him,” he said, comparing Raila to former South Africa President Nelson Mandela. He called it the Mandela moment, saying Raila would play a transitional president's role.

Atwoli, a close confidant of the Kenyatta family, says Raila is the only candidate who can continue Uhuru’s legacy.

Raila's possible fifth stab at the presidency is clouded by uncertainty over BBI, an ever-thinning list of allies and strategists and perceptions he may have overstayed welcome in the race for the top job.

The BBI recommendations are expected, among other things, to herald a constitutional moment, with the first draft recommending an expanded Executive – introducing a post of prime minister and two deputies. It is still uncertain how powerful the PM would be.

Insiders say Raila is banking on BBI and a referendum win to create three positions he can easily dish out to regional kingpins.

It is reported that, should the 2010 Constitution be amended, he is considering either former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth or Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru for a running mate.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, the Kanu boss, would take up the Prime Minister's post, with outgoing governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Hassan Joho (Mombasa) being rewarded with the two posts for deputy prime minister.

With Kenneth or Waiguru on board, Raila is banking that he will have the populous Mt Kenya vote bloc supporting his lineup,  which will have Uhuru's blessings. Gideon, Oparanya and Joho will bring onboard the Rift Valley, Western and Coast regions, respectively.

In Mt Kenya and Rift Valley, however, Raila will have to work extra hard as Ruto, his major competitor, still enjoys massive support.

In the vote-rich  Rift Valley, Gideon is facing challenges making inroads and Ruto has upped his game in Raila's traditional strongholds of South Nyanza, Western and Coast regions. 

In the last three presidential races, Raila has picked his running mates from Western and Ukambani.

In 2007, he settled on ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, while in the 2013 and 2017 elections, he picked Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Political analyst Isaac Wabuge said the time in which BBI can give birth to a referendum is running out and it is time Raila starts planning his 2022 race under the current structure of the Constitution.

He said, however, if Uhuru and Raila are pegging their succession deals on the BBI report, then they should have it released to the public by now.

“Banking on BBI at this time is very tricky. The country is facing tough economic times caused by the coronavirus, which makes it difficult to have a referendum. The DP has shown signs that he will oppose a referendum and he could get the support of many Kenyans on that,” Wabuge told the Star on the phone.

“This being his last silver bullet, he can as well push for BBI by all means. This will ensure that he distributes the top seats to various regions,” he added.

Wabuge said Gideon, the son of President Daniel Moi, is the best choice to be Raila's running mate.

“Rift Valley has a strong candidate in the name of William Ruto and if Raila wants to appease the Rift Valley and have a bite of the huge voting population, then Gideon is the best,” he said.

He said with several cases bound to be filed in court challenging BBI and the referendum, Uhuru and Raila should “rethink their succession plans”.

Analyst Herman Manyora told the Star that if BBI fails, then Uhuru and Raila will have failed, saying a referendum to alter the structure of government would  help Raila solve the headache of sharing positions.

“If BBI will not sail through, it will be tricky. It will restrict him to small circle of people he can only pick for a running mate," he said.

However, Manyora said that if no changes are made in the Constitution, “all Raila needs is a free and fair election.

“Running mates are based on coalitions one makes. The politics of the day will determine how positions are shared. If Raila will be the handshake candidate, then the people in the handshake will get him a candidate,” he said.

Mvita MP Abdullswamad Nassir said it was still early to talk about 2022 and who will be the ODM flag bearers, saying, "The business that should preoccupy leaders is how to address issues identified by Raila and Uhuru during the formation of the BBI task force.

“ODM is a democratic party and it might end up giving the presidential ticket to Hassan Joho. So while others are busy campaigning for 2022, we are fixing the instruments that will determine how 2022 politics will look," Nassir said.

He added, “BBI is talking about the need to end the winner-take-all system and both the President and Raila are determined to address those things as of now.”

Critics of Raila say it's time the former Prime Minister quits active politics and retires with Uhuru in 2022.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro told the Star that Raila, after failing to win the previous four presidential races, " should let young blood to lead this country”.

Nyoro, a close ally of the DP, said Raila will not make inroads in Mt Kenya and neither will he get votes in Rift Valley.

“It is not easy to market Raila in Mt Kenya. That region is locked and solidly behind the DP. Ruto is the only leader they know. Even the people from Mt Kenya who are saying Raila is their preferred candidate, they can’t dare take him there. Why? That tells you a lot about Mt Kenya and the 2022 politics,” he said.

Prof Macharia Munene, who teaches history at USIU, also said it is time for Raila to plan his future under the Constitution as it is, noting that time for a referendum is “diminishing”.