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HomeKenya NewsKWENDO OPANGA: Raila convinced Karua and confused Kalonzo

KWENDO OPANGA: Raila convinced Karua and confused Kalonzo

By Kwendo Opanga

Matiang'i directly assured Odinga that the government was ever-present. He may have addressed Odinga, but that message was meant for the audience. The President and Odinga had consulted before the latter set out to unveil Karua as Deputy President designate.

Mr Raila Odinga used his presentation of Ms Martha Karua as his presidential running mate on Monday, to give Kenyans a glimpse of his statecraft, offer a sneak preview of the government he is already constructing and, therefore, signal his growing confidence ahead of the August 9 General Election.

As the shadow of the government loomed over the event, master of ceremonies Junet Mohammed, happily informed, President Kenyatta was “present, represented by Dr Fred Matiang’i”, his trusted Interior Cabinet Secretary and enforcer.

Matiang’i directly assured Odinga that the government was ever-present. He may have addressed Odinga, but that message was meant for the audience. The President and Odinga had consulted before the latter set out to unveil Karua as Deputy President designate.

There were two other Cabinet ministers present, one of whom, Peter Munya, Odinga confirmed, would continue in charge of the Agriculture docket if the Azimio La Umoja coalition wins the General Election.

In so doing, Odinga strengthened his earlier statement that he will follow the footsteps of President Kenyatta if he succeeds him. More importantly, he signalled his intention to expand Munya’s portfolio by making him in charge of production.

That not only pointed to confidence in the minister’s performance but also to planned continuity from the current order to the succeeding one.  It was a message to Kenyans that Odinga, and not Deputy President William Ruto, is working hand in glove with President Kenyatta and the government.

Uhuru,Raila,Ruto

Odinga not only made history by appointing a woman as his running mate, but also expanded and explained her role as Kenya’s second Deputy President.

Karua will be Odinga's right hand man, ready to move in seamlessly and stand in for him, quick to take the load off his shoulders and keep things moving, ready to be his Joshua.

Karua, a confident Odinga intoned, would be the minister for justice and constitutional affairs, who would be tasked with completing the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Odinga and President Kenyatta have other unfinished business regarding the constitution, namely the Building Bridges Initiative aka BBI. Kenyatta has twice this year referred to BBI as a dream deferred.

This BBI baby will fall in Karua’s lap if Azimio takes over the government. Perhaps, this is what she was referring to when she emphasised that she will champion changes to the basic law, but within the law. BBI was shot down by the courts because they found it unconstitutional.

Karua will be Odinga’s right hand man, ready to move in seamlessly and stand in for him, quick to take the load off his shoulders and keep things moving, ready to be his Joshua.

Odinga showed confidence in his choice of running mate and Deputy President designate and signalled his intention to improve on existing structures of government.

Next, he turned to show that loyalty pays. He nominated his lieutenants in the Orange Democratic Movement, Deputy Party Leaders Wycliffe Oparanya and Hassan Joho, to lead the key ministries of Finance and Lands respectively in his administration.

Odinga surprised most when he named Kenneth Marende as Speaker designate of the Senate. But the more important significance of these nominations lies in the political message intended for the people of Ebuluyia and Coast.

Oparanya and Marende are Abaluyia and Joho is from the Coast. Through them Odinga sent their people a message: I will give your sons great responsibilities to  serve Kenya but only if you will vote for me and Azimio candidates in August.

The trio know there is no such thing as a free pass and they now must campaign for Odinga and Azimio. Oparanya and Joho will transition from Governors of Kakamega and Mombasa respectively to the Cabinet.

DP William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga

Marende will return to national leadership after nearly 10 years, as head of one of the two Houses of Parliament. When he was the impactful Speaker of the National Assembly between 2008 and 2013, the Senate did not exist.

Munya, Oparanya and Joho had been interviewed for the running mate’s position, Marende had just launched his gubernatorial bid for Vihiga County. But quite apart from being politicians they have proved themselves as performers in previous and current dockets. Again, a signal from Odinga that he respects qualifications, experience and performance.

But it was Karua’s day and friend and foe alike, acknowledged that. For a long time and up to two months ago, it had appeared that former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth was a shoo in for Odinga’s running mate.

Then Munya and Karua came into the picture last month before former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka aggressively demanded the role for himself. His supporters similarly loudly threatened to derail Odinga’s presidential run if he was not on the ticket.

Musyoka may have had better political credentials having entered politics as early as 1985, been a minister longer than both Karua and Kenneth and served as a Vice-President.

Then outgoing Murang’a Women Rep Sabina Chege entered the fray and was touted as the real deal. Karua seemed to be on a wing and a prayer as critics branded her a polarising figure.

But when the seven-person panel shortlisted her together with Musyoka and Kenneth for the position, the tide changed. She has served longer than Kenneth as MP, been a minister and ran for president before.

Musyoka may have had better political credentials having entered politics as early as 1985, been a minister longer than both Karua and Kenneth and served as a Vice-President.

But he came across as arrogant, overbearing and shifting goalposts as he manoeuvred to muscle his way onto the ticket. Still Odinga was generous to him. He nominated him for the position of chief minister, which would likely transform to premier when the new government introduces changes to the constitution.

Musyoka, however, pitched a fit, declared his own presidential run, named his running mate and predicted that Karua’s nomination would be massively unpopular.

Wrong. Karua’s star is on the rise. She was sold on Monday as a woman and not as a native of vote-rich Mount Kenya. Her newfound popularity is the magic wand to draw out the massive women’s vote and, of course, Mount Kenya’s.

On Tuesday as Karua headed back to her native Kirinyaga County she was greeted, welcomed and cheered in some places as a heroine. She had left for Nairobi as an aspiring governor for Kirinyaga County. She returned as Deputy President designate of Kenya and a magnet for attention.

Odinga and Kenyatta were in Kisumu at an international event. Musyoka kept out of sight.

|Ends

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