How the Kibaki factor is swaying support for ODM leader Raila Odinga in Mt Kenya

Azimio La Umoja Presidential hopeful Raila Odinga is set to reap big in the ongoing political realignments within the Mt Kenya region in comparison to Deputy President and leader of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) William Ruto.

As the clock ticks towards August 9 General Election, former President Mwai Kibaki factor cannot be ruled out in shaping the region’s politics despite his low profile since he left office in August 2013.

While Kibaki’s nephew and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi chairs the critical campaign board for Raila, his son Jimmy Kibaki on Saturday declared his full support for the ODM leader.

While Ruto has maintained his UDA party will be contesting the August polls as a monolith entity, Raila has embraced Azimio Coalition that is ready to accommodate other parties which is his major selling point in the region.

Governor Muriithi has announced that he will be defending his seat on a Party of National Unity (PNU) – a party that Kibaki used for his re-election while his son is the leader of The New Democrats (TND) party that is also a member of Azimion coalition. Ndiritu is the son of the late Phillip Muriithi Kibaki, the elder brother to retired President Kibaki.

In past interviews Muriithi has always maintained that Kibaki’s influence touches nearly every part of life and is a great mentor.

They both studied economics at university, worked in DP and Muriithi served in Kibaki’s government as an assistant minister. The uncle is easily the governor’s biggest inspiration.

Muriithi is now required to ensure Raila succeeds President Uhuru. During the Saturday’s Azimio rally in Thika Stadium Muriithi call on Mt Kenya residents to rally behind Raila as the safe pair of hands that will steer the economic development of the region owing to his vast experience in government and track record.

“I’m honoured that they have picked me as chairman of the campaign team. Raila is a visionary leader who I will support. But, I will be vying on a PNU ticket,” he said upon his appointment by Raila to head his campaign team.

Raila has been riding on some of the achievements they were able to realize under the grand coalition government of 2008-2013. The ODM leader is the architect behind the construction of the Thika Superhighway which continues to open up the Mt Kenya region for economic opportunities.

Muriithi is widely respected in Laikipia and the neighbouring Tharaka Nithi and Meru county where he is expected to make major inroads in consolidating up support for the former Prime Minister’s presidential bid.

According to political commentator Evans Muraguri, Kibaki’s role in the upcoming polls cannot be underrated despite his absence from the campaign trail due to health and age issues. “Despite the hiccups of the explosive 2007 general election, it appears the larger Kibaki family appreciates the role Raila played in the retired president’s victory in 2002 especially after the road accident. Therefore it is only a political novice that can underestimate Kibaki’s influence in Mt Kenya politics from the comfort of his sitting room,” Muraguri told News Today.

Then enter Jimmy Kibaki, the eldest son of former President Kibaki whose rally call on Friday January 13 to politicians seeking elective posts to unite the nation and campaign peacefully.

This according to political observers is the platform upon which Raila is campaigning especially on unity and peace. James Ndirangu of Mt Kenya Advocacy for Peaceful Elections a Nyandarua-based NGO says Jimmy is more likely to work with Raila given that Azimio La Umoja outfit has opened its door for small parties to join.

“Raila is ready to accommodate other parties while Ruto is scoffing at the idea of coalitions. It is clear it going to be a titanic battle for other positions where the best candidates will emerge as MPs governors, senators, women rep irrespective of the party,” he said.

Jimmy said the party might not field a presidential candidate but join other formations to form a formidable force.

“The big boys are watching us. We will sit down with them and negotiate our position in the coming government,” Jimmy said.

He said his father lost the 1992 and 1997 elections but became president in 2002.

Jimmy also asked Kenyans to elect a president based on merit and not be deceived.

“I have been involved in four presidential campaigns, so I know what I am talking about. Politics is not romance. When we are electing someone as president of the Republic of Kenya, we want to elect the person we feel is the most capable person of leading this country and ensure peace, democracy, and prosperity,” he explained.

Jimmy went ahead to urge Kenyans to reject leaders who incite them to violence another of Raila’s campaign messages.

“Politics isn’t a matter of life and death. Elections come and pass, and I don’t understand why you should attack your brother or sister,” Jimmy said when he unveiled The New Democrats (TND)party headquarters during an aspirants’ meeting.

Jimmy said his father will be happy if the country conducts a peaceful election.

“My father, Mwai Kibaki, would wish Kenya to have a peaceful election and I’m passing this message on behalf of him,” he said.

He said his father inspired him to join politics and Kibaki is aware of The New Democrats outfit and party members have his blessing.

He said TND is aiming to win between 50 and 150 parliamentary seats in the coming election to give it more bargaining power during the formation of coalitions after the polls.

Jimmy further said top government officials have contacted party officials with the intention of joining the outfit.

He said the party has built a strong foundation and it will only issue direct tickets in places where there will be no competing candidates.

“We want to win as many seats as possible because we want to form a coalition government with other parties. This is because the government will be formed by a coalition of parties, not a single party,” he said.

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