The appointment of Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi to head Azimio La Umoja presidential hopeful Raila Odinga’s campaign team has jolted his Mt Kenya supporters who feel the first-term governor is being groomed for bigger things ahead.
The stakes for the running mate position remain high after the courts blocked proposed constitutional changes that would have expanded the governance structure and made it easier for the political elite to negotiate power-sharing deals.
As such Muriithi’s appointment according to political observers has placed him at a strategic position and in preparation for bigger things in the ongoing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession matrix.
Although the governor has indicated he would seek to defend his governor’s seat, speculation persists that the latest developments places him top on the list of those being considered for Raila’s running mate ticket.
Reliable sources have intimated to News Today that in order for Raila to win substantial votes in the region to stand a chance of winning the presidency, he needs somebody of Muriithi’s caliber who understands the needs of Mt Kenya residents that will form the core of campaign messaging in the upcoming polls.
“Without doubt Muriithi fits the bill as his pick as running mate is likely not to escalate local rivalries among Raila’s Mt Kenya allies. At the moment he heads a somewhat cosmopolitan county which means he is ahead of the pack in advocating for unity of purpose that transcends beyond ethnic, regional and political interests,” noted Ambrose Kamau, a political commentator based in Narumoru.
The fact that Muriithi won the Laikipia governor’s seat as an independent candidate in 2017 after he lost in the Jubilee nominations to former governor Joshua Irungu has seen his star rise by the day.
“Though it is nice and interesting for people to float my name, the prerogative to nominate a running mate remains with Raila,” Muriithi quipped recently when he was asked to comment on the ragging running mate debate.
With more than five million voters spread across Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia and Nakuru counties, the Mt Kenya region is a major battleground which Raila must navigate with caution in picking his running mate.
On Wednesday,January 5, the ODM leader picked Laikipia Governor Muriithi to head his campaign team as board chair. The Campaign Secretary and Chief Executive Officer is Elizabeth Meyo.
“The Governor of Laikipia, H.E. Hon Ndiritu Muriithi, has been nominated and accepted to become chair of the board of the Raila Odinga 2022 Campaign,” Raila said in a statement.
Odinga’s selection of the team, particularly Muriithi, demonstrates the importance he attaches to Central Kenya where he is likely to pick his running mate.
An economist and financial markets expert, Governor Muriithi, has over 29 years’ experience in leadership and management in Kenya, South Africa, Canada and Australia.
He has also been credited for being instrumental in the drive to have the derelict Nairobi-Nanyuki and Gilgil-Nyahururu railway lines rehabilitated.
And as a sign of his grasp of the economic affairs of the country, Muriithi has been running commentaries on The Daily Nation, Standard and The Star on the state of Kenya’s economy a clear pointer of his vast knowledge of the country way beyond his county affairs.
In recent weeks, he has also been seen accompanying Odinga in several key public meetings in what fueled speculation that he may be his running mate.
Last year Muriithi appeared to gain a competitive edge over his closest challengers for the number two slot when The Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) associated with Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi endorsed him to be Odinga’s running mate in the 2022 election.
Party secretary-general Mugambi Imanyara said the party would endorse Muriithi for the position.
“The Laikipia governor fits the bill for a running mate in our view,” said Imanyara.
“He is technically qualified as an articulate and respected economist who has demonstrated governance and leadership acumen as assistant minister in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s government and as governor.”
He was also quick to add that the people of Meru had thrown their weight behind Muriithi “in the interest of good neighbourliness.”
“Meru shares a long boundary with Laikipia County and communities on both sides have shared ancient historical, cultural, economic and political experiences and that is why we feel Muriithi understands our needs,” said Imanyara.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu has in past interviews said whoever is chosen to be deputy president in the next government stands a big chance of succeeding Uhuru as the region’s kingpin.