By Fred Makana
Go work the Murang’a ground first before following Raila everywhere, Peter Kenneth is told as stakes on the Azimio La Umoja running mate rise
As the stakes for Raila Odinga’s running mate continues to rise in Mt Kenya, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth has been put on the spot for neglecting his Murang’a County background but following the ODM leader everywhere he goes.
Kenneth has projected himself as the running mate for Raila and is always on the front row seat with the ODM leaders, but his lack of ground mobilization in his native Murang’a County that has a big presence of UDA followers has been questioned.
And contrary to the perception that Kenneth is among favorites to be Raila Odinga’s running mate under Azimio La Umoja coalition, pundits are now questioning his suitability given the Muranga politics.
According to a section of Raila’s supporters in the Mt Kenya region Kenneth appears to assume that he is the automatic choice for running mate while he has a lot of groundwork to do in his own Muranga backyard.
It has also emerged that some influential individuals within the ruling Jubilee government are yet to be convinced that Kenneth is up to the task to steer the region’s interests should he occupy the position of the second in command after the August polls.
The name of Agriculture CS Peter Munya is featuring prominently as well as that of Nakuru County governor Lee Kinyanjui
Sources say one group of Jubilee’s inner circle feel the highest political office Kenneth has so far occupied is that of an assistant minister during President Mwai Kibaki’s administration which further complicates his chances.
According to the source there are those who feel Raila should be allowed to pick someone he is comfortable with to avert a repeat of the bad relations between Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto.
“Going by the manner in which the current DP(William Ruto) almost grounded the government from within after entrenching his henchmen in key government and jubilee party hierarchy as early as President Uhuru came to power, this a very sensitive office that requires high level experience,” said a source privy to those who are still shopping for Raila’s running mate.
Pundits say it is going to be a delicate balancing act for Raila in the choice of the running mate since he will rise or fall based on whom he settles on for the coveted number two slot from the vote-rich region.
Sources have also intimated to News Today that Azimio supporters in the region have their reservations on why Kenneth is not the best bet for the position of running mate in the August 9 general election.
There are those who feel the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) continues to enjoy support in Muranga and if the issue is not taken seriously it is likely to boomerang on the much anticipated Azimio La Umoja coalition.
Murang’a County has some of the UDA leading lights in the Mt Kenya region who are backing Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid.
They are led by region Senator Irungu Kang’ata, Kandara MP Alice Wahome and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.
“Despite the fact that UDA has made more inroads in Muranga than any other region in the mountain, Kenneth appears to be operating from a comfort zone as though he has the county under lock and key.
It is time the Azimio fraternity realized the man has no touch with the reality on the ground,” said Amos Mwirigi, a resident of Gatura in Gatanga constituency.
Mwirigi argues that local politics has changed from 2007-2012 when Kenneth used to enjoy support in his backyard.
Kenneth’s continued public appearances with the former Prime Minister is now under attack as residents of the wider Mt Kenya region question his popularity in the Mt Kenya region which has never been tested beyond Gatanga except for his maiden attempt at the presidency in 2013.
“Kenneth has been out of a political office for almost 10 years and those propping him up for the running mate position ought to factor in a generation of new voters who will question his score card in recent years in comparison to other potential candidates for the running mate position from the region,” said Anthony Murungi, a resident of Maua in Meru.
Kenneth’s suitability has also triggered speculations that he is being propped by some powerful forces to be the Opposition’s chief’s running mate against the wishes of some potential figures from the region who are also nursing ambitions for the coveted seat.
“There are those who feel that they have put their horses on hold as they consolidate support for Raila in Mt Kenya first yet Kenneth is not working similarly hard in Muranga to sell brand Raila’s and instead he is accompanying the former premier to functions even in his own Nyanza backyard,” a source told News Today.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and his Agriculture counterpart Peter Munya, Governors Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) and Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) are among key politicians who have been linked to the slot with presidential contenders giving strong indications that it will go to Mt Kenya.
Macharia Munene, a former Professor of History and International Relations at the United States International University (USIU) has in the past said while the dalliance between Raila and Kenneth is a political message, Kenneth’s backers should not see it as a “done deal” because the former premier was yet to decide on whom to pick, and he might even pick someone else.