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Is Peter Kenneth the runaway favourite for Raila running mate?

My grandmother used to say that all stories must begin from the “legs” to make sense. Or the feet, depending on which geographical location your translation is done, and whether you want the direct or contextual translation.

Today, I will begin the story from the legs.

I suspect that if we went back in time, late 2012 to be specific, President Uhuru Kenyatta would settle for a different running mate. And he wouldn’t be short of candidates. He could go to Musalia Mudavadi and apologise for the short-lived backing, in the “madimoni saga”, then offer the running mate slot. He could meet sitting Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, reputed in government circles as the person who had helped Kibaki stabilise the government after the 2007 election, and arm-twist him into accepting to be the future Deputy President.

And who knows, he might even go into the belly of the beast and give ODM leader Raila Odinga the position, with the usual promise of serving only one term!

You can bet your one village quarter acre farm that one or more of those would have agreed to be Uhuru’s running mate in the 2013 poll, given a chance. With the wisdom of hindsight, the President must surely know his unlikely partnership with DP William Ruto was doomed from the start.

As the outgoing regime’s favourite candidate, he should, in fact, question the intelligence and security services for allowing such a ticket to pass.

If Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia’s words are to be believed, and he as “deep state” as anyone has ever been, the system does push its candidate over the line, and could have done so for an Uhuru-Musalia, Uhuru-Kalonzo or even Uhuru-Gideon Moi ticket.

Given the intelligence analysis that goes into such things, I would be surprised if a presidential candidate backed by the state wasn’t privy to the potential pitfalls that lay ahead for picking a candidate with a chequered history and a catalogue of public accusations like Ruto.

Our political history is replete with lessons for those who care to check, but there are also distinct patterns if you look deeper. Of everyone who has held the office of Vice President from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga to Kalonzo, only the former would fall into the “independent-minded” bracket.

The rest, perhaps with the possible exception of Josephat Karanja — whose stint was too short to be properly analysed — can loosely be described as “humble, loyal and non-confrontational”.

A lot of thought goes into the choice of a principal assistant, because no boss wants to be overshadowed by the deputy and none wants to be deputised by someone who wants the top job immediately.

You only need to check out the caliber of people who are deputy governors in this country to confirm this. Most governors went for colourless deputies with heavy tongues, the quintessential “threat-level-zero” types.

In the case of the Uhuru-Ruto political marriage, clearly, not much thought was put into the choice of running mate because in all honesty, there is nothing the DP has been in the last nine years that he wasn’t long before 2013.

If indeed Uhuru will have a say on who ultimately becomes Raila’s deputy, he has the wisdom brought by painful experiences, to share with the candidate he will back. More than anyone else, he knows that statecraft frowns upon a vindictive, abrasive, attention-loving deputy with a knack for insubordination.

If his perceived deal with the ODM boss will include a running mate picked from the Mt Kenya region, the two will have a wide array of political gentlemen to pick from. I have in mind governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), James Nyoro (Kiambu) and Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), all of who practice very decent, classy politics, and can deputise any president on any given day.

But all of them are serving their first terms and may find the prospects of a second term as county bosses more appealing. This leaves out former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth. PK comes from Murang’a, and there is something about the county. In the early 90s, when the Second Liberation was in high gear, and the faces of that movement were Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia and Raila, Murang’a became the unofficial spiritual home of the movement in Mt Kenya, through its two famous sons.

Because of his close association with the other two, especially Matiba, Raila remains a popular figure in that neighbourhood. At a recent meeting, Murang’a legislators pointed out that their county was unique in being 75 per cent pro-handshake, as majority of MPs had defied DP Ruto’s wave and stuck with the President.

Add that to the fact that a huge percentage of the billionaire support represented by the Mt Kenya Foundation members, who have cast their lot with Raila in the next election, and you get the picture that Murang’a is already too willing to lead the mountain towards the new dispensation.

If Murang’a’s son Kenneth became the running mate, it would only cement its place as a leader of the other Mt Kenya counties in milestone awakenings since the 1990s.

PK wouldn’t just be a choice of mere convenience. He was one of the earliest converts, and has been seen on Raila’s side much longer than the governors. There was a time when the only prominent mountain people seen with Raila were him, Maina Kamanda and Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe.

He is also a very decent man, who speaks in measured tones, and who would perfectly neutralise the fears of any reluctant Uhuru bases still wondering how things will be after 2022.

I am persuaded that he would not only make a brilliant choice in helping Raila navigate the tricky ascent of the mountain, but an early announcement of the same would elevate him to first among equals status within the disparate formations that will carry the ODM leader’s campaign in the region.

It may seem too soon to make such a decision but these are no ordinary times, and a leading figure helping consolidate the base way before the elections may just be what the doctor ordered.

To his credit, PK would be one who enjoys respect across the other regions of the country, without the usual tribal tags or acerbic tongue.

Interestingly, DP Ruto, whose actions in the last nine years have made the pick for running mate even more crucial, will most probably also be looking to land a humble and loyal deputy, totally different from what he has been.

If he picks one from the mountain region, the odds are that abrasive and confrontational politicians such as Ndindi Nyoro, Rigathi Gachagua, Susan Kihika and Kimani Ichung’wah will miss out. The choice may end up being more calm characters like Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki. This is the irony of fighting so hard for a boss in politics.

In your aggression, you become the person he doesn’t want deputising him because your tongue isn’t made for the kind of job of principal assistant who cannot be sacked by his boss.

I am sure there are many in DP Ruto’s formation making a lot of noise to catch his eye, but will catch only the first flight out of the inner circle if he were to ascend to power!

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