Orange Democratic Movement presidential candidate Raila Odinga (left) and Jubilee Party presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTOS | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Big guns line up to steer Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga bids
The two main political formations are putting together high powered teams of seasoned technocrats, wealthy businessmen, technocrats, senior civil servants and established political operatives to drive the campaigns of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga who are perceived to be the front runners in the August 8 elections.
While Deputy President William Ruto is the public face of the Jubilee campaign with Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi chairing the National Super Alliance, multiple interviews by the Nation indicate that both sides have set up diverse teams with fully-fledged offices in quiet locations in the city.
Resource mobilisation appears to be given utmost attention if the profile of the individuals Jubilee and Nasa have tasked with sourcing for their respective campaign war chests to deliver victory on August 8 is anything to go by.
Mr Muhoho Kenyatta, the younger brother of President Kenyatta, is said to be in charge of finances within the Jubilee presidential campaign team. At his disposal is a team of auxiliary staff. He is notoriously camera shy but his influence, just like in 2013, is clear.
“MK (in reference to the president’s brother) is the businessman in the family. His presence also shows the President’s resolve to ensure that State resources are not used to finance his campaign,” a source close to the team told the Nation.
Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge and his boss Charles Keter are also in the resource mobilisation committee in a pattern where trusted lieutenants of Mr Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto are represented.
Even though the two Cabinet officials have not come out openly, their role behind the scenes has been confirmed by multiple sources within the ruling party. Mr Njoroge played the same role in 2013.
And, after being among those credited for ensuring there was no fallout during negotiations to pick the Nasa flag bearer from the five principals and a power sharing formula, businessman Jimi Wanjigi has retained an influential position in Nasa and is said to be working on mobilising resources. He operates from private offices in Westlands.
He was also involved in the 2013 Jubilee campaigns for Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto but they fell out after the election.
Interestingly, Mr Wanjigi’s father, Maina Wanjigi, a former Cabinet minister in the Moi era, is one of the leading campaigners of Mr Kenyatta in Murang’a. Also in Mr Odinga’s resource mobilisation team is Mr Brown Ondego, former Kenya Ports Authority Chief Executive and a close ally of Mr Mudavadi’s.
Mr Davies Chirchir, former Energy Cabinet Secretary who was hounded out of office amid corruption claims, is in charge of information and communication technology alongside Ms Winnie Guchu.
The two, who have previously worked in the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission, are in charge of electoral processes including vote tallying.
A former member of the Judicial Service Commission, Ms Guchu was recently appointed the executive director of the Jubilee Secretariat and played a prominent role when Mr Kenyatta presented his presidential nomination papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on Monday.
Mr Chirchir is respected within the Jubilee circles for his prowess in technology.
Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju says that there many individuals who are supporting the President but prefer remaining anonymous.
“I can confirm that they are there in the form of strategists and volunteers and some of them prefer remaining out of public limelight. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to name them,” he said.
The two teams are said to be reporting directly to the presidential candidates and the political heads of the respective campaign teams, Mr Ruto in the case of Jubilee Party and Mr Mudavadi in Nasa.
Mr Willis Otieno has been appointed the campaign manager for the Nasa team. He is also in charge of strategy.
A lawyer of high standing, Mr Otieno has the onerous task of breathing freshness into Mr Odinga’s campaign to excite his support base to come out and vote while at the same time ensuring that he reaches out to new frontiers.
Campaign messaging will form a core part of this. He is based at the Odinga campaign secretariat in Westlands, Nairobi.
Former political adviser to both former President Mwai Kibaki and Mr Kenyatta, Ms Nancy Gitau, is another high-profile figure pulling the strings in the Jubilee re-election campaign.
In public, she is not known to be in good terms with Mr Ruto, but the no-nonsense Ms Gitau is considered invaluable to Mr Kenyatta’s re-election.
Ms Gitau has been credited with crafting the strategy for Mr Kenyatta to reach out to the so-called “friendly” parties to shore up his re-election chances at a time many would have thought the President would adopt a hostile stance and stick to the plan for all political groups supporting him to dissolve and join Jubilee.
Currently, Ms Gitau is said to be among those working on a new pro-Uhuru Kenyatta lobby known as 70+1 and with the proposed slogan, “Uhuru Tano Tena”. The group is expected to be launched this week in Nairobi.
Other members of the UTT lobby include Mr Njenga Kihanya, Ms Diana Lukosi, Mr Hardly Lusui, among others. Its mandate includes countering Nasa in the Western region and Nairobi. Several lobbies, mostly involving women and the youth, are also expected to be launched by Nasa and Jubilee this month.
Other senior individuals playing a role in Mr Kenyatta’s team include Solicitor-General and longtime personal assistant Njee Muturi and Mount Kenya Foundation executive director and former KRA Commissioner-General Michael Waweru.
In Mr Odinga’s campaign, leading economist David Ndii has maintained his prominent role in a technical team that includes various academics and political strategists.
The team’s immediate task is to draft the opposition coalition’s manifesto by harmonising the manifestos of the five affiliate parties: ODM, Wiper, ANC, Ford Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani. The manifesto is tentatively set to be launched on June 19.
The Ndii team draws representation from the affiliate parties. It comprises, among others, Dr Adams Oloo, Mr Kibisu Kabatesi, Mr Koitamet ole Kina and Mr Paul Mwangi.
The team, then called the Committee of Experts, was behind the power sharing formula among the Nasa affiliate parties which culminated in the selection of Mr Odinga as the opposition coalition’s presidential candidate with Mr Musyoka as his running mate.
It also successfully negotiated the positions which will be occupied by the three other Nasa principals – Mr Mudavadi, Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Isaac Ruto – if the opposition alliance wins the August 8 election.
Dr Ndii’s team operates from the Nasa presidential campaign secretariat in Westlands, Nairobi.
Driving publicity within Mr Odinga’s campaign team are Mr Walter Mbindyo and television personality Kathleen Openda who has been appointed the director of communications.
Mr Mbindyo is said to be setting up a full-fledged media house that will help Nasa sell its message to the masses. Jubilee, too, has its media team and outlets.
Mr Mwangi, besides sitting in the technical team, is also heading the Nasa legal team bringing together an army of lawyers charged with defending Mr Odinga’s rights during the campaign period and beyond.
Mr Mwangi is expected to establish 47 legal centres across the country – one in every county. Each centre will have a team of lawyers headed by a senior lawyer from the respective counties.
Each of the centres will be required to identify and recruit a lawyer in each constituency within their county.
The functions of the constituency based lawyers will be to monitor the activities of the IEBC returning officers and presiding officers in their respective jurisdictions as well as the activities and utterances of Jubilee campaigners in their respective stations.
They are expected to be ready to rush to court to challenge any illegalities being committed by the returning officers, presiding officers and the Jubilee campaigners in their respective constituencies.
“They will be ready to rush to court and defend Raila’s rights whenever they are infringed upon,” said Mr Mwangi when contacted on his involvement in the Nasa campaigns.
According to ODM’s director of campaigns Junet Mohammed, who also sits in the Nasa presidential campaign team, Mr Mwangi’s team will ensure that the IEBC and Jubilee do not engage in any election malpractices during the campaign period.
“Our lawyers and IT experts will be stationed in every constituency to ensure IEBC and Jubilee do not play games with our votes,” he said.
Mr Mwangi’s team has offices at both Mr Odinga’s private office at Capitol Hill, Upper Hill and the Nasa presidential campaign secretariat in Westlands.
Interior PS Karanja Kibicho is another towering figure on the Jubilee side. He is usually called upon for logistics.
“You cannot talk about the President’s re-election and leave him out. His docket ensures the President’s safety even as he campaigns, he is an integral part of it,” another Jubilee official said.
Additional reporting by Peter Leftie and Gakuu Mathenge.