In football most elite managers engage in mind games and in 1996, for instance, Sir Alex Ferguson stirred up mind games that many critics say worked up the then Newcastle United manager, Kevin Keegan, and cost the then star-studded Newscastle United the Premiership. More recently, in the 2000s, Ferguson was at it again only that his biggest rivals were Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez. Benitez, with a fairly good Liverpool side was toppled by Manchester United after he fell for Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind games. In football, just like in a political contest when you see your chief rival offer wise counsel, especially your key players and who should be played and in what position, then you need to be wary. In fact, run.
You see, when the rival manager is interested in who plays what position for you and which striker you should have onboard as your starting center forward, just know that their motive is suspect. If indeed they are vouching for your most lethal striker to start the game, just know that they are essentially telling you they want to lose and they would be happy if you won. Woe unto a manager who listens to such advice from a direct rival manager. The chances of firing blanks and losing the game get higher and it is ludicrous to imagine a rival could wish a loss for themselves. The less said about Kenya Kwanza antics here the better. Have they worked out their rivals’ minds? No one knows, but certainly, there is reason to believe that they have just confirmed what Azimio la Umoja should not do. Or simply put, who Azimio should not even think of as a running mate.
Granted, if Azimio manages to keep all the potential running mates within the coalition and happy, the numbers will favour their tide. Some of these sentiments and the happenings in last year’s by-elections held in the Mt. Kenya region show that Azimio has a lot to gain by gifting region the running mate position. In the by-elections, one would argue that Azimio demonstrated significant gains in the region and with general election campaigns poised to deny the Hustler nation that concerted effort they exerted in one or two electoral contests to win, the 40% plus votes that the Azimio team got will certainly remain around that percentage or increase. In fact, a Mt Kenya running mate and Kalonzo Musyoka somewhere within the hierarchy would certainly confirm that the mind games by Kenya Kwanza that were meant to unsettle Kalonzo and rock Azimio have boomeranged on both Kenya Kwanza and the would-be beneficiary of their mind games.
A Mt Kenya running mate for Baba will soften the ground in Mt. Kenya for him and probably assure the region of a stake that is likely to guarantee their interest in government and probably most and importantly a return to economic and equity conversations around the Sh54 billion a year that was enshrined in the BBI. The fundamental question, therefore, is not whether Baba will go with Mt Kenya or not, but who among the worthy potential running mates from the mountain he will go with. Unlike the Kenya Kwanza arrangement where the DP has assumed the Mt Kenya kingpin position, Baba appears to be asking for the blessings of the mountain and probably the best of their best to deputize him. The DP and Kenya Kwanza on the other hand, given his popularity in Mt Kenya, will certainly deal with the perception that he is imposing a choice for the people. All the potential running mates are certainly angling for that position with the belief that they have done enough for the DP, and this raises the probability of any choice being perceived as the DP’s blue-eyed boy. How to deal with the rest who will not be chosen will be much of a headache for the DP because their supporters will ask them to seek alternatives and with a Mt Kenya running mate in Azimio, the tides will be interesting.
Three leaders from the Mt Kenya region probably have serious shots at the running mate slot, but what exactly do they bring to Azimio One Kenya Alliance. Martha Karua has probably come out as the chosen one going by her prominent appearances in the media in Azimio functions. It is interesting given that her political rival, Governor Ann Waiguru, was at the launch of Azimio as the face of Azimio before she listened to the ground. Martha is perceived as a politician with a knack for swimming upstream, which does not cover her in glory. She also has to deal with her anti-BBI recent past and critics aver that despite her national prominence she has been unable to build strong political and grassroots networks. Such assertions seem to hold water now that despite being a seasoned politician who has been in Kenya’s political space over the years, Ann Waiguru gave her a run for her money in 2017. However, her reform credentials and the perception that she and Baba are cut from the same ideological cloth put her in a very fairly strong position. That history of fighting for reforms and agitating for the democratic space that we have today attracts some much-needed respect from the civil society, the international community, and many Kenyans beyond just Mt Kenya. She is probably the smartest of all of them and brings in, not only the gender balance but also a long tradition of service to the people having served in the Kibaki administration.
Peter Kenneth has probably suffered a bit with the grand entry of Karua, but in the last few weeks his star has shone and his declaration that he will still support Baba even if he is not the chosen one has earned him plaudits. He is from Murang’a and his choice would definitely change the dynamics in Central Kenya and galvanize the folks in Murang’a who are yet to enjoy the presidency among the Kikuyu counties. Kenneth brings some aura of freshness that the youth are likely to identify with, has resources to support the cause, and has demonstrated impeccable loyalty to the Azimio cause and that has mapped him out in this political image of the perfect Deputy President who would appeal to many and represent the President with finesse that the office demands. But he probably has to deal with the elitist aura that he exudes or he has been associated with and the forgivable sin of going against President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013.
Sabina Chege is probably the least probable of the Mt Kenya running mate potential but her steady rise from a national TV program actor and video vixen to a potential running mate to one of the most iconic political leaders in Kenya is awe-inspiring. The real, clean hustler story. Her choice would rattle Kenya Kwanza and shift the hustler ideal in favour of Azimio, because Sabina epitomises the real hustlers. She is that striker that the opponent does not expect to start the game and the coach unleashes her and the other team has no strategy of containing her. She is got this self-made Kenyan woman with the folklore-like undefeatable spirit of an African woman. Indeed, the heavens have smiled on Sabina, and it would be an interesting political story and contest if she was chosen. She comes with a few question marks though. Unlike Karua, Sabina does not have in depth understanding of how government works and in politics, some perceive her as a novice who does not have the experience that other candidates boast of. There are also questions about her political prowess in her native Muranga county. But clearly, she has that freshness and would certainly galvanize Baba’s traditional political fanbase to the last man and probably help Azimio move beyond the 30% Mt Kenya vote that they seem to be looking at as the bare minimum. Whether she brings the numbers in truckloads will be a function of how Azimio goes about its campaign in Mt Kenya.
A Mt Kenya running mate will certainly take Kenya Kwanza back to the drawing board because it will give Azimio a launchpad to deal the Kenya Kwanza a major blow and shift the contest to western where Baba has a head start. Simply put an non-Mt Kenya running mate for Baba means that Kenya Kwanza can then go with Musalia Mudavadi and that locks the Luhya nation for William Ruto and Mt Kenya where he has a head start and it will become a battleground for him and Baba. And you know that means Luhyas will go where their son is number two and Baba will struggle to get Mt Kenya numbers to compensate the Luhya votes. Now you understand why Kenya Kwanza have been playing mind games and the clamour to have Kalonzo Musyoka as Baba’s running mate.
The author is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies and Political communication.