, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 3 – President Mwai Kibaki on Thursday ignored calls by Orange Democratic Movement leaders to endorse Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the country’s next leader, choosing to instead focus on developmental issues.
The president, who addressed a public rally after opening the renovated Kisumu International Airport, steered clear of the politics despite several calls by ODM leaders asking him to support Odinga’s candidacy.
ODM Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, Lands Minister James Orengo and Lari MP David Njuguna implored upon the president to endorse Odinga’s candidacy ‘to pay back’ for similar support he received back in 2002.
Njuguna kicked off the debate citing how Odinga had spearheaded the Kibaki Tosha campaign in 2002 that saw him get a landslide victory.
Orengo, who contested against Kibaki for the presidency in 2002, caused laughter when he recounted how he lost.
“In the year 2002, I tried to run as a presidential candidate but people refused to vote for me and they voted for you because they believed in one Kenya. In fact if you ask people here who they have ever voted for as a president, they will tell you Kibaki and Raila,” said Orengo.
Orengo also recalled how the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga endorsed the country’s first president, the late Jomo Kenyatta, when Kenya attained independence and the bearing it had on the country’s history.
“You should return the favor. In fact, if Jaramogi did not say that the late Kenyatta is our leader the history of this country would have been different. If Raila did not say Kibaki Tosha maybe I would have been president today,” quipped Orengo amidst applause.
The president has however indicated that he will not endorse any individual seeking the presidency as the country’s leadership should be determined by Kenyans.
Kibaki, who retires after his current term, will not even endorse the flag bearer that will be chosen by the Party of National Unity (PNU), through which he attained the presidency.
The Kenya National African Union (KANU), which is one of those that partnered with PNU in 2007 to endorse Kibaki, has already expressed disappointment at the president’s reluctance to support a PNU alliance candidate.
KANU Secretary General Nick Salat has even declared the PNU alliance a sinking ship that will have no future in the country’s politics.
“The PNU alliance was formed to assist the outgoing president and his absence, given that he was the flag bearer, is bound to make it irrelevant. His failure to endorse a candidate is another indication that PNU torch bearers will have to look for alternatives,” Salat told Capital News in an earlier interview.
Several politicians among them Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi, Cabinet Ministers George Saitoti, Moses Wetangula and Peter Kenneth, MPs Martha Karua (Gichugu), William Ruto (Eldoret North) Mutava Musyimi (Gachoka) and Eugene Wamalwa (Saboti) have already declared their interests for the top seat.
Leaders of political parties are also in the process of revamping their vehicles as the country prepares itself for the next polls.