Boxed in by an emboldened William Ruto who is pulling all stops as he eyes the presidency, Uhuru Kenyatta has been forced to cobble up a new alliance to face the second in command in next year’s elections.
Initially, Uhuru’s gameplan was to back ODM leader Raila Odinga for the presidency with the understanding he would serve for one term and then pass the baton to Baringo senator Gideon Moi in 2027. However, an emerging Musalia Mudavadi factor is sending waves in the political terrain in the Uhuru succession race. When Uhuru dropped a bombshell that Kikuyus and Kalenjins have ruled and so it is time for another tribe to rule, many saw this as an endorsement of Mudavadi given that it was at Mudavadi mum’s final sendoff.
Those in the know say Uhuru wants Raila and Mudavadi to agree on who the flagbearer will be because Kalonzo Musyoka and Mudavadi have already agreed. Informed sources say, in case the Raila project comes a cropper and the ODM boss decides not to run, Mudavadi is the plan B. Many will agree during the burial of Mudavadi’s mother Mama Hannah Mudavadi, who is who in Kenya’s political terrain were among the chief mourners led by mourner-in-chief Uhuru. To show that Mudavadi is a force to reckon with, the funeral of his mother was broadcast live by all TV stations.
Notable faces at Mululu were Raila, Kalonzo, Ford-K Moses Wetangula, Central Organisation of Trade Union boss Francis Atwoli, Charity Ngilu, Moses Kuria, Maina Kamanda, James Orengo, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, senate speaker Ken Lusaka and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi. Others were governors Wilber Ottichilo, Anyang’ Nyong’o, Sospeter Ojaamong and Wycliffe Oparanya. Uhuru arrived at the function with Kalonzo. At the function, Atwoli challenged Uhuru to crack the whip at his Ruto sending the president laughing. That the Kenyatta family and Moi families have a soft spot for Mudavadi is no secret. During the church service of Mudavadi’s mother in Nairobi, the Kenyattas were represented by Muhoho Kenyatta who stated they will stand with him not only in uniting the country but also in future developments.
The Raila project had been agreed on at former president Daniel Arap Moi’s home before he passed on. It was witnessed by Uhuru, his mother Mama Ngina, brother Muhoho and Gideon and his brother Raymond. Initially, the Raila project was pegged on the assumption Ruto after being subjected to state persecution, would drop out of the presidential race. But the head of state has now been forced to redraw his strategy after Ruto showed no signs of relenting in his presidential ambition. Instead, the deputy president has upped the game and even gone to an extent of daring the president for a duel by registering the United Democratic Alliance with the symbol of a wheelbarrow as his vehicle for the 2022 elections.
With 18 months to the polls, Uhuru is now keeping close to his chest a new lineup in his succession matrix. The president is reportedly urging Raila not to stand and to instead back the new lineup which will ensure the Kenyattas and Odingas’ vast economic interests are safe. The president is convinced to beat the deputy president, the formation of a coalition similar to the National Rainbow Coalition that dislodged Kanu from power in the 2002 elections is necessary. Ironically, Uhuru was the victim of the Narc coalition as he was the Kanu’s flagbearer when political heavyweights who included Raila and Kalonzo decamped from the then ruling party to back then opposition leader Mwai Kibaki for the presidency.
Insiders added that the president is toying with the idea of fronting a compromise candidate since unfolding events show Raila, Ruto duel is likely to split the country as none of the two politicians’ supporters is likely to accept if defeated. The future of Kenya after Uhuru is thus a compromise candidate. Events complicating Raila’s candidature include the Msambweni poll debacle where the ODM candidate Omar Bogo whom the head of state-endorsed was floored by independent candidate Faiser Bader who had the DP’s backing. Ironically, the deputy president did not set foot in Msambweni during the campaigns but went ahead to win despite the fact that Raila had camped for a day in the region considered his stronghold.
When Ruto eventually visited the constituency during Bader’s homecoming, he boasted the Hustler Movement which he leads is unstoppable and will form the next government. Insiders revealed that Uhuru’s change of strategy was also informed by reports from different state security apparatus. Secret state-backed surveys to gauge the most suitable candidate to beat Ruto paints a different picture. The reports showed only a coalition of political heavyweights including those who have fallen out with the ODM leader stands a chance of beating the deputy president.
The reports also showed that though the deputy president is like a one-man army, where he is ready to battle with other contenders whether they face him separately or as a coalition, his hustler movement is winning followers daily and to scuttle it, a coalition of political heavyweights is needed. The salient issue is the said reports indicate a contest between Ruto and Raila is likely to lead to bloodshed as both will reject the results since none is willing to be under the leadership of the other. This is a great concern to Uhuru who is wary of violence as happened in the 2007 elections and that is why he has started crafting a new lineup to take power after him.
To the president’s relief, the reports further state that chances of Ruto and Raila teaming up in the polls if Uhuru ditches both are slim since none can agree to drop his ambition for the other. This is due to the fact that Ruto is constitutionally serving his final term as deputy president as the law does not allow anyone who has served in the position for two terms to be a running mate. On the other hand, the 76-year-old Raila, who will be 78 years in the 2022 election, is holding what he calls his final bullet and hence chances of him agreeing to deputize Ruto are nil. The advice was reinforced by the sentiments of Murang’a senator and chief whip Irungu Kang’ata who in a letter to the head of state told him the Building Bridges Initiative report faces defeat in his Mount Kenya backyard.
The president is fearful of a scenario where he backs the ODM leader and is beaten by Ruto or he wins but the Mount Kenya region backs the deputy president. In the two scenarios, he will retire with a rotten egg on his face. It is after analysing all the scenarios that the president reached the resolution to front a compromise candidate to secure his legacy. Insiders added that the rollout of the president’s plan B started when State House clandestinely brought together Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetangula at Stoni Athi Resort in Machakos. The leaders who were joined by Kitui governor Charity Ngilu made it clear they had the president’s backing.
They stated that their first agenda was to help the president by ensuring Kenyans pass the BBI report during the referendum. According to sources, the president tasked the three leaders with selling the BBI in their respective strongholds to share political posts afterward in Uhuru succession. What sent tongues wagging was the announcement by the three that their meeting had the blessings of Gideon. To give credence to reports of Uhuru’s new alliance, State House to this date has never denied assertions by the trio that their meeting had the president’s backing.
Insiders revealed that Gideon is now positioning himself to go for power in the foreseeable future and has campaigning on his own to be relevant. It is said that Uhuru’s remark that Kalenjins should not go for the presidency now has made Gideon happy as he was counting on becoming president after Raila stopgap presidency. The remark has however not gone down well with Kalenjins who see it as discriminative and as selfish coming when a Kikuyu is having his third bite as president. Western diplomats in Nairobi have also said it is reckless and dangerously tribal for a president to utter such words.
Close observers will have noticed that Gideon is quietly making his BBI forays where he has opted to popularise the report on his own. The Baringo senator has been to Nyeri, Samburu, Migori and Turkana counties to market the initiative without being accompanied by Raila. Uhuru’s move to front a compromise candidate is also informed by the fact that when he struck deal with Raila in 2018, there was no condition for him to support Raila’s presidential bid in the 2022 elections. Similarly, there was also no condition Raila would back the president or front for the premier’s position or any other position.
The sources revealed that power brokers at State House now sidelined are the ones who turned the handshake into a contest against Ruto in 2022 by floating Raila as the ideal candidate. The power brokers also brought Gideon on board to deputise Raila knowing too well that the scion of the second president enjoys the support of Uhuru and also like the ODM leader is opposed to a Ruto presidency as it diminishes his chances of ever ruling the country. The president reportedly tried to unite Gideon and Ruto but the senator rejected the overtures arguing he cannot play second fiddle to the DP whom he considers inferior because of his high birth.
After turning down reconciliation with Ruto, Gideon played all the cards to ensure Uhuru does not have Ruto in his succession equation. Insiders added that the president is toying with the idea of fronting either Mudavadi or Kalonzo for the presidency with Gideon and Wetangula also featuring in the lineup. The absence of a Kikuyu at the Stoni Athi meeting was tactical to first sell the alliance in other regions before coming to the president’s home turf. But during the Mululu burial, the Kikuyu brigade was present both from Kieleweke and Tangatanga. But for the plan to work, the three leaders are tasked with marshaling support for the BBI to ensure an expanded executive to accommodate them in the new arrangement.
In the president’s plan, Mudavadi will go for the presidency with Kalonzo as the running mate and Kikuyu as premier and Gideon and Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho as deputy premiers. Here, the assumption is that Mudavadi’s candidacy will deliver the Luhya votes and also gets support in the Mount Kenya region and Rift Valley where he commands respect compared to Raila. It is Atwoli who has been pushing for Luhya unity and always challenged Mudavadi to come out to fight for the top seat. In the second scenario, Uhuru is toying with the idea of fielding Kalonzo with Mudavadi as his running mate and Kikuyu as premier and again Gideon and Joho as deputy premiers.
In both scenarios, Interior cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i will get a big post to represent the interests of the Nyanza region if Raila refuses to join the coalition. There are whispers that Raila and Matiang’i are bitter enemies. In both plans, the assumption is the Luhya and Kambas communities will vote as a block. Bring on board a section of Mount Kenya, Kisiis and Coast votes. The Kamba, Luhya votes which total over 5 million votes will be boosted by those from other regions such as Mount Kenya and swing areas, giving the candidate a clear win.
It is the president’s new plan of fronting another candidate other than Raila that has made Ruto go on the offensive, even making forays and fielding candidates under UDA in their strongholds. Ruto was on the offensive when in Kakamega for a burial where he dismantled the dynasties after leaders asked him to step down for Mudavadi. He claimed Mudavadi is the son of a minister while Wetang’ula’s father was a chief, hence they were raised up with silver spoons and thus could not step down for either. Signals that Uhuru has a soft spot for Mudavadi started well back when the president attended during his first term the 25 anniversary of the late Moses Mudavadi at Mululu. Uhuru was later to fly with Mudavadi in the same chopper to an official function in North Eastern. For now, Uhuru’s plan is to have Ngilu and Wetangula bring Mudavadi and Kalonzo to agree before he makes his next move.